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How Going To Live Theater Makes You Professional At Work

How Going To Live Theater Makes You Professional At Work
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If you and I were friends and I said to you, “Let’s go see a play,” your first reaction would probably be, “Bwahaha! Man, you’re a crackup!”

I get it. In the digital era, with movies on our phones and DVRs and Netflix, few of us can be bothered even to watch a TV show when the network wants us to. So the idea of driving to a theater, waiting in our seats until the curtain goes up… just to watch live actors standing in front of a hand-built set? No thanks.

But that’s too bad. Because as I learned attending maybe 100 such little plays in Los Angeles in my early 20s, going to these performances can teach you a great deal about how to be a professional. Here are a few of the lessons I’ve learned.

1. Perform at every job, at every task, every day, like a talent scout is watching.

What always amazed me as I sat in these 99-seat theaters was how much energy and dedication the actors put into their performances — even when there were only seven of us in the audience.

What’s even more incredible is that many of the actors in those plays were successful men and women you’d recognize from movies and television. Some were big enough that you’d know their names.

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So what was going on? Why would these folks work themselves to exhaustion — and acting live onstage in a two-hour play is exhausting work — night after night, at a tiny theater, if only a half-dozen people even bothered showing up?

Because that’s what you do when you’re an actor. You act. You act your butt off, every time you’re fortunate enough to have the opportunity. And even the Hollywood actor who makes a good living in TV or film considers a chance to act onstage two hours a night to be an opportunity. It doesn’t matter how much they’re being paid (often nothing at a little theater) or the size of the audience.

That’s how we all should perform at work.

Yes, some parts of your job might be boring. Some parts might seem unimportant or even unnecessary. Doesn’t matter. Give your job everything you’ve got, every day, and treat it as the opportunity it is.

That sort of approach — which is far less common than you’d think — is what leads to more opportunities.

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2. Find something to love about your job.

Let’s go back to those successful Hollywood players I’d often see at these tiny theaters. I once saw a play written by Kevin Arkadie, the hugely successful TV producer who co-created New York Undercover, and who produced and wrote for NYPD Blue and The Shield, among many other credits.

When I walked into the lobby of that little theater with my uncle Alan (who always took me to these great plays), we saw Arkadie… sweeping the floor. Here was a guy worth many millions of dollars, putting on a play for what would likely be an audience of 30 people, and he was sweeping up beforehand. What’s up with that?

Did Kevin Arkadie have a secret passion for sweeping? Did the stars of his play (some well-known character actors with long Hollywood careers) enjoy showing up day after day for rehearsals, or driving through LA traffic every day to reach the theater? (On that last one, trust me, the answer is No!)

Even actors passionate about acting, and playwrights (like Kevin Arkadie) passionate about writing plays, don’t love everything about the theater. But they put up with the waiting and the rehearsals and the disappointments when a show falls through for whatever reason… and sweeping the floors before the show starts.

Why? Because they all love some part of the process. Arkadie loves sitting in the theater watching his play come to life. The actors love being onstage and performing for us (even all five of us).

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And you know something? There’s some part of what you do for a living that you can love too. Doesn’t matter what your job is — there’s something to love about it. Find it, cherish it, and — if you can — try to make it a bigger part of your job.

3. Remember, there are lots of talented people out there.

This last tip is more of a word of caution.

Something else that always amazed me attending live plays at little theaters was how good the actors were. I mean, they were phenomenal. At almost every show I saw, I’d come out of the theater saying to my uncle something like, “Those actors are as good as any Hollywood A-lister. How’s that possible?”

I never did figure it out. Given how difficult good acting is, how is it that you can find great acting almost any night of the week at almost any hole-in-the-wall theater in Los Angeles (and I suspect New York as well)?

What I do know is that, in an increasingly competitive world with more tools and resources and knowledge available to more people than ever, chances are your profession is experiencing its own little-theater trend. More people are in the game: studying, practicing, honing and mastering the same skills you’ve cultivated. So you’ve got to stay at the top of your game too.

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And maybe that’s part of the answer to why so many successful Hollywood actors show up at the smallest theaters, for no money, and act to exhaustion night after night for tiny audiences. They know there are many up-and-comers right behind them, sharpening their acting skills too. So even a proven actor has to stay just as sharp. They can’t afford to coast.

And neither can you.

Featured photo credit: An old side of the Chicago Theater [Featured as one of the most interesting photos taken with the Leica X1]/ChiILLeica via flickr.com

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robbie hyman

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Published on July 27, 2021

15 Smart Video Conferencing Etiquette Tips to Follow

15 Smart Video Conferencing Etiquette Tips to Follow
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During the pandemic, video conferencing replaced in-person meetings and has now become the standard option for business meetings. Over the past 17 months, most workers have gotten past the video conferencing learning curve with Zoom or Microsoft Teams (or their platform of choice).

But just as with in-person meetings, attention can wax and wane. Some say we’re just not used to staring at ourselves so much on the screen. Instead of fixating on that, try employing smart video conferencing etiquette, or you may risk indiscretions that will flag you as a slacker.

Put the Pro in Professional

After more than a year of fine-tuning, here are the new rules of video conferencing etiquette.

1. Mute Your Mobile and Other Devices

The first video conference etiquette you need to know is muting your other devices. Just as in the pre-COVID days, someone’s obnoxious ring tone blaring Taylor Swift’s newest single in the middle of a meeting is also an annoyance if it happens during a Zoom meeting and so is the inevitable fumbling to turn off the sound. Even the apologies to the group get tiresome.

Also, when notifications are activated on the computer that you’re using for the meeting, the incoming message takes over the audio and you’ll miss out on snippets of the conversation. Be sure to eliminate this possible faux pas.

2. Dress the Part

While working from home, you may have fallen into the habit of slipping on your comfiest T-shirt each day. Hey, no judgments! But before you log on to your video conference, try to make an effort with your appearance.

Depending on your company culture and the importance of your meeting, consider dressing the part of the professional whom you wish to project. It will help you feel more self-assured, and others will likely take you more seriously.

For women, wear light make-up, put on earrings, and make sure your blouse is crisply pressed. For men, show up freshly shaved. Wearing a crisp collared shirt in a solid color will usually suffice.

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Pro Tip: Stay away from wearing white or black, unless those colors look great on you. Consider wearing light blue or brown instead.

3. Stage Your Workspace

Have you noticed the backdrops of experts interviewed on news shows? Bookshelves and photographs are carefully curated, and no busy-patterned furniture or artwork is in sight.

Take note of what appears behind you when you choose the location of your video conferences. Piles of junk mail on the table or stacks of folded laundry on the couch will convey more about your personal life than you care to share. Make sure you remove clutter from the camera’s eye, and present a tidy, orderly workspace to your colleagues, coworkers, and bosses.

4. Put Some Thought Into Lighting and Perspective

Be aware that in a video conference, your computer camera can actually make you look up to ten pounds heavier depending on where you sit. But you can easily drop those added pounds by moving back from the screen to diminish the wide-angle distortion.

Frame your head on the screen by tilting the screen up or down. Also, it’s best to not place yourself in front of a window or bright light, which makes you appear in shadow. Instead, face the light source, moving it (or yourself) until you have a flattering amount of illumination. You can also purchase some small spotlights that allow you to add light as needed.

Pro Tip: If your lights add too much redness to your skin, consider counter-balancing with a green filter.

Remember That Half of Life Is Showing Up

5. Arrive on Time

In the old days of in-person meetings, it was nearly impossible to slip in late into a meeting unnoticed. In today’s video conferences, logging in late still shows poor form. Instead, strive to arrive five minutes early and get yourself settled.

Once the meeting is underway, the host may be less attentive about late arrivals waiting to be let in. Diverting the host’s attention away from the meeting with a tardy entry request is the ultimate giveaway that you didn’t honor the schedule. If you don’t want a black mark against you, log in on time.

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6. Turn on Your Video

Few people like to see their face on the screen, but buck up and turn on your camera in video conferences. In most cases, it’s better to be a face on a screen than a name in a blank square. Your statements will be more memorable when other meeting attendees can see you.

If you need to turn off the video, either because of a poor connection, some commotion in the room, or a need for a quick break, give a short explanation via the chat feature. Then, go back on video as soon as you’re able.

Pro Tip: Keep your explanation for your departure pithy. “Sorry! Doorbell rang. Back in five” says it all. Be sure to honor what you say in chat and really do return in five minutes.

7. Plan Ahead Before Sharing Your Screen

Don’t be one of those people who makes everyone else wait as you click through folders in search of a document. That’s just poor video conferencing etiquette. If you know you’ll need to share a document or video on your screen, prepare by pulling it out of its folder and onto your desktop. Also, clean up the files and folders on your desktop to reduce clutter and facilitate easy access. Close other programs like chat, calendar notifications, and email. Disable pop-up notifications to ensure there’ll be no unforeseen distractions.

Be sure to remind the host before the meeting that you’ll need them to activate the screen-sharing function. Show courtesy once you’re finished by hitting “stop share” to return to the screen with participants.

Attend to the Pesky Details

8. Make Sure That Meetings Remain Right-Sized

With the easy accessibility of video conferencing, it can be tempting to extend the meeting invitation beyond the core group and include everyone peripherally involved in a project. But just as with in-person meetings, the more people involved, the more unwieldy the meeting becomes.

Use good judgment when asking others to sit through a video conference so that you don’t needlessly take up others’ time and so that participants can be fully engaged.

9. Remember to “Unmute” Before You Speak

Most of us are likely able to count on one hand the number of video conferences when someone didn’t have to be reminded, “You’re on mute!” Forgetting to unmute before speaking has become one of the most common missteps in video conferencing.[1]

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Show everyone your impeccable video-conferencing poise by managing your mute feature with flawless control.

10. Stay on Point to Keep the Meeting Length in Check

As with in-person meetings, an agenda with assigned time limits for discussions remains necessary to keep a meeting focused. Data shows, however, that video conferencing can actually reduce meeting time.[2] Reasons include the elimination of commuting time and the ability to screen share and annotate to keep everyone on task.

Additionally, side conversations are virtually impossible with video conferencing now that you can no longer have back-and-forth exchanges with the person beside you.

Pro Tip: If you’re running the meeting, let attendees know in advance the protocol for the chat feature. Is it okay for them to “chat among themselves” or not? (See point 11, as well.)

Talking Has a Time and a Place

11. Chat Appropriately

Just like side conversations or texting in an in-person meeting, the use of the chat feature during a video conference can be disrespectful unless it’s directed to all participants. Hence, it’s good video conferencing etiquette to mind your use of the chat.

At the start of the meeting, you may want to ask the host if it’s alright for participants to use the chat feature. This allows them to disable it if they choose. Used appropriately, it can be a helpful tool to clarify or amplify an earlier point once the conversation has moved on or to let the group know that you need to sign off early (and why).

12. Use the “Raise Hand” Feature to Avoid Interruptions

The slight lag in many video conferences can result in speaking over another person if you attempt to jump into a conversation. To avoid this awkward interruption, indicate when you have something to add to the discussion with the raise-your-hand feature that signals the host you would like to speak. This effective meeting management device makes video conferencing run more smoothly, especially with a large group, but it must be activated and monitored by the host.

Pro Tip: For meetings of six to ten people, sometimes the old-fashioned raising of your physical hand may be the best option. But it’s up to the meeting host. Ask them what they would prefer, and follow that.

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13. Don’t Record the Session or Take Photos Without Prior Permission

In this case, not sharing is caring. The “sharing culture” made popular through social media has little place in video conferencing. Before recording a meeting or capturing a screenshot of the participants, always ask for consent in advance from the full roster of attendees. Knowing that a video conference will be photographed or recorded could have a bearing on what others are willing to discuss.

Manage Yourself

14. Minimize Distractions

While de-activating audio and video features can keep distractions from affecting the other participants, you will need to manage noise and disruptions on your end to give your full attention to the meeting.

Move out of high-traffic zones in your home, keep your door closed, and ask family members to be considerate.

15. Save Snacking for Later

Save snacking for later—or earlier. Eating while on video conference is a no-no. Munching in front of the group while close to the camera—as you are when video conferencing—subjects the participants to an up-close and (too) personal view of your food consumption process.

However, it’s perfectly fine to sip quietly from a glass of water or cup of coffee or tea. If the meeting threatens to last for more than two hours, you may want to ask the host in advance to schedule a five-minute break at the halfway point.

Final Thoughts

Even though bosses are now beginning to ask workers to spend some of their workdays on-site, up to 80 percent will permit employees to work remotely at least part of the time, which means more video conferencing in your future.[3] Mastering these video conferencing etiquette tips will help you dial in—as well as dial back—your participation and demonstrate your unwavering level of engagement to the team.

Featured photo credit: Chris Montgomery via unsplash.com

Reference

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