Improv comedy is not fun. It is a serious business #leadership #improv #presentations

This weekend I attended an Improv Workshop. Why? Because the few improv classes I attended before going to San Francisco improved my public speaking, interviewing and negotiating skills.

Sadly I didn’t have the chance to pursue improv in SF, but now I’m back in the UK I jumped at the chance of a whole weekend under the watchful eye, keen wit and sharp tongue of Jason Chin – one of the masters of long-form improv from iO (improv Olympics) in Chicago. His book, whilst an excellent read, does not capture the fun, laughter, pain and powerful learning points from the weekend. And with the other 15 participants on the course all improv instructors or long-term practitioners I arrived home, mind spinning, brain fried, but determined to do some more.  Rather like dancing  – a healthy addiction with only positive side effects.

Sadly, improv is not seen by most business people as anything more than an art form, a interesting past time, or a great night out. They miss the fundamental relevance to the world of work.

Every day we are thrust into situations where a knowledge of the simple principles of improv would massively raise a persons game; an interview, a promotion or redundancy conversation, a conflict over meeting room booking, getting an upgrade on the red-eye back from the US, the negotiation of a big deal, getting the salary raise you deserve.

In fact, before I left for SF I help coordinate a number of ideas from people from the Improv scene which went into  a FREE e-book called Using Improv for Business.

It can be downloaded from here.  Please feel free to distribute it widely.

Better still visit The Maydays and get yourself on a course.

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8 thoughts on “Improv comedy is not fun. It is a serious business #leadership #improv #presentations

  1. Several years back, I inherited a team of thirteen very technical and not very social consultants. They could code their way out of any jam and were masters of geek speak. It was disastrous when it was time to talk to business owners.

    My response was to prepare and deliver a presentation on how to be a consultative consultant and not just a code jockey. It was a brilliant presentation with great graphics called “The Good, The Bad And The Ugly.” I made many parallels to Sergio Leone’s classic western. It wasn’t very successful.

    When I brought in an acting coach to provide improv lessons, however, the results were remarkable. He taught that improv is about taking on a character and stepping outside of yourselves…that the message is more important than the messenger. The consultants forgot about themselves for long enough to learn a great lesson. It had a lasting effect.

  2. Absolutely. But Improv is considered too wacky by coporates. However the Improv guys don;t help themselves. They think they are art form, not training. There is no corporate budget for performing art. There is for training.

  3. Excellent article Ian. I often incorporate improv exercises to team meetings to slowly change the mould.

    While it is very difficult to convince organisations to introduce improvisation training to their companies, any courses I have run have been very successful. I guess we need to keep pushing the importance.

    1. Neil

      The techniques are so valuable, but I think the problem lies with the terminology. We need to rebrand improv as something else which the HR department understand as a valuable skill. It is far easier for improv practitioners to change than to try and change the market. Sell what they are able to buy – “training”

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