Five Minutes With: Hollywood Actor Robin Kermode

Insight & Opinion

We caught up with Robin Kermode, Hollywood actor and one of Europe’s top communication coaches.

Appearing in productions as diverse as “The Iron Lady” to “Men Behaving Badly”, Robin has 30 years experience as an actor both on TV and the stage, however it’s Robin’s off-screen career that grabs the most attention from training auctioneers at Christies to helping politicians with public speeches. We asked Robin to give us his top people coaching and recruitment tips…

How has your experience of Hollywood helped with your people coaching?

Working with Meryl Streep on the film THE IRON LADY was an extraordinary experience. The most impressive quality she has, is being totally ‘present’ – you always felt that she meant every single thing she said. I explain this to clients in business, who often have to give a company pitch several times a day. It’s very easy for them to sound bored by the very ideas they are supposed to be excited about! The secret to being ‘present’ is not to think about the next thing you are going to say. You can’t be saying one thing and thinking about the next – if you do, you will either not sound like you mean what you’re saying, or you will stumble over your words because your mind is elsewhere. So trust that you know what’s coming up and mean what you say. If you say something is a good idea, it must sound like it’s a good idea; not like you are deciding what to have for dinner at the same time.

 What acting tips can help refine professional presentation interview skills?

One of the interesting things about being an actor is that you inevitably have to go for many auditions or interviews. It can be hard but after a while you get very used to regularly meeting new people – I share this experience with my clients. What makes you stand out above the other actors they will be seeing that day? How can you look relaxed? The first thing to remember is that they have agreed to see you, so be confident as you have passed the first barrier and they clearly value you enough to have put you on the shortlist. My agent refused to use the words ‘audition’ or ‘interview’ – she called them “meetings” instead. She would say, “This is a meeting to see if you like them just as much as for them to see if they like you!” Then try to work out what they are looking for. They are not there to judge you; they are trying to fill a role so put yourself in their shoes. What would they like to hear if they are trying to fill a particular job? Listen to what they have to say, then feed back to them what you’ve heard. This shows that you understand their requirements. You don’t need to sell yourself at this stage – just show you understand what they are looking for. That really is half the battle!

 What type of companies and professionals have you trained and how have you helped them?

I was recently coaching a client who was hoping to be made a partner at his firm. He had to go before an interview panel of five partners, so we worked on how he should answer questions and come across with authority, experience and as a good team player. I explained that if he answered a question too quickly, without giving himself time to think about how he might respond, it would look as if he had preplanned his answer. Answering too quickly does not give the question or the questioner appropriate respect, therefore, we should always take a moment before we answer so we look truly engaged in the conversation.

I coach auctioneers from one of the top auctioneering companies to improve their connection with their audience – both in the room and those bidding online. We work on their voice, the choice of words they used and their body language to strengthen their buyer-seller relationships and improve their sales pitches.
I also work with sales teams from many companies who have to use the dreaded PowerPoint presentations to pitch. We look at how we can still manage to engage their audience whilst using often busy or complicated slides.

 How would you suggest someone copes with last minute nerves which they may encounter at a job interview?

One of the best ways to deal with nerves is this simple breathing technique: sit upright (you can do this standing if you have to but it seems to work better seated) and breathe in through your nose slowly for a count of three. Then breathe out for a count of three. Try to breathe into your lower stomach rather than your chest. We don’t want to feel tight – we want to feel calmer and more centred. Repeat this three times. That should take a total of 18 seconds and in that time you can lower your heart rate and you will feel calmer. The good thing with this breathing exercise is that no-one can see you doing it!

 Who would you cite as the most inspirational, successful or concise public speakers of all time?

Bill Clinton would definitely be in my list of top speakers. He has an effortless way of speaking and always makes it sound as if he is having a conversation with you – and not giving you a lecture. Many speakers can sound like they are just going through the motions – as if they have given their talk fifty times already and are bored with it themselves. If they are bored, then surely the audience will be too! The best speakers deliver a really clear message in a very conversational manner. Clear and effortless – that’s our Bill!

Another speaker I rate very highly is Oliver McTernan, a former Catholic priest and now an inter-faith leader. He always spoke without notes and with great authenticity. In his final sermon, on retiring from being a parish priest, he said to his congregation: “If you remember nothing that I have said over the last twenty years, try to remember this. Be present in all you do. Just be present.” Brilliant. We should always try to be ‘present’ when we give a talk.

We need three things for all forms of communication. Energy, Clarity and Humanity:

  • Energy, will ensure that our audience is engaged and delivering a presentation or speech will often require more energy than we think.
  • Clarity, this encompasses clarity of thought, clarity of message, clarity of delivery – ensuring the listener will understand and remember what we’ve said.
  • And lastly Humanity – people respond to people. We all want to feel engaged and valued and if we allow others to see our humanity and our passion, we will come across as authentic, confident and charismatic speakers.
 If you had one golden piece of advice to share with employers or jobseekers what would it be?

Let them see the real you. A calm, centered and focused you, of course, but still the real you. If you can tell a story or tell a joke around the kitchen table then you can do this in an interview. Unfortunately, often the nerves and pressure of an interview situation can make us behave differently. Our body seems to behave in weird ways and the sound coming out of our mouth doesn’t seem to be our usual one. If we don’t behave and sound like our normal self then we will want the whole experience to stop because it’s uncomfortable not being ourselves. So be proud of your achievements and remember that you are already on the short list so they must think pretty highly of you already!