We are normally big fans of the Taxpayers’ Alliance, a British lobby group which specialises in publicising wasteful or unnecessary government expenditure. They do an important job and they generally do it well.
However, we must disagree with them – with all due respect – when they criticise the Foreign Office for employing the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA) to teach diplomats how to speak and stand.
This is, for once, public money well spent.
Although Brits are often mocked these days for their unjustified air of superiority, it should not be forgotten that their ancestors built and ran the biggest Empire the world has ever seen, partly because they were represented by leaders and diplomats who were famous for their ability to project effortless self-confidence.
This is, alas, something of a lost art in touchy-feely contemporary Britain. However, even if you have no confidence, and no reason for confidence, it is still possible to act as if you have.
British diplomacy may have declined, but Britain still boasts possibly the greatest acting tradition in the world, and the diplomats are right to take advantage of it. Actors come from all over the world to learn the techniques of playing natural leaders at the Royal Shakespeare Company, the National Theatre, and, of course, RADA, so it makes sense that Britain’s leaders do the same.
This applies to business leaders too. There is a lot of evidence to show how proper posture can help in a very wide range of marketing and management situations.
An entrepreneur, especially a young or inexperienced entrepreneur who has yet to develop the skill of exuding self-confidence, could do a lot worse than attend a good drama workshop. Since we lack the deep pockets of a government, most of us could not afford RADA, but any half-decent acting class could teach a few basic techniques that could be of immense practical help: voice projection, power stances, positioning, eye contact, attracting and distracting attention, and pretending to be the dominant personality when you secretly feel nothing of the sort.
Alternatively, a more direct approach might be to join a public speaking club.
As an American actor observed, “If you pretend, you are already starting to feel... You let the pretension generate the feeling... That’s the British way.” So if you can pretend to be a successful entrepreneur, you might become one.