The thing is: many people haven’t really received training to master these skills. There aren’t that many classes that can teach you these skills. But any person who has trained in theater knows that everything you do in theater helps to foster the development of the whole person. And this is how theater has been the making of me as a UX Designer.
The biggest lessons I’ve learned about effective communication have centered on making sure that I could always be heard, understood, and as articulate as possible. This has meant learning to modulate my voice and use my breath, as well as how to project and be vocally articulate, so people can hear me properly. I came to theater with a fairly heavy, bad Massachusetts accent, and it’s taken extensive work to fix that issue. Much of my early work in theater focused on listening to my vocal habits so I could change them. Extensive journal writing has taught me how to express and capture my thoughts and feelings.
Today, I work with distributed, global teams on a daily basis. Being able to speak in a voice that is clear and free of a strong accent helps me to make myself understood—regardless of poor phone or virtual-meeting connections or language barriers. Being able to articulate my ideas, thoughts, and designs has helped in gaining buy-in and building strong team dynamics, which are critical to moving the vision of my work forward.
Performing has taught me to be comfortable in front of a crowd and how to engage with an audience. I think these are two of the biggest assets that you can have as a presenter. Add the fact that my oratory skills have helped me to work on cutting out the ums and other nervous verbal ticks, and I have a solid foundation for presenting to audiences of all sizes.
This means that, whether speaking informally in front of my team or to a large group, I can readily explain and present my work. People walk out of my presentations remembering something—and as a presenter, that is the ultimate goal.
It is important to tell you that, as a child and young adult, I struggled with self-esteem issues and with recognizing my true value. Doing theater has taught me that I have more strength and courage than I had ever realized before. This has made me willing to take risks and put myself out there—even in situations where I feel vulnerable. Successes—and failures, too—in various endeavors have taught me that I do have value and that my ideas should be heard.
In a professional world that seeks the Holy Grail called innovation, having self-esteem is absolutely necessary. Without risk, there is no reward. A willingness to think outside the box and stand up for your ideas are key components of actually being able to realize the goal of innovation that we seek.