Patrick Sutton serves as a perfect example of how business can be used in unsuspecting ways. If you are interested in how your degree and your communication skills can serve you post-Haas, in a number of different fields, then this feature is for you!
Patrick Sutton is the Director of The Gaiety School of Acting-The National Theater School of Ireland. He is also the Director of the newly established Smock Alley Theater from 1662. Moreover, he owns a communications company called, “Communicate with Confidence” and has worked with Ireland’s former prime minister and professionals at companies like Accenture and Twitter.
The responses below have been abridged for clarity:
Can you please speak a bit about the positions you hold in the Business and Theater communities?
“My first job is as the Director of the National Theater School of Ireland, The Gaiety School of Acting. My second job is as the Director of the Smock Alley Theater.” [Smock Alley Theater is a historic theater in the heart of Dublin. Patrick alongside colleague Kristian Marken, restored the original theater of 1662]. We decided to bring it back to life as a resource for Dublin, for Ireland, and for the World. It is the most historic thing I have ever done. I also own a communications company called “Communicate with Confidence.”
How did you decide to start “Communicate with Confidence”?
“About 15 years ago, I was asked by an Irish politician, Bertie Ahern, to coach him in speech delivery and speech writing. We met once a week to prepare him for every speech he ever did. This included speeches to the joint houses of the U.S. Congress and to the joint houses of the British Parliament. [In 1994, Ahern was elected as prime minister of Ireland. He served for about 12 years as prime minister]. He was a huge part of the Northern Ireland Peace process. I have also coached clients in companies like Accenture and Twitter. This afternoon, I am coaching the Managing Director of Twitter for an interview with the BBC.
With your work in political and business realms, has your experience with Theater been helpful?
“I was an actor. Everything I do and always have done has come from that perspective.” The perspective of being able to stand and to be confident in my body and how it operates, in my voice and how it operates, in my gestures as to how they work.” “Ultimately, you’ve got to be able to stand or sit and deliver and own this thing [body] and there is no apology for the performance in the communications work I do.”
Specifically in business and in communications, “ I use a communications model to provide a context, to talk coherently and concisely. I also use this model to present visions. I believe that every presentation is about the future. My vision, as a presenter, is always the future, my vision is never the past.”
Can you speak more about how performing as an actor has helped you as a business man?
“Good acting has a sense of embodiment and ownership. Good acting means that you were there and you were whole and you were full and you were engaged. If you’re not full and engaged with your body, and your voice, and your gestures, and your emotions then you’re at the wrong game, absolutely the wrong game and it is exactly the same with business.”
In a business setting as a company or an employee, it is imperative to “ take ownership of what [you] stand for.” I am a “big believer in the communications game that, if you do not stand for something with a strong spine, strong voice, and clear gesture…there is a danger that you’ll actually stand for nothing. And if you stand for nothing then you are disadvantaged, you are disabled in some sense that you can’t articulate who you are and what you stand for.”
What would you say for students studying Business or Theater?
“At the National Theater School I have designed a course that addresses this question [what do you stand for?] for my students.”
[One of the courses at the National Theater School is called “Manifesto.” It encourages students to create and design their own work. They are in control of the process, presentation and art forms used.] The “Manifesto program is predicated around that concept of figure out who you are and what you stand for.”
“So to students in any realm, I would say figure out what kind of work you want to make and what kind of context you want to make it in. If you can answer those questions, it is incredible what can happen.”
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