What we do outside our businesses often helps us develop as business people. I am just resurfacing after appearing in a theatre comedy revue and realise what a valuable experience it has been for me. True, it has used a lot of my time and energy, but, to use a business term, the return on investment has been immense.
It has helped me in a number of ways.
1. The opportunity to experiment
I wrote an act for this show on the topic of growing older, putting new words to the tunes of popular songs. I didn’t have enough time so had to do the best I could and this is often true in business. We have ideas but rarely have enough time to develop them to perfection. Sometimes we have to put them into action in the best state to which we can get them or lose the opportunity.
In the past this has been difficult me as I like things to be perfect. Well, life isn’t perfect. I’ve learnt how to try things out, find out what works and adapt them accordingly, just as I did on stage.
2. Step outside your comfort zone
“Why did I come up with this crazy idea?”, I thought before stepping on stage to sing my songs. The first night, I got through the act and the audience laughed. It worked and I was relieved.
The second night, playing to a full house, the act worked even better and there was even more laughter. I exited the stage feeling pleased that I had not only come up with the idea, but gone through with it. I realised that I had ventured far out of my comfort zone.
Standing in front of an audience in a comic costume, about to perform untested material you have written yourself puts you in a very exposed position.
It shook me up, but deep down I knew the worst that could happen would be silence and that I would walk off stage unharmed.
Now I feel elated. I want to do it again and have more ideas for new acts.
Sometimes we can be afraid to try something new in business, afraid that we will fail, but what will hurt most if we fail will be our pride and we can soon get over that. When we succeed, we feel happy.
3. Taking direction
As business owners, many of us like to feel that we act independently and that no one can tell us what to do. That’s not entirely true because our work is for customers and we need take note of what they need. Doing for them only what we want do and not considering their requirements would lead to a bad ending.
On stage, while we may feel we know what is best, a director sees everything from a different point of view and a good director will give valuable instructions and criticism, and make useful suggestions. Acknowledging these and acting upon them should lead to a good performance.
Likewise in business, we can always benefit by learning from others, whether they be customers, colleagues or associates.
4. An ensemble performance
In comedy, not every character has funny lines and the purpose of some roles is to build up and support jokes or comic situations. This is where a cast work together as a team to create comedy.
Also, when actors forget lines, a prop is missing or in the wrong place, or something unexpected happens during a performance, a good cast will work together to rescue the action, often without the audience noticing that something has gone wrong. Sometimes the cast will even use it as an opportunity to make the performance even more entertaining. The audience often enjoys what they believe is a seamless performance when those on and off stage are working hard to correct action that has gone off track.
This reminds me of the importance of teamwork and collaboration, and of supporting colleagues or associates, even when there is no specific benefit to me. In the long run, we will all work together more effectively and achieve the best results for all.
5. Projecting confidence
Opening a show when an audience is ‘cold’ can be a daunting prospect. Get it right and you warm the audience up so that they get into the spirit of the show and enjoy themselves. Otherwise they remain disconnected and possibly uncomfortable.
Being able to stand up and address a business audience confidently and entertain them achieves the same result. You get them on your side and they pay attention to your talk or presentation rather than looking at their watches and thinking about pressing work they could be doing instead of listening to you.
Applying learning from leisure to businesses
These are just some of the ways I see theatre helps me in my business. I like making people laugh, whether on stage or in my business, as I believe it is important to enjoy both work and play.
I also believe training and personal development do not need to be only in business-specific activities and that there are many transferable skills and a wealth of experience we can take from our leisure activities to apply in business and at work.
• Robert Zarywacz is publisher and editor of Business Action. His experience includes managing and participating in a number of business awards programmes and in organising business events. He has recently launched northdevonevents.uk to support businesses with the organisation and staging of corporate events in North Devon and across the UK. Call Robert on 07971 176044.