Make corporate roleplay work for you

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Philippa HammondCorporate roleplay work is a popular resource for actors during those inevitable times when you don’t have an acting job. I’ve used roleplay as a learning and development consultant for quite a while, and I often take engagements as an actor/roleplayer too. Here are my top tips for making it work for you:

1] Just do it

A roleplay event is an effective way for companies to recruit, train, and develop their people. It lets you flex the acting muscles and make some contacts, plus they can be well-paid. It’s possible to get an Equity card through RP, too.

2] Find it

Just Google ‘corporate actor roleplay’ and you’ll find lots of specialist RP companies out there. Expect to be told they’re not looking for actors right now, but they’ll keep your details. You may get a call quite a while later, when they’re hiring.

3] Business matters, too

When applying, remember that while of course your actor training, experience and CV matter, so does any corporate, business, management and training experience you might have. So if you do have a mainstream CV too, polish that up and send it together with your actor CV, headshot and cover email to the RP company. It may make all the difference.

4] Preparing the brief

When you do get an engagement, you’ll have a one-day contract as a self-employed person. You’ll receive the scenario to prepare, and you must be totally familiar with all of it. You’ll usually have information on your character’s position, problems, personality and attitude, some specific dialogue and story to learn and improvise round, and contingencies for what to say and how to deliver it, should the candidate behave in particular ways.

5] Preparing yourself

Research and plan how you’ll get there – late is not an option. Follow any dress code. Bring something to eat in case lunch isn’t provided, and some taxi money [keep all transport receipts]. Aim for early and check in with your contact – they’ll be delighted to see you. Be in the right place at the right time, and pay attention to instructions. It’s best to keep separate from candidates, and stay quiet and calm because they’ll be nervous.

6] Roleplay practicalities

Keep an eye on the time, as you may be responsible for not letting it over-run. Try not to take any notes in with you, as it spoils the professional effect. Do the work and trust your prep. Focus on the candidate and any other roleplayers during the exercise, and forget the assessors are there. Remember that candidates only have a brief scenario, a short prep time and no actual script. They’ll run the conversation however they want to.

7] How to behave

Look and listen, react and respond to their body language, tone and general manner, as well as to their choice of words and the facts of the scenario. Take a flexible, agile approach and be able to pull your relevant answer out of the air. Remember it’s the candidate who’s being assessed, not you. Give them time and silence to process what you say, to think and respond.

8] How are they doing?

You may be asked to give the assessor your formal feedback on their performance as soon as it’s finished, so keep part of your mind on how they’re doing. Then give your thoughts on their interaction with you, how you were treated, how they came across to you. Always be honest, respectful and constructive in your feedback. Here’s where business, training and management experience in parallel to acting experience can be incredibly valuable to a roleplayer.

9] How are you doing?

You may receive notes from the client during the day, but do ask for feedback, too. Are they happy with your performance, is there any amendment they’d like if you’re doing it several times on the day? Taking direction positively and evolving performance should be a natural trait for an actor, and is a real asset for a roleplayer.

10] After the engagement

Email your invoice for the fee plus travel expenses with copies of tickets immediately to the RP company. Your tax and national insurance are your responsibility, not the company’s. Keep them up to date with developments in your acting and corporate world and send updated CVs, but curb the urge to pester.

Good luck, and have fun with corporate roleplay – it’s another lucrative string to the actor’s bow!

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