I cringe when a client insists they are better when they wing it - better for them maybe but not for their audience. Time and time again we have seen what a difference preparation makes in the delivery of a presentation. A client comes in “winging it” and practically bores the audience to tears and then after putting some easy, effective techniques into play delivers his or her message again as a seasoned professional. But while we can prepare for many things, can we prepare for everything? How is that even possible?
You are probably familiar with improvisation as it relates to comedy shows like “Whose Line is it Anyway?” but the skills that are taught in improvisation are very useful in business and everyday life. Improvisation is really more about appropriate reacting than it is anything else. Robert Kulhan an adjunct assistant professor at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business says that “Improvisation...is about reacting-being focused and present in the moment at a very high level.” That’s why many business schools are using improvisation techniques to teach skills such as creativity, leadership, communication skills, teamwork and innovation to name just a few things.
Improv enables you to react and adapt very quickly to the unexpected. And isn’t life all about the unexpected? It enables you to think on your feet. Lakshmi Balachandra, teacher of Improvisational Leadership at MIT Sloan School of Management, says Improvisation “...applies to negotiation, where you never have control over what happens...Negotiation is a dynamic process-you have to be able to think on your feet and adapt.”
Perhaps the most important key to improv is the “Yes, and” principle. This principle teaches so many things. First it teaches you to actively listen to what the other person is saying, accept what they are saying without judgment and then build upon the idea. By suspending judgment it opens a dialogue for creative thinking, true brainstorming, creating something out of nothing, working in teams and more. It helps you live and act in the moment.
Improv training has become so popular that Second City Communications, an offshoot of Second City Comedy in Chicago conducts over 400 workshops a year to help clients tap into their creativity, get employees to interact better with each other, help them connect with their customers and more.
Improv helps you to listen actively. Most people spend the time when the other person is speaking to figure out what they are going to say next. With active listening you have to pay attention and be focused on the speaker instead of yourself. Improv helps one be open to new ideas, collaborate, respond appropriately, be flexible to change, engage well with others, and truly be in the moment.
So while we cannot prepare for every situation we will encounter in life, by learning some improvisational techniques we can certainly prepare for the unexpected. And isn’t the unexpected three quarters of what life is about? At The Presentation Pros we have our backgrounds in theatre, improv and voice. We are well aware of the importance of delivering entertaining information. So we are delighted to announce our new “Improv for Business” Workshop. We look forward to being able to help you prepare for the unexpected in your business and in your life.
Debbie Darling, ©2014 The Presentation Pros
Read more of The Presentation Pros blog HERE.