is the 5th of twelve articles for light holiday reading in my 2020 series of Tom's Summer Shorts. The tales are a blend of my real life experiences, professional insights, personal views and fun stories. My hope is that in them you find joy and inspiration.
There are many formulas for success in business and no one correct one …
The former British comedian and actor Max Wall would often attribute his successs on stage to 'a song, a dance and a silly walk' – these being the basic elements which he deemed it necessary to include in his performance in order to captivate his audience.
While I do not advocate adopting that approach in the boardroom, not literally anyway, figuratively speaking it's not a bad mental attitude to employ. After all if you are upbeat, humourous and 'whistling a happy tune' (inside your head at least) what better way could there be to approach your work?
Wall also possessed a natural tragi-comic expression of the kind associated with the classic clown face and he used this to great effect in enacting the pathos inherent in his stage performances; as well as it being a great asset in the many straight acting roles of his later career.
As regards business, I've long felt that acting is a skill which can be highly valuable in the commercial world. I learned early on, for instance, that the first solicitor to represent me in my various business and personal affairs was a skilled, stone wall actor. In consultations he adopted a dead pan expression and a steady stare which never wavered throughout the meeting. Therefore he was impossible to read. You couldn't know his thoughts. It was an impressive performance.
Then there are politicians. Their public face is often the epitomy of fine acting as they deny the undeniable, defend the indefensible and turn every question asked of them into an opportunity to deliver their well rehearsed lines. Yes, they are actors.
So, to succeed in business, there's a strong line of argument which suggests that the ability to act is a useful talent to possess. And, if you don't possess it, then perhaps you should seek to learn the skill. It could stand you in good stead in all sorts of situations.
But, and this is key, rather than working to develop the ability to effectively pretend that you're someone other than yourself – someone more polished, stronger, more worldly, more sophisticated, whatever - why not devote that same energy to learning to perform better as yourself? For, regardless of what you might gain by playing out a part which is not you, just think of the gain to be had in being a better version of yourself. So that is what you should aspire to.
Identify your own strengths then work at the way you present yourself and them to the world. This is what many entrepreneurs fail to do. They have the ability, the knowledge, the wherewithal to do great things in the market place but fail to deliver it in such a way as to win the business. As Oscar Schindler, the master entrepreneur in the classic film Schindler's List, replies when asked what his role in the business will be, "Presentation!" accompanied by an expansive hand gesture. He did indeed possess highly developed presentation skills and promoted himself with verve and charisma. Yes, presentation is everything.
So think presentation, create a memorable persona for your audience and act out the best version of yourself. Present your very own song, dance and silly walk!
I am Tom Riach. I live and write in the sunny south of Portugal.
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A SONG, A DANCE AND A SILLY WALK is an original copyright Tom Riach feature.
I hope you enjoyed this Summer Short and found it to be of value.
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See you there! Regards, Tom.