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How To Use Your Acting Skills On and Off Stage

Many years ago, a restaurant where I worked as a waiter hired a consultant to help train the wait staff in “upselling” techniques—that is, the ability to get people to buy more things—in order to increase revenues for the restaurant, and as a result, increase the tips earned by the staff.

I was really impressed by this consultant, Bob Brown. He had been a waiter himself and had learned through his own trial and error—as well as guidance from mentors along the way—how to increase his income and do it in a way that was not pushy or fake. I learned how my acting skills could be put to work to make money both on and off stage.

I recently had the pleasure of watching Bob in action as he conducted a day-long seminar, and I was struck at how universal his message is and I wanted to pass some of this message on to you.

Bob Brown uses an acronym to describe what he calls “star qualities” in successful people, and these qualities I find particularly suited for actors.

The acronym is KEEPER. Here is what it stands for:

1. Knowledge. We all continue to gather knowledge throughout our lives. Make sure you acquire the knowledge you need to accomplish a desired task or goal—whether that is in show business or your support job.

2. Enthusiasm. It is vital! Why do anything half-heartedly? Others pick up on your enthusiasm, and it gets them excited about what you are doing.

3. Empathy. Be aware of others, and try to understand where they are coming from. A little human kindness goes a long way. This will help you in all areas of your life, and you can tailor your approach to how your "audience" might be feeling.

4. Presentation. How do you present yourself? Ask yourself, “Would I buy from me? Would I cast me?” How neat and clean is your "uniform" or "costume"? How loudly and clearly do you speak? Always take care to present yourself as you want to be seen and heard. First impressions—and especially repeated impressions—can be lasting impressions!

5. Execution. How do you put your knowledge and skills into action? How are your technical skills? This is where rehearsal comes in—and I mean more than just your acting scenes. The more you practice how you speak, sell, greet people, interview, etc., the more you will feel prepared and relaxed, and the more your skills become ingrained into your natural behavior.

6. Reading Cues. We all communicate loudly even when we don't speak a word. Become a master at observing body language and behavioral cues. In his book "Emotional Intelligence," Bob Brown says that there are more than 20,000 gestures in our body language vocabulary. Watch and learn them. This skill is vital in everyday life, but it will also help you in the art of acting, where listening and observing are essential.

Robert Curtiss, a former psychotherapist, works at Essay Management with personal manager John Essay, whom he helped to create TheActorsGuideToEverything.com.

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