Break a Leg (in Business): Using Acting Techniques to Elevate Your English Communication Skills

Some of the most effective communicators in the world are actors. It’s true – actors are masters of conveying emotions, telling stories, and captivating audiences. But what if I told you that you don’t have to be an actor to use their techniques to improve your business English communication skills? As someone who’s experienced in both acting techniques and language teaching, I’m excited to share some of the most valuable tips on how to use actors’ techniques to elevate your speaking skills in a business context. So, let’s take a page out of the actors’ playbook and discover how we can become confident and impactful communicators in our business English interactions.

But first, let me share a little history of two acting teachers, Sanford Meisner and Stella Adler, who were teaching their techniques to students in New York throughout the early to late 20th century and have remained influential every since.

Sanford Meisner was a leading force at The Actor’s Studio and developed the Meisner technique, a method of acting that emphasizes the importance of active listening and responding authentically to others. Meisner believed that acting is about “living truthfully under imaginary circumstances,” and his technique focuses on developing actors’ ability to listen and respond in the moment. Stella Adler founded the Stella Adler Studio of Acting. Adler’s approach to acting emphasizes the importance of using one’s personal experiences to inform their performance, and her technique focuses on developing actors’ ability to use their imagination and emotional recall to create authentic and impactful performances. Adler believed that acting is about “the art of being human,” and her technique emphasizes the importance of empathy, truthfulness, and authenticity in acting. 

The techniques developed by Sanford Meisner and Stella Adler are valuable tools that can help us deepen our understanding of how we communicate with others. By applying their techniques to our daily practice of improving our speaking, listening, reading, and writing skills, we can enhance our ability to effectively convey our ideas and connect with others on a deeper level. As these four language skills are interconnected, using the techniques of these renowned acting teachers can help us become better communicators overall.

First and foremost, it is important to listen actively and respond authentically to others. This Meisner technique is vital in building strong connections with others, especially in a business setting. To practice, try the “yes, and” exercise, where you respond to everything someone says with “yes, and…” followed by an additional comment or question.

Did you know that studies show we only retain 25-50% of what we hear? Active listening can help improve retention and build better connections.

Next, it is important to use your whole self to convey your message, as emphasized in the Adler technique. Standing tall, with your chin held high, and using hand gestures to emphasize key points can convey confidence and conviction to your audience.

Did you know that your body language can affect how you are perceived by others, and can even impact your own confidence levels?

Repetition exercises are also important in building the ability to listen and respond authentically. For example, repeating back someone’s words with genuine feeling can help build empathy and understanding.

Did you know that repetition exercises are often used in therapy to help build social skills and confidence?

Additionally, using your personal experiences to inform your delivery can add authenticity and depth to your communication. Visualizing a time when you felt confident and successful can help convey those feelings to your audience.

Did you know that emotional recall can help overcome stage fright and improve performance?

Finally, seeking feedback from colleagues or language coaches is essential in fine-tuning your delivery and identifying areas for improvement. Regular feedback can help improve engagement and performance.

Did you know that employees who receive regular feedback from their managers perform better and are more engaged than those who do not?

Incorporating these techniques and exercises into your language learning and communication practices can help improve your skills and confidence in delivering impactful and effective business English presentations and conversations. So, why not try incorporating some acting techniques into your language learning practice and take your communication skills to the next level?

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