The Business of Performing – An Interview with Cat Clancy

Cat Clancy is a professional director, performer and City Academy Acting and Business Coach.

Cat tells us about her Business and Life Skills courses, which cover everything from Presentation Skills and Public Speaking, to How to get Heard in Meetings and general Communication for business. We find out how acting techniques can be vital for business professionals looking to improve their communication skills and make more of an impact in the workplace...

 

On City Academy's business and life skills courses I look to create a fun and safe environment, which allows students to take risks and try something new. I aim to ensure my students feel confident to experiment without consequences and this playfulness is a skill that promotes learning.

The courses are rooted in performance technique, so they are experiential as well as theoretical. They provide the chance to see what a technique sounds and feels like, before taking it back into the workplace. They allow participants to prepare their voice and body, and minimise anything that is getting in the way of their impact. This in turn helps them to represent their expertise much more effectively when it matters.

If you need to persuade a client, motivate a team or simply make an impact in a meeting, it’s the voice and body language that are key to your success.

The skills actors develop translate perfectly to many business situations. More and more in business, people are called upon to deliver presentations and the biggest obstacle to these is nerves. Nerves are an occupational hazard for an actor and no other profession has such a repertoire of strategies to overcome them! And whilst content is crucial, the message is in the delivery. If you need to persuade a client, motivate a team or simply make an impact in a meeting, it’s the voice and body language that are key to your success.

With the increasing use of conference calls, Skype and video conferencing, where the voice bears the burden of communication, it’s essential to be able to speak in an expressive, well-paced and clear way. Psychological techniques that maintain connection with the other person are also invaluable when it comes to managing teams, convincing clients and networking with other business professionals.

One of the most rewarding things I find about my sessions is helping people re-connect to their bodies in class.

One of the most rewarding things I find about my sessions is  helping people re-connect to their bodies in class. Many business people often sit behind computer screens, which can affect posture, breathing and energy levels, all of which can get in the way of effective communication. However, in reality certain muscles have often simply 'gone to sleep' and it’s a case of waking them up and demonstrating how heightened awareness and control of breathing can have a profound effect on focus, impact and confidence. And the joy of a non-actor making that discovery can be incredibly rewarding to witness.

There are of course certain business situations such as speeches and presentations, where people find themselves 'onstage' much like an actor. Techniques that professional performers use, such as visualising yourself succeeding, can be very effective as you are more likely to fulfil that image, and it keeps the mind occupied in the last few seconds before getting up there. Once you’re ‘on’, another principle that can be very powerful, is to imagine that you’re sharing a wonderful secret with the audience. This does wonders for warming up the face and animating the tone and really engages an audience.

An important aspect of all our business courses is encouraging people to get out of their comfort zone, and much can depend on the dynamics of any given group. When you teach people from the same company, they all know each other and a lot of good-natured ribbing often goes on during the exercises! On occasion some people also might wish save face in front of colleagues, whereas when nobody knows each other it can sometimes be easier to take risks and be more honest about fears and anxieties. However, for the most part colleagues are supportive and it can be really stimulating to discuss how an exercise relates to a work topic that has a direct bearing on everyone.

 

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Cat trained as an actor at The Webber Douglas Academy, before working as a professional performer and director. See Cat's full profile here.

The Guardian newspaper recently tried out Cat's Business courses. Read what they thought about it > >

Find out more about Cat's Clancy's Business and Life Skills courses here.

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