As I start rehearsing for another summer Shakespeare production, I find myself poring over advice from directors and actors on how best to approach the (often difficult) text in order to deliver a truthful, authentic performance. Many an actor over the centuries has used Hamlet’s advice to the players as a good starting point for performing Shakespeare:
“Speak the speech, I pray you, as I pronounced it to you, trippingly on the tongue. But if you mouth it, as many of our players do, I had as lief the town crier spoke my lines. Nor do not saw the air too much with your hand, thus, but use all gently, for in the very torrent, tempest, and (as I may say) whirlwind of your passion, you must acquire and beget a temperance that may give it smoothness.”
But what’s this got to do with agency new business?
So often we slave over the content of our pitch presentations, working for days to simplify complex thinking into accessible creative ideas. But what we so rarely do is allow sufficient time for practising how to present those creative ideas, to communicate our thinking in a way that will engage, excite and delight our audience. Even the best ideas can fall flat if not presented well.
So how can our agency new business presentations benefit from Hamlet’s advice to the players?
1. Don’t underestimate the power of your voice:
“Speak the speech, I pray you, as I pronounced it to you, trippingly on the tongue.”
However brilliant your idea, if you present it in a garbled manner, stumbling over your words and with a voice full of nerves, you’re not going to do it justice. Try to speak clearly and confidently, using pauses, pace and tone to engage and inspire your audience with your thinking.
2. Understand the importance of demonstrating genuine passion and authenticity:
“But if you mouth it, as many of our players do, I had as lief the town crier spoke my lines.”
Don’t simply regurgitate a script in a pitch. Dare to ditch the notes and let your true personality shine through. Believe in your ideas. Believe in your thinking. Let your genuine passion show. By doing so you will be far more likely to engage with your audience from the offset and far more likely to influence their decision-making.
3. Know when to rein it in and demonstrate the calm stillness of gravitas:
“Nor do not saw the air too much with your hand, thus, but use all gently, for in the very torrent, tempest, and (as I may say) whirlwind of your passion, you must acquire and beget a temperance that may give it smoothness.”
Some might argue that wildly gesticulating can help to demonstrate passion, but getting too carried away in the moment tends to detract from your gravitas instead. Waving your arms around and frantically nodding with raised ‘please like me’ eyebrows can lower your status and take the focus away from what you’re trying to say. When you really need to hammer home a point, work to cultivate the calm, grounded stillness of gravitas – the temperance that may give it smoothness.
So although I’m fully aware of how pretentious I might sound, I firmly believe in Hamlet’s advice. I’ve seen first hand how average ideas presented well can win over excellent ideas presented poorly.
To ensure those excellent ideas see the light of day, surely we should all take on board Hamlet’s advice and work to improve our presentation skills?