Have you ever stood in front of a room of people and completely improvised what you said?
Most likely you have, even if you didn’t realize that’s what you were doing. We all improvise every day. Nearly every conversation flows and moves through unscripted conversation. But, we never think of our daily encounters as pieces of improv. That’s just life, you might say! But, the truth is, even though we think of our conversations as simply what we do, they are actually all words we improvise to tell the narrative we want.
By recognizing and understanding the improv we all do every day, we can enhance our client and customer interactions!
That’s why a new school of improv is teaching business people all about how they can use improv to get better at communicating. When we know how to come up with the right words on the spot and encourage people to continue invaluable dialogue (by using “yes, and” statements), we can ensure our meaning is understood and people feel listened to.
Improve with improv
To learn a little more about improv and how we can use it grow businesses, we sat down with Erin “Big” Diehl, Founder & CEO of Improve It, a company that focuses on applause for a cause. They host high-energy, laughter-filled, corporate team building and soft skill training workshops that incorporate improvisation terms and techniques. A portion of proceeds is donated to the Bear Necessities Pediatric Cancer Foundation.
Erin is a graduate from Clemson University, and a former experiential marketing and recruiting professional as well as a veteran improviser from the top improvisational training programs in Chicago including The Second City, iO Theater, and The Annoyance Theatre.
Erin and her team work to bring team-building workshops that also develop fundamental business skills to businesses of all shapes, sizes, and industries. Workshops are interactive and use improvisation-based activities led by professional improvisers to enhance trust and build rapport. The workshop consists of modules that can be adapted to meet any businesses goals.
The biggest fear of doing improv turns out to be the biggest benefit
Let’s be honest, most people don’t like to be the center of attention. There’s a very real fear that improv is going to be similar to a hypnotist making you do something you would never do in real life. People imagine the whole thing to be uncomfortable.
It’s a fact, though, that improvisational training has the ability to improve so many qualities of an employee. Trust, teamwork, communication, presentation skills, and creative problem solving can all be learned through improv to improve a company’s overall corporate culture.
Even so, many business owners and managers are afraid that participation of improv sessions will be dependant on their team. If they have a lot of introverted and shy team members, they mistakenly think that there won’t be any benefit. Surely, team members won’t be interested and won’t get into it. What’s worse than a dead room trying to do improv?
This fear is not true though, Erin said. It’s not like improv is getting the team to bark like a dog or cluck like a chicken. The value of improv is that it pulls all people out of their shells and give them a forum and opportunity to talk through scenarios. More than that, improv is FUN!
Through specific exercises, people are challenged in a fun and engaging way, which in turn leads to learning that happens without people knowing they’re learning.
It’s also inclusive. It allows everyone in the room to participate and everyone's voices to be heard. Erin said many of her clients are surprised to hear what their team members say and come up with during a session.
With that said, to get all the benefits of improv, a company has to be open-minded and think outside of the box. It’s an experiential type of workshop, so it might be best to see one in action before you choose to do one for your team.
What does an improv workshop look and feel like?
Erin said they work with all sorts of clients in every industry. The main goal is to achieve the company's objective; her team asks why they are looking at this type of training, the dynamic of the team, and the language that they speak. There are 10 different themed-workshops and each one is the same structurally, with a different overarching thesis statement that is followed. That statement is broken down into individual activities that are fun and high-energy, followed by a debriefing.
The Improve It team is never presenting, they are always asking questions, demonstrating, and facilitating the session. They use all their energy to get the room to respond to them, Erin said.
For a company’s team, it’s learning by doing, while using all the senses. Compared to old-school roleplaying, an improv workshop is fun and humorous, but also so valuable. It is customized to the individual business and shows you how to communicate correctly versus the incorrect way. It clicks a lot better. Since it’s hands-on learning, Erin said people retain the knowledge more.
By practicing the communication we improvise every day, we can get better at telling our stories, getting people to understand us, and making sure people feel heard.
Have you ever considered attending an improv workshop? What held you back? Let us in the comments.
Ready to see what improv can do for your business? Visit www.improveitchicago.com or contact Erin directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Want to watch the whole interview? See Erin in action talking about improv here.