I am always looking for opportunities to grow as a facilitator. When our Director, Scott Miles, suggested I take improvisational theatre classes, I immediately said, “yes, and.” That’s what you’re supposed to do, right?
Scott had a lot of evidence behind his suggestion. For example, research shows that the better you are at improv, the better you are at interacting and communicating with people. There’s also been research on the influence of improv techniques on science communication. Improv exercises help scientists build empathy for their audience and, as a result, be more engaging communicators.
Of course, that all sounded great, but I was still pretty nervous. I am not funny. I don’t have a particularly fast brain that responds well under pressure. And usually, the last thing I want to do on a Tuesday night at 7 pm is to interact with strangers.
As it turns out, the best part about improv classes is that you’re celebrated for showing up and saying just about anything. I don’t know about you, but that’s nice and liberating. I spend a lot of my personal and professional life worrying about what I say and how I say it. Improv made me feel lighter, calmer, and more comfortable in front of people.
I also learned a ton! Improv is much more than that token “yes, and” you might recognize. With a safe environment and fun games, improv classes help you be present, pay close attention, trust your partners, be evident with your ideas, and accept that you can’t always control what happens next.
Now, in my role at Impact360, I try to create safe spaces for ideas, use games to build trust, and remind us all that we can’t do anything alone. We put ideas out there for people to take them and turn them into something else. That can be hard at times, but also pretty damn beautiful.
Our team is also integrating improv into our workshops and tools. You can see the influence of improv principles with the ground rules, shown above, for one of our workshop designs.
If you’re interested in taking improv, do it! If you’re scared and want an encouraging, friendly voice, reach out. I love to talk about improv.