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The Theatre of Business

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Janette Ballard

acting class

Students in the Daniels College of Business MBA program are beefing up their public speaking skills and “executive presence” through a collaborative DCB and theatre department course. Students are introduced to breathing and vocal techniques, improvisation and collaboration skills from a theatre perspective. The training is designed to help business students exude confidence, leadership, and energy in front of a group.

“In my opinion, actor training gives people the tools to communicate information, story, character, and humanity to an audience,” said Anne Penner, associate professor of theatre and co-organizer of the course. “Graduate students serious about a career in business need to be able to present themselves and the stories they want to tell with as much clarity and authenticity as possible. We’re giving them skills to be their best selves in front of others. ”

This is the second year the course is being offered to first year MBA students. By the end of last year the students had measurably improved their public speaking skills, according to Penner. “I do believe that some of the things we taught them—especially breath and vocal work, and methods of collaborating during a presentation—guided them towards more powerful and focused presentations.”

The interdisciplinary course is the idea of Lauren Collins from DCB who thought business students would benefit from theatre training. Penner and theatre colleagues worked alongside their counterparts from DCB to design the course, determine learning objectives and discuss ways to communicate across the two disciplines.

“We were speaking about the same idea but using different vocabulary,” said Penner. “We met often to talk through how ‘theatre speak’ and ‘business speak’ could align so that we all were speaking the same language.”

The course will be taught winter and spring quarters by faculty in both theatre and business.