Actors and Performers

9781350289895

Introducing... An Actor’s Guide to Corporate Role Play

For too long the world of corporate role play has felt like a closed shop that only a few privileged actors have had access to. An Actor’s Guide to Corporate Role Play: The Best Side-Job for Actors by Syrus Lowe provides any actor with what they need to start and build a side-career in corporate role play, utilising all of the skills they already have in their portfolio.

Detailing what corporate role play is, how to do it, how to get the work and how to get re-employed, this book offers up a clear roadmap, enabling actors to deliver top-quality role plays and evidence-based developmental feedback time and time again.

Using the author’s masterclasses as a foundation, the book includes a range of role play briefs an actor may encounter, each accompanied by top tips on how to execute them successfully.

To offer a peek into some of Syrus Lowe’s tips, see an extract from the book below.

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Why do they use actors for role play?

Why spend good corporate pounds, dollars or yen on you? Why pay for your time, travel and (sometimes) lunch when they could get Jim from Accounts or Sandra from Procurement to do the role plays?

Firstly, because actors are brilliant, sensitive shapeshifters. We also bring critical skills that those without our training and experience do not possess.

Consistency

Consistency is essential for all forms of acting, whether on stage, on screen or in a studio.

Being consistent throughout your role plays is imperative, especially during assessment role plays. Should you not be, you could give a participant an unfair advantage or disadvantage. You must provide each candidate with the same opportunity. You effectively start from the same place each time and let the participant’s communicative behaviour influence your behaviour. If you are very emotional and challenging in the morning role plays, then peter out in the afternoon, it will not be fair on the morning participants as you have effectively made it easier for those assessed in the afternoon. Starting from the same emotional state or having an opening line you deliver in the same tone each time is a great way to keep yourself consistent. Some role play briefs will instruct you as to what your opening line of the role play should be.

Sticking to the brief

Actors are used to learning sacred texts where they must obey every comma and full stop. Role play briefs differ from this, but a team of people will have spent much time ensuring they are 100 per cent correct for that industry, client and participant. The briefs will contain several communication skills the participant must demonstrate when interacting with the role player.

Let’s say that the role play brief asks you to, and you do not, hit a certain point, say a specific line or bring up a particular subject; you may make it impossible for the facilitator to do their job and assess the participant in that area. As I said earlier, some of these role plays can decide whether someone gets a job, is made redundant or becomes a doctor. In these instances, the stakes are very high. This may sound scary, but you can’t go wrong if you do your prep work and know the brief inside out.

Real emotion

As actors, we constantly endeavour to connect emotionally to a particular moment and respond in the most truthful way possible. I have been mid-role play before when the emotional place I have gone to has surprised me, but it was only because of how I was impacted by what the participant said or did to me.

A handful of times, participants have had bad reactions to my presented emotion, with them shaking, crying or leaving the room. Never pleasant, but it is a massive part of their learning journey. During the feedback session, I give them a big smile and let them know that I am no longer the role play character but nice friendly role play actor, Syrus. As upsetting as their reaction may have been for them, in that moment, they often share that they also know that the experience will be massively helpful for developing their communication skills moving forward.

Fearlessness

I played many children during my early years as a role play actor. I was often playing children who had been abused or neglected by the welfare system. The role play briefs would go into extreme detail and were sometimes upsetting as they often were based on real-life cases. No matter how troubling, I had to deliver the role play and play the character without judgement or fear. Playing that character truthfully was a crucial part of the participants learning, and I had to do it justice. These role plays were often with police officers on a training course that would eventually lead to them interviewing real children — another example of why it is essential to play these characters truthfully, thus providing the correct learning and development experience for the police officer. Many role play briefs can stretch you in this way and benefit your development as an actor. Some examples of other high-intensity role plays can include playing a victim of sexual assault, receiving the news that a relative or partner has died or that you have an incurable illness. You should always be fully aware of the subject of a role play brief before you accept a job.

I have turned down role play jobs because the subject was too close to something I, or someone close to me, had recently experienced. Role play companies will understand this type of response and will never hold it against you. Role play companies are also improving at informing potential role players of any offensive or triggering content contained within a brief when offering role play jobs. My company’s work, The Communication Practice, focuses on equity, diversity, inclusion and belonging. Some of our role play briefs, by necessity, may contain racist, sexist, ageist or homophobic language; I will always advise a role play actor of this when I offer them a job.

Confidentiality

As actors, we are used to having to keep projects secret. Role play briefs may contain confidential or commercially sensitive information. The role play company may ask you to shred paperwork or delete emails about a particular project. It’s rare, but it does happen.

Equally, some raw and sensitive things may come up in the actual role play session, and they must stay in the room. Role play ‘rooms’ should always be safe spaces in person or online. Delegates are sometimes required to reveal parts of themselves which may make them feel incredibly vulnerable. They need to be able to do this in a psychologically safe, confidential and non-judgemental environment.

‘What happens in the room stays in the room.’

Adhering to this is essential to your job as a role play actor.

On another note, as lovely as the role play world is, the role play companies compete for contracts and clients. So be conscious of what you say about one company or their work to another.

I would also be conscious of what you say when travelling to or from a job on public transport. I was once a role play actor on a highly confidential job centred around an unreleased product. I was on a train talking to another set of role players on a different job and accidentally mentioned the confidential job. On cue, another passenger jumped out of their seat and said, ‘Are you talking about … My Dad invented that!’ I was shocked, and needless to say, I learnt my lesson, never to do that again.

Multi-Tasking

That unique skill that an actor has, to be in the moment on stage, committed to both character and story, while at the same time finding their light, riding audience laughter and obeying the blocking, is what you need to do during a role play. One part of your brain engages in the role play acting, while another part logs what has happened, enabling you to provide the participant with the all-important post role play feedback.

Feedback

Actors live in a world of feedback, from the audition to the rehearsal room to the critics. The nature of our work requires us to receive constant feedback. This sensitivity to feedback will give you the building blocks to understand what is needed to provide brilliant, robust, unarguable feedback as a role play actor.

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An Actor’s Guide to Corporate Role Play: The Best Side-Job for Actors by Syrus Lowe is now available via Bloomsbury.com