Many people in organisations face barriers due to their race, gender, religion, sexuality or socioeconomic background. Company websites and social media sometimes paint a picture of harmony at odds with reality. Conventional equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) training can feel disconnected from the lived experience of individuals and teams.
For people who have never experienced discrimination, it can be hard to see or even believe it happens in their organisation. For people who have experienced discrimination or seen it happen to others, it can be hard to speak up because of the fear of confrontation or damage to their career. Ignoring the issue impacts recruitment, retention, productivity and innovation, damaging growth.
We use drama to hold up a mirror to organisations, showing the reality of colleagues who face barriers at work. And we give staff at all levels of the organisation the confidence to have uncomfortable conversations about bias and discrimination.
Our methods include lived experience recordings, forum theatre and practice conversations.
We start by interviewing people in the organisation who feel marginalised. We record actors speaking their words, conveying the emotional impact while maintaining the speaker’s anonymity. We play these voice recordings to staff in facilitated sessions to prompt reflection and discussion.
Drawing on interviews with staff, we script and present a scene that shows one or more workplace challenges. The scene is re-run, with the audience encouraged to shout “stop!” when they see something they want to change: this freezes the action, and the audience member suggests a different action. The actors take on the audience’s suggestion and re-start the scene from the point at which it was frozen.
Through further rounds of suggestions, the audience explores the impact of different communication behaviours. They can try out different approaches and see the outcomes. The actors share their feedback, how it felt for their character, and the impact of trying a new approach.
We run separate sessions for executives, managers and staff to encourage sharing, experimentation and learning with peers in a safe space.
Practice conversations focus on participants’ real-life experiences. These might be conversations from the past that they want to revisit and learn from or conversations in the future that they wish to rehearse and train for instead of jumping in and hoping for the best.
After discussing the situation and their goals, participants choose options they’d like to try out. They practice the conversation with the actor-coach, who plays the other person in the conversation. The actor-coach gives feedback on how the participant did, how the participant made them feel, and specific, actionable advice on what to do differently. Participants get a chance to re-run the conversation and implement the feedback there and then.
Practice conversations suit individuals or small groups of two to three participants.
People with professional development budgets or those who wish to self-fund can book and pay for practice conversations directly via our website.
Large organisations in the UK and US use professional actors trained in business communication to coach their staff in handling difficult conversations. From KPMG to the NHS and the British Army, these “actor-coaches” cut the risk of bad outcomes and reduce the emotional burden felt by leaders.
Syrus is a professional actor with over 20 years of experience in corporate training. Antony is a facilitator and role-play actor with a background in software development and genetics.
Our actor-coaches are all professionally-trained actors with at least ten years of experience in corporate training and coaching.