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The stage - general

The theatre

In business or personal life motivation concerns trying to get individuals to reach their maximum potential by carrying out appropriate behaviours. Ideally, you would like people to be extremely proactive always striving to do their best.
In business this is often not the case and that is when a variety of techniques are used in an attempt to improve the situation.

In the theatre (and other media dealing with the public in a similar manner, for example, television) the performers are always aware of trying to give an excellent performance. Some of the main reasons for this are fairly obvious:

  • Feedback from an audience is immediate in terms of applause
  • Box office takings will reflect the reputation of a play
  • There is likely to be direct feedback from the other performers etc.

Shakespeare said in As You Like It (Act II, sc. vii), through Jaques (a son of Sir Rowland de Boys) replying to Duke Senior.

“All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players:
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts. …”

In the theatre actors play parts by transforming themselves into another character and the similarities are evident in business in learning to apply motivational techniques. Change applies equally as well to the theatre as it does to the business area.


When you watch a performance of a play you are witnessing the finished product of many months of hard work.
During that time they will be involved with deadlines, managing resources, setting and achieving standards etc.
That is no differently than any business.

Within a similar framework of task activity the ‘players’ are not only striving for very good performances they are trying to go beyond this to produce exceptional and memorable ones. However, for the many in business a good enough performance is likely to be a common goal.


There has always been a very strong link between the theatre and business training.
Many motivational techniques quite natural in the theatre are now commonly used in the business environment.

For example:

  • Role play has been met by many. The acting out of a particular part brings realism and excitement into the training programmes. It allows people to experience, first hand, another’s position in a safe environment. This can be useful in conflict training.
  • Videos are often used, many with an element of comedy to drive home the focus of the issue. Many may remember brilliant cameos by John Cleese and Ronnie Corbet in many management training videos.
  • Leadership has been a strong focus when referring to Shakespeare plays such as Henry V etc.
  • Conferences are getting more and more high tech in putting on a ‘production’ of light and sound.
  • Travelling drama groups will perform plays to drive home, for example, history to children etc.
  • Activity may be more participative by the audience, changing the direction of the events, akin to the ‘forum theatre’ of Augustus Boal.

More and more businesses are adopting the theatre mentality which delivers high performance directly to the customer.
In business it may be slightly trickier to convince people that they have a direct customer and that their performance really counts. In a company situation there may be many customers, for example:

  • Obvious direct. Selling from a stall or selling door to door.
  • Less obvious direct. Your team colleagues, your secretary, your boss, your children etc.