Acting is doing. It cannot be automated. There is no app for it. You have to actually show up and do it! This might scare some people. Bad actors “phone it in.” This means they are just going through the motions. They do not put effort into making it feel as though they are saying their words for the first time. This is called being present. Good actors are fully aware of what is happening in the moment. Since each moment is new, it should not be too difficult to bring that element of the first time. Both good acting and bad acting are learnt behaviors. Unfortunately, good acting can be difficult to teach. It’s usually something we discover along the way. I will do my best to explain good acting in this post!
I understand most of the people reading this are not actually actors. Some of you are teachers. Others are sales professionals. Others may be entertainers. I will do my best to keep these explanations succint. There is a lot of acting jargon that simply does not apply to anyone who is not an actor. Though, I feel actors can benefit from this post as well.
We are going to discuss 3 fundamentals of acting: Goals, Others, and Tactics. Goals are what you want. Others are for whom you want those goals. And, tactics are how you intend to achieve your goals. Of the 3, the other is most important.
Step One: Know Your Other
In the world of acting, the “Other” refers to other characters in a scene. But, if you are not an actor, your others can be your audience. In the same way actor needs to know who are the other characters, a presenter or vlogger needs to know who is their audience. For this, I would suggest filling out a simple character sheet. This is something all actors are trained to do. A character sheet is simply a list of questions. Instead of filling out the sheet for yourself or a character, you would fill it out for your target audience. This is actually nothing new in business. Marketing 101 says you should create your “ideal client” and then sell directly to “them.” You want to be as specific as possible. I took the time to create a character sheet for you, which can be downloaded by clicking HERE.
Here is an example of my own character sheet which I created for my ideal client.
“Meet Susan. She is 37 years old. She has two children, a boy and a girl. One of them is going in the high school and the other one is still in elementary school. In Susan’s spare time, she likes to take trips with her family, go to the gym, and blog about parenting. Susan is a go-getter. She is taking business classes online because she wants to be an entrepreneur. Susan wants to turn her blog into a business. She wants to have the flexibility and freedom that comes with entrepreneurship. In the meantime, she is an executive assistant at a large Insurance firm in Southern California. Knowing she’s a go-getter, her boss gives her the task of finding entertainment for the company’s client appreciation event. This is when the company throws a big party for their biggest clients. The stakes are high. She knows if she fails in this task, her employer may never trust her with a responsibility of this magnitude ever again. ”
Hi Susan, I am Richard the magician. Let’s talk about how we can create an experience that your clients will never forget!
Though I made her up, in my career, I have met many Susans. When I speak or perform, I am doing it just for her.
Step Two: Know You Goals
Goals are something everyone has. The difference between a normal, everyday goal and an acting goal, is it needs to be something that you can achieve right now, in this present moment. And, needs directed at your Other.
There are 3 primary goals and actor seeks: to make your Other do something, think something, and feel something. In the world of business, the first goal, do something, is easy. In fact, that is usually the only question an online market will ask. Whether it’s to get someone to follow a Facebook page, click a call-to-action button, or opt-in to an email list, every decision a marketer makes centers around getting a prospective client to do something. Since the “do” is mostly taken care of, I will focus more on the “think” and “feel.”
Asking what you want your audience to think will help prepare them for what you want them to feel. Let’s use Susan as an example. My goals for Susan are as follows: I want her to call me, trust me, then hire me. The calling part is easy. She is looking for a magician. I did the work to make my website look presentable. I know she is calling at least three other magicians. The question is, why is she really calling me? Obviously she wants a magician and probably needs a quote. But there is another reason why she is calling me. In her bio, I wrote she fears losing favor with her boss if the event doesn’t go well. That means, I need to make her feel safe. She needs to know I am not some weirdo with a deck of cards. I also want her to feel relieved. Susan thought she was going to have to make more phone calls. But, I just put her mind at easy. No need to make more calls. This makes her feel great about herself! I want Susan to think this is best decision she can make for her company. If she thinks I am reliable, professional, and kind, she will feel that I am trustworthy and hire me.
It all comes down to understanding what you are really selling. If you are an insurance salesperson, you are not selling insurance! You are selling piece-of-mind.
Step Three: Achieving Your Goals
When talking about tactics, it’s easy to think of things like chess strategic. If I do this, then they will do that. But, something like chess is based on logic. As you’ve just read, buying decisions are based on emotion, which is anything but logical. The way to get an emotional response is to give one. This goes far beyond anything physical. I have read many sales books that talk about mirroring. Mirroring is when you copy what the prospect is doing in order to make them feel a kinship with you. Though it is a proven tactic, physical action can not compare to empathy. Empathy is when you feel what someone else is feeling. You need to have empathy for your clients. Empathy is how you get people to trust you.
Let’s take a look at Susan one more time. Helping Susan find the right entertainer needs to be as important to me as it is to her, even if it is not me! And, it needs to be important for the same reason. I need to legitimately care whether or not she keeps her job. That is something I cannot teach you. You can’t learn empathy. But, you can learn how to access it.
- Tactic Number One: Listening
- We must listen in order to help. If you are only listening to respond, then you are doing it wrong!
- Listen beyond words. What is her tone? What do her non-verbal cues tell you?
- Tactic Number Two: Sympathy
- Try to understand where they are coming from. Give them the benefit of the doubt.
- Don’t try to correct them. Help understand what is the best way to achieve their goals. After all, you are the expert and they are coming to you!
- Tactic Number Three: Subtext
- Subtext is the meaning behind the words. They say one thing, but another another. Try to understand what they are thinking during the silent moments.
- Be aware of your own subtext. There are no secrets on stage. The audience can tell if you are lying to them!
Number three deserves a further explanation. I can probably write a whole chapter just on subtext. Simply put, the thoughts behind your words are far more important than the words themselves. Subtext can either be your best ally or your worst enemy. Just assume that you are a terrible liar. You are not going to get away with it. So don’t do it. Say what you mean and mean what you say. There is a very practical way to do this. Think of action verbs while speaking. For example, if I am acting in a scene with other actor, and all I have are words, I can use the words as a tactic for achieve my goals. Maybe, my goals to shame my Other. My line is, “You’re home late.” If I wanted to shame them, how do you think that line would sound when spoken? Or, perhaps, I know they just came from a very important meeting. Being late means the meeting went long. This could be a good or bad thing. Assuming the worst, my goal could be to comfort them with my words. That same line, “Your home late,” would carry a completely different meaning.
What is your subtext when you answer the phone? What are you thinking when the camera turns on and it’s time to start filming your vlog? What are you thinking when you walk out on stage? Don’t know? Don’t worry! Because your audience will.
I know this was a long post. Thank you for baring with me. Acting can be a complicated subject. If you ever get stuck, always go back to the 3 goals. What do you want your audience to do, think, and feel. Everything else will come out of that.