How techniques from acting can help business leaders perform

17 January 2020 3 min. read
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RADA Business, the commercial consultancy and training arm of the drama school RADA, is helping business professionals improvise successfully and perform in the moment in business. Kate Walker Miles, tutor and Client Manager at RADA Business, provides insight into how professionals can master the art of improvisation in the workplace and communicate with clarity. 

The ability to remain calm and respond confidently and creatively when we’re put on the spot is a skill many of us wish we had. But, with heavy workloads and increasing time pressures, we often struggle to reliably perform at our best. Expectations – generated by us or others, can overwhelm us. We often end up frozen, feeling like a deer in the headlights, unable to improvise. 

Our latest research report [titled ‘Thinking on Your Feet’, found that 81% of senior leaders find it difficult to reliably remain calm. An additional 37% of leaders also claim that high-pressure scenarios make it harder for them to prepare their thoughts. So, if you relate to this, you’re in good company.How techniques from acting can help business leaders perform

The good news is that there are techniques from the world of acting that people at every level of business can use. These will help you reach the optimal state to respond authentically and effectively in any situation. But what are these techniques and how can business professionals begin to apply them?


Taking a moment to prepare yourself before entering a new environment, where it is likely that you’re going to be asked questions, allows you to enter the space feeling ready. 

Release physical tension by loosening up your body. Jog on the spot to lift your energy state. Have a good stretch and then shake out your limbs. Raise your shoulders to your ears and squeeze at the top, holding for a few seconds and let them drop as you breathe out. Allow yourself to have a big yawn and a sigh. Releasing physical tension and relaxing your body reduces rigidity, giving you greater access to flexibility – both physically and behaviourally. 

Turn your attention to your breath, which will help you to calm your nervous system, steady your voice and focus your mind. Breathe out and then in for a count of three, slowly and deeply. Allow your next breath to fill your belly – repeat this a few times. Taking the time to breathe gives you space to prepare your next thought.

“Fortunately, there are tried and tested techniques that are easy to learn – and when employed deliberately and consciously, can be very powerful tools.” 

In the moment

Pause before replying. Give yourself the time to release any momentary tension and to think. Don’t rush or feel stressed about the time pressures of others. What you have to say is important. 

When learning to improvise, actors are taught to focus their attention on listening and responding authentically to others. Sometimes this might require the most simple, obvious and truthful response, which is the same within business. Your obvious response might seem routine, but to someone else it might not be.

By taking the pressure off and allowing yourself to be ‘in the moment’, this can allow your best and most creative ideas to flow. Listen to others and ensure that you are responding naturally and clearly, asking for clarification if you don’t understand the question. Then, take a moment to find the most appropriate words to respond.