Preaching to the diverted – in acting and business

Once in a while I write a title and then wonder where that came from. What do I mean by “preaching to the diverted” and why today, why now. It has to do with actors going to audition, people going to pitch to potential partners, writing blogs which maybe no one reads, and showing your armpits. Let me explain.

This week I have watched a masterclass with actors auditioning for musical theatre. 40 new actors were given wonderful guidance by two masters of their craft, Christian Durham and Mike England. Both are inspired communicators. As I watched I also reflected on the work that Kath Burlinson and others do in helping business leaders deal with presentations and harnessing the skills to be their best authentic selves when selling to an audience. The core skills are so so similar.   Know why you are there and to whom you are pitching. Be completely confident in your material. Learn to tackle your nerves. [We all get nervous – it is the recovery which is the key skill you can learn]. Be prepared for the unexpected question. Be aware that the right customer/casting director wants to buy what you have to offer. They want you to be the perfect person to solve their problem/need at this moment.   Believe in yourself, and get over it quickly if, this time, you don’t get the gig. [more lessons in recovery which are especially needed by sales-people and actors].

The first piece of advice offered by Chris and Mike was to grab any opportunity you get to watch an audition process happening. I second that. My first interview for a teaboy job for John Gale was taken in a break in the stalls of the Strand Theatre after I had watched a string of young actors come on stage to audition for “No Sex Please We Are British”. I have never forgotten the atmosphere around the production desk. I was 17. They were wise grown-ups. Understanding it from the other side of the footlights is vital. I still enjoy watching the process – and finding that my non-director notes on a performance are not that far out from the experts…they just know it in their bones from a lifetime of doing it. This week I continued to learn great pieces of advice.

[Favourite: When you come in to the audition room, leave your bag close to the door. Then you know which door to leave by. Until you are in the room you may not know whether there are 2,3 or more exit doors (or cupboard doors). After a phenomenal audition you may not be 100% spatially aware. Finding your bag may be easier than remembering the right door.   Saying thank you as you walk into a broom cupboard spoils the effect.]

Preaching to the diverted – if you are pitching to the wrong person, auditioning for the wrong part, pushing too hard and trying to please so you turn off the buyer (director or customer), then you are getting diverted. Be aware. Notice what you notice. Get back on track. [be in Second circle]

Today was a CGO Surgery day – a mix of people aiming to identify the right way to pitch/preach to the right audience/buyer/investor. We had a producer looking to raise first finance. We had someone who had access to money with a project looking for a producer. Each needed to find their mate to move forward. The CGO Surgery is about helping them see where to look, how much they already know, and the first steps to take.

Preaching to the diverted – there is a buyer for every good idea. There is money out there. There are producers, directors, creatives who can make an idea better and bring it to market. There are marketers and developers who can grow a client/audience base for any good idea.   But first and foremost you need to believe in your idea; know who you need on your side; understand why they might be excited by you and your idea; and then be succinct in your elevator pitch.   I talk lots about knowing the 5 different people you want on your front row in promoting a show – it’s the same process of narrow-cast marketing.

If you are knocked back by one person, they will have been the wrong person. One visitor to the Surgery today told me his system if he needs money. He knows the idea is good, then he sets himself a series of steps the following week to go out there and bring the money in. His steps were simple and clear. He believed they would work. His belief (with a little help from the universe) makes it true.

If you don’t preach to anyone you will be the best kept secret. If you preach to the diverted you will miss your target and get to believe you will always be rejected. So get your message right and look for the soon-to-be-converted. Warm leads for what you have to offer. [and stay in Second circle]

Yesterday I was at the YMT:UK annual Christmas party – the 14th anniversary of this amazing company that has grown through a passion to deliver safe and amazing experiences for young people through original musical theatre. I am so pleased to have been involved and cheer on those who continue to make it happen.

Preaching to the diverted – so here’s my plea. I often question whether anyone really reads this blog. I think I’m probably preaching to the diverted. Very very few people comment or challenge me. Last night two people came up to me and cheered (in some amazement) the level of political anger I was showing in my blogs and facebook messaging. But they have never told me they have read it. So my plea – if you read this, or anyone’s work, tell them. Say you disagree. Tell them you enjoy their views. Say thank you. Anything – but say something. I thought I was the “best kept secret” …now I know I have at least 2 readers.

And finally armpits.

Kath inspires the business presenter to choose to use their arms with conviction, or to walk across the space with conviction. She quotes a director who challenges people to lift their arms until they can show their armpits. Be commited to a movement, make the gesture count. Have a reason for the walk or the arm movement. We get diverted by flappy arms or shuffling feet.   You may be preaching great stuff, but we won’t notice.

One of the biggest pieces of advice to all the students at audition practice this week was to take a risk. If you are asked to be bigger, be stronger, be more joyful, be louder. Grab the director’s note with both hands and go with it. You cannot go too far in rehearsal, because you can always do less if its too much for your audience.   But don’t be tentative. Grab opportunities.

Whatever you do in life – whatever walk you walk or talk you talk – do it with conviction. Believe in yourself. Make an impact. Listen to the impact you are having and adjust as you need to [be in Second circle]. Show up and convince us never to be diverted.

And do show up… I am writing this blog because one of my CGO Surgery appointments failed to show. He’d booked a slot, confirmed his attendance, received my mobile number [which is on the table beside me] and either has had a crisis/disaster in which case I am sorry, or didn’t think it would matter to be a no-show. Just because we do these Surgeries as pay-what-you-can we take them immensely seriously.   Show up or tell us please. I’ve wasted an hour of my colleague producer’s time too.

So that’s it for 2014 blogs. I am off to see theatre and national parks in Malaysia and then beaches, family, and theatre friends in Queensland Australia. I will be back for an extraordinary 2015 helping those who want to “preach” and not be “diverted”

Have a great festive season