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We get asked a lot about our use of actors in drama-based learning. Many people grasp the possibilities straight away, but occasionally we hear people say, “Oh, but our delegates hate role play,” or, “Well, it sounds like a nice extra but I’m not sure it’s essential.”
The first thing to clear up is that it’s definitely not essential. Lots of our organisational and people development work is interactive, experiential, enormously enjoyable and gets great results, without ever using an actor. So no, you don’t have to go down the drama-based route.
That said, why do we sometimes recommend it as the best option in a particular situation? Firstly, we’ve all experienced the power of watching actors on television, perhaps in our favourite soap or drama. We associate with them, get absorbed in their lives and problems and wish we could give them our advice! This makes acting a powerful development tool. It quickly catches delegates’ attention, engages them and gets them talking about real issues in a real way.
Now, we’d agree that very few delegates like role-play. It often sends the most confident people into nervous wrecks! That’s why we tend to use a technique called ‘forum theatre’. In our forum theatre workshops the delegates become directors, only taking the spotlight if they feel confident to do so. The actor works with the facilitator and delegates to act out scripted scenarios, which match your delegates’ culture, language and key challenges. Delegates can pause the action at any point, giving advice and re-directing the behaviour and language of the participants until a positive outcome is reached.
This means learning becomes non-threatening and delegates find they can learn just as if they were playing the actor’s role but without the pressure. Our scenarios allow delegates to recognise character traits and behaviours – either positive or less helpful – that they may share with the characters. Through testing out different interactions the delegates experience for themselves what exactly works. Relevant models and techniques are then explored with the facilitator to highlight key learning moments.
Other techniques we use are stealth (an actor ‘plant’ in the audience gets the day off to an impactful start!), talking heads (the actor, in character, reveals their perspective on something), real play (improvised forum theatre), hot seating (delegates question the actor, in character, to explore their opinions and actions) and many more.
So when we’re asked about drama-based learning, you’ll often hear us say: “We use drama as just one of our many training tools because it gets the best results in certain circumstances.” Subjects such as leadership, communication skills, managing conflict, equality and diversity, negotiation, sales, customer care, behavioural safety and managing appraisals are among the subjects ideally suited to using an actor – should you want to.
Why not watch a video of one of our training sessions on behavioural safety?
And here’s some delegate feedback about their experience:
Why not contact us for a chat about your people development needs?