I recently attended an improv comedy workshop with John Cremer, who has just been awarded Speaker of the Decade by the Academy for Chief Executives. John is founder of  The Maydays, an improv troupe based in Brighton.

I thought improv would be a great way of extending my presentation skills.  But I was surprised that I got a lot more out of it than just some new techniques.

So improv.  There is 1 principle and 3 rules for actors when they are on stage doing improv:

Principle: You don’t need to be funny, clever or witty and therefore you can’t “get it wrong”

Rule 1 – Listen: you can’t be preparing what you are going to say when the other actor is speaking because you won’t be listening to what you need to react to.

Rule 2 – Always say Yes: always be open and positive to what ever had been suggested.  Words like ‘But’ and ‘However’ are banned as they suck the energy out

Rule 3 – Commit: even if you don’t know what you are going to say or think your response is not going to be very good, deliver the lines it with passion and energy, you will get some surprising results

So how powerful are these 3 rules if we applied them to life or business?

Listen: How many times in a conversation are we simply waiting to make our point whilst the other person is speaking. We are not listening. We don’t hear their point of view and genuinely think about it. We are preparing our defence or attack. We never really hear.

Yes: Sir Clive Woodward put it well.  He identified that in his England team there were ‘energy sappers’. He deselected them and built a winning team of ‘energy givers’.  These are people who love to say Yes and get stuck in. And don’t we all just love working with people like that? Which leads to my last point.

Commit: Life is not a dress rehearsal. Do what you do with passion and energy or don’t do it at all. No successful entrepreneur, business man, parent or teacher has done it by sitting in the shadows.

Improv workshop
The workshop was 8 people with a wild mix of backgrounds; business, actors, students. Before the course I asked what I needed to prepare and John was polite enough not to say “Nothing – it’s impov – doh!!”

The day was fun, engaging, scary, enlightening and stressful all at the same time. But when John said “It is nearly 4pm we need to wrap it up” my immediate reaction was “No, we can’t stop now”.

What next
So I haven’t. John is keen to understand how to really make improv relevant to business and I’m very excited that he has asked me to join a small focus group to develop the “improv for business proposition”.

John has written an excellent book on improv. And now he and I are putting the finishing touches on a FREE  eBbook Thinking of.. Using improv for business?

And we’ve started writing a business improv blog

So if you want to ‘enrich your (business or real) life’ think about improv. No preparation required.


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