3 top professionalism tips from actors that you can apply today!
1. Performance – keeping it fresh
As a jobbing actor, Lou found 200 performances per year in different venues every week very tiring. But his job is to keep every performance fresh. He has to be ‘in the moment’ and overcome the temptation to let muscle memory take over his performance.
Repetition like this must be tough! Whether you work on an assembly line or, like Lou, do the same performance 200 times in a year, the fact remains that you have made a commitment to do a job to a certain standard.
Regardless of how passionate or not you might be, professionalism means that you do your job. If repetition and boredom are problems for you, you will still need to find a way to fulfil that purpose of your job.
The tip is this: each repetitive task will be a challenge – don’t rely on passion for the task, rely instead on pride and meaning in fulfilling the commitment you made when you accepted the job.
Take pride in the fact that each time you perform a task or activity, that it meets the standards to which you have committed.
Even when the thrill and love for the role or task passes, there is still the matter of commitment to the agreement. Perhaps most importantly, the agreement with oneself to do what you publicly committed to doing.
Honour, not passion is a basis of professionalism. This extends to doing the boring parts of the job. For most of us, this refers to ‘the paperwork, which is necessary but definitely doesn’t inflame the passions.
2. Preparation – it takes a lot of work to be spontaneous
If you saw this successful and famous comedic actor back-stage, you might not expect to see how frantic he appears!
He is constantly fussing about lighting, props, the number of seats filled. He is focused but never, ever rude to the crew (in fact, to me, he seems well-liked by them) but his interaction in the last few hours before a performance is purely business-like.
He is making sure that all those last-minute preparations are perfect; after all, he has spent months practising and rehearsing for this moment and expects everything to be in place, ready to go when the time comes.
And then he steps on stage.
The audience clap and cheer and he looks fresh and relaxed but full of energy and ready to make people laugh. Every joke, every line is delivered as if for the first time.
Preparation he says. “It’s all in leaving nothing to chance and hitting my marks. It’s all about giving the audience what they expect – and more if I can!”
What a pro!
Being an experienced performer, he knows what makes his audience laugh. He has worked on the precise words to use and how to delivery them – the speed of delivery, the timing, the small gaps. What the stage should look like as well as the lighting and sound.
Things naturally can go wrong and in fact some of the funniest moments in his career came about from how he responded to the unexpected! But because he had already controlled the things that he COULD control, the things that went wrong were limited, rarely a total disaster and something he could use in his act.
3. Delivery – it’s true that the show must go on
When things go wrong, you still have to find a way.
We’ve heard horror stories from ballet teachers telling us that when they were performers, they carried on dancing on stage with broken bones in their feet; comedians losing all electrical power right in the middle of a performance but finding a way to keep everyone emotionally on board!
There are hundreds of stories of forgetting lines, being interrupted by drunks – all sorts of things.
In each case, the performer ensured that the show went on!
So, you must – MUST! – deliver your performance. If a difficulty arises, find a way to deliver. And if after everything, it simply isn’t possible, perform your role to preserve your personal brand.
Even when things go wrong, if you have made a commitment, you need to find a way. Too often we see people give up at the first sign of difficulty.
Professionalism is about making a commitment that you know you can fulfil, then being driven to fulfil it, dealing with difficulties along the way.