My job is to tell great stories. So is yours. Sometimes, the best stories are the ones that are told off the cuff – unrehearsed, unplanned, unscripted.
One of the best pieces of advice I got as an actor was to take an improv class. Single best investment I have made in my career – not just as an actor, but as a professional and as a human being.
Here’s why: Life doesn’t come with a script. (Unless you’re Carl from Audi.)
And even if life did come with a script, sometimes the most magical moments are unplanned. And we have to be prepared to embrace them. Improv has helped me to become a more confident speaker, to trust my gut, and to deal with the little unplanned situations that life sends our way without freaking out.
Some of you might already know that I offer performance coaching for non-actors: because it’s important to know how to tell your story, to connect with your audience and to feel comfortable and have fun while you’re doing it. And some of the best (and worst) presentations have come from the non-acting, business world. Even if you don’t work with a performance coach, I highly recommend that you take in improv class at some point in your career. Not only is it just a fun way to break up an otherwise mindless or crazy day of work, but it will help you be so much more effective at what you do. Here’s just a few reasons why…
Improv teaches us to say yes to possibilities. The idea of “yes, and” means that instead of shutting down a brainstorm, we encourage it and build on the ideas we generate together.
Improv teaches us to play. Remember what it was like to play pretend as a kid? What if you could harness that magical energy once more?
Improv teaches us to trust our instincts. When faced with a difficult choice, it’s easy to overthink things. Improv teaches us to stay present in the moment, connected to our gut feelings but guided by our brains and hearts. And when pressed to choose with little time to think, we choose faster. I would even argue that we make stronger, better choices because of it.
Improv teaches us to listen. And not just with our ears. Improv teaches us to notice what a person is saying, how they are saying it and their body language. How does the person you’re speaking to feel about what they are discussing? And how do you feel because of it? Thanks to improv, I learned how to notice nuances.
Improv teaches us to speak comfortably on the fly. If you ever took a debate class or Toastmasters, the other term for this is “extemporaneous speaking.” It’s what happens when you get called on to answer a question in class. It’s what happens when your boss asks your opinion about that new idea, product or presentation. You don’t have any time to prepare, you just have to speak your mind and get your point across clearly and succinctly.
Improv teaches us to laugh. We’re human, we’re fallible. And from time to time, we fall into the habit of taking ourselves too seriously. So it’s AWESOME when we learn to laugh at ourselves, and find the humor in everyday life.
Unlike the Audi commercial, life really doesn’t come with a script. No matter how much we want it to. And even if it did, what fun would that be? Learning how to get comfortable with the stuff that makes us uncomfortable, and embracing it…that’s what makes us (and our stories) so much richer and more interesting.
Tell me about your most fun/interesting/magical unscripted moment – what were you expecting? what happened? and, how did you respond to it?