Today I received my SXSW recap magazine, and while flipping through it, I noticed Jeffery Tambor’s Acting Workshop was highlighted. I had the great fortune to attend this AMAZING workshop along with a room was FILLED with Interactive attendees, designers, web developers, product managers, etc. I sat next to Johanna Knoll, who is an Agile/Lean UX expert, and we were amazed with how applicable his advice was to the product development. In fact, Alan Cooper was there, and tweeted: “Jeffrey Tambor thinks he’s talking about acting & directing, but he’s really talking about software design & dev.” Looking back on my Tweets during the workshop, I was reminded of the wise advice Jeffery Tambor gave in developing your voice… Here’s how it went down…
We watched and listened to Jeffery Tambor coach two actors on stage as they delivered lines from a scene. The two actors on stage read and acted out lines from a script, while Jeffery Tambor watched. One of the actors on stage was very timid. I could relate very well to her. She wasn’t coming to life. She wasn’t showing her heart. She wasn’t giving much of her TRUE self at all. In front of an audience of 800 I would feel shy too! However, Jeffery Tambor, in his not-so-delicate ways, coached her, iteratively, pulling out of her a REAL and AUTHENTIC voice. He had her deliver the lines and act out the scenes in many different ways…
“Okay… now do it ANGRY.” Jeffery Tambor said.
“Okay… now OVER-ACT IT.” He said again.
“Okay… now do it as a LOVE SCENE.”
This went on and on… until Jeffery Tambor stopped and took the girl aside. He told her he wanted her to look deep into herself, and think of her father as she delivered the lines the way he would. She tried, and Jeffery would yell, “More… MORE!!” and she’d get louder and louder. Suddenly you didn’t see this timid girl anymore, hiding her voice. A true-er and more authentic person was coming through. You could feel it. Jeffery Tambor encouraged this girl to take voice coaching, and told the audience: “You gotta bring your life. You gotta bring your art. You gotta bring WHAT YOU’VE GOT.”
Sitting there, I couldn’t help but think about how this relates to what we do in UX and Product Development. Actors deliver lines and performances… we deliver products and experiences. Jeffery Tambor would encourage us to prototype and iterate. Then Jeffery Tambor pushed it even further…
“Go around your personality. Get ideas. Go places you haven’t been before.” Jeffery Tambor.
The actors took the scene in SO MANY different directions. It was hilarious to watch. Jeffery Tambor kept yelling “More… MORE!” at them, and would get right in the scene with them, following them around stage. His point was, get OUTSIDE your comfort zone. Take the scene, or whatever you are delivering, WAY BEYOND what you could possibly imagine.
This really hit home for me. Not only should we do this with our prototypes, designs, and language, this also applies to giving great talks. Instead of memorizing your presentation, rehearse it a MILLION different ways, in a MILLION different voices, a MILLION different points of view. Next time I need to give a talk, I’ll ask myself, “How would Jared Spool say this part?” or “How would Tina Fey give this talk?” Jeffery Tambor says this is useful to GET TO YOUR CORE, and know every different way you can go. Interesting!
Jeffery Tambor left us with many terrific insights, but there was one more that I’ll never forget:
“Most of us go to the office to be loved. It’s a disease. We gotta be the enemy of the status quo. We gotta make mistakes. We have to count. We have to be MORE.” — Jeffery Tambor
This is so true for me. I get so uncomfortable at the thought of saying NO to a co-worker, or having to disagree with someone else’s idea. This is a disease. To be an effective UX Researcher, and to make a good contribution to the product, I need to be the enemy of the status quo. I need to make mistakes, and learn from them. I need to come to the office to be more than myself… I need to try things that I’ve never done before, be willing to fail, and learn from my failure.
In a strange way, this is actually more comforting than being loved. Wanting to be loved is a powerful force that will disintegrate your personality. Wanting to grow, fail, make mistakes, and try new things that freak you out of your mind… that’s how you’ll truly find your voice.