For the Blind, the Deaf and the One in the Back


Lia Oldham and her husband Ben teach theater skills to summer campers in Groton, Massachusetts.  

My son attends the 2 week camp and shared that Lia reminded them last week to always perform for the “the blind, the deaf and the one in the back”. 

Great advice.

Theater is a good training for much of the presentation work we do in sales, marketing and training.  Leaders too have been known to steal a few techniques from the stage to get their messages out well.

I did a fair amount of acting and directing back in the day and some of those stage lessons came roaring back having heard what Lia said about how to perform for your audience.  I’ve never been shy about sharing the value of having a theater background if you work in sales, marketing and training.  In fact, that experience is great to look for when your hire people in these spaces. 

Here are 4 stage techniques that specifically respect performing and presenting for the “blind”, the “deaf” and the “one in the back”.

For The Blind.  On the stage, performing for the “blind” recognizes the true value of what is being heard.  One stage technique is so important it’s often repeated three times;

  • Tempo, Tempo, Tempo.  Great acting (and great playwriting) result with stage performance sounding much like a song though this play is not a musical.  Stage directors obsess with tempo both to keep the play moving but mostly ensuring that the monologues and the dialogues that already have a cadence, a beat and a rhythm built in are executed well to add depth and energy to the story.  In business think Zig Zigler:  His Content is not the only instrument of his work; his voice is and that man can “sing”.  Have a listen here.   When you present or train, use these conscious thoughts of tempo to help you.
    • Tempo Up:  The training or the presentation should peak (often more than once).  Use speed and tone build ups.  Excitement sells.
    • Choruses; find the salient point and begin with it.  Repeat it throughout the presentation much like the chorus of a song.
    • Sentence structure:  Maybe 6 lines of a play or a presentation should for example, start with “You wouldn’t believe…” or “There will come a day..”.  It gives that cadence and rhythm to you work that helps the message stick.


For The Deaf.  On the stage, it’s about being Visually Deep.

  • Visually Deep:  Makeup on stage accentuates facial features to allow expressions to be seen more easily.  Expressions on a face as we know are deep windows to the soul.   Props too for an Actor can do the same thing adding depth to a character as props can tell a story without having to be explained; (think a cane, a worn briefcase – you get the idea).  In business it may make a lot more sense to use props than a lot of stage makeup (your call on that). Sales Guru Jeff Gitomer is a great prop user.  Consider for example instead of talking about or showing an image of a funnel in power point to explain a sales pipeline ( like we’ve all seen)  use a real plastic or metal funnel and fill it with ping pong balls.  Visual Depth helps those who are more influenced by what they see versus what they hear.


For The One in the Back.  On the stage it’s about Playing to the Balconies and Being Authentic.

The “one in the back” in Theater as well as in business can be the disinterested, the forced to attend or the non-believer.  Performing for those folks is tougher but no less valuable (especially when you can convert them into believers).   Those “in the front” in Theater and in business meetings and presentations often are already engaged, willing and believe so an actor or a presenter needs to remember that too much focus to the front rows may be missing an opportunity to “sell” to the whole audience.

  • Play to the Balconies.  In theater, it is “chest up”, “eyes up” and “look up”.   That physical approach brings the “back” in.   In Business it is the same.  In business do your best to look out and beyond the front rows even calling on folks in the back by name to draw them in. 
  • Being Authentic.  As Lia Oldham shared with my son and his theater campers last week, when you work hard at performing for “the blind” and for “the deaf”,  those from the back rows still may not see you or hear you that well but by golly, they will believe you.


Till next time,

Grow The Business



3 thoughts on “For the Blind, the Deaf and the One in the Back

  1. I think the last two posts from this web-site have been spot on. The 2nd to late — Soft vs. Hard data — is something that any project manager like myself has to deal with every day. A colleague of mine is an excellent project manager, when he can work with problems that are unambiguous. When dealing with ambiguity, people motivations, etc., he really struggles. He is incredibly strong on the “hard” stuff, but not on the “soft”, and even in IT, you have to deal with the soft an awful lot.

    The last post about speaking the theatre is not really in my area — I avoid public speaking if at all possible and I’ve never done Sales — but it rings true to me.

    Excellent blog Mark, keep it up!

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