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Improv Skills for Business

Posted by Mark Baese on


Doing business in today’s marketplace has never been more competitive. The edge one company has over another in product or service can be slight. Often, a decision on who to do business with comes down to which individual or team is more likable. It’s why so many companies are looking outside the box for any training advantage they can find.

With so many personal development programs, you will want to select one that translates well in both life and business. For this reason, many companies are turning to improv comedy training.

There’s a major difference between a stiff executive and one with charisma. It’s the difference between boring presentations and an executive who can captivate the entire room. Charisma comprises 3 major components: presence, communication and emotional intelligence.  You’ll discover that improv training supercharges all 3.

Build Your Presence

You’re reading this article, here today, and eager to grow. Do we have your full attention? Being in the present moment will make you a better observer and listener, allowing you to capture life’s opportunities.

As Patricia Madson explains in her book, Improv Wisdom: Don't Prepare, Just Show Up, when we’re constantly living inside our head, thinking about what we will say next, our lives (and business opportunities) can literally pass us by:

“The detail of each day takes place in front of us, moment by precious moment. How much are we missing? Almost everything.”

Improv allows you to notice the details that others may miss - like remembering the names of people you just met. In life and business, the details are everything. Improv is about responding to what’s happening right in front of you. It will help you build your presence, which is the first step in becoming a better communicator.

Enhance Communication Skills

Communicating effectively can be very difficult if you’re slightly anxious and get nervous about public speaking. This is where improv training really shines.

Improv is all about interacting with people who share the same personal development goal –  in a low-stress environment where it’s ok to mess up. Putting yourself in a situation to practice improv will help you be more comfortable in all situations.

As Patricia Madson reminds us in her book, you already have the skill to be a great public speaker or presenter if you’d just get out of your own way. The reason your skill doesn’t always show is that you’re allowing fear to cloud your ability to stay present:

“Thus, performance anxiety can be understood as a matter of self-absorption, of misplaced attention, and the remedy lies in turning your attention to the act of doing whatever it is— well. (Or, if doing it well seems a stretch at that moment, then do it adequately or even poorly, but do it.) Think about your purpose instead. Fear is not the problem; allowing your attention to be consumed by it is.”

Practicing improv helps to eliminate the fear. You won’t be perfect on day one, and that’s perfectly OK. The important thing is you start practicing or training. After a while, presenting in front of a boardroom of executives won’t be any more difficult than talking with your friends.

In addition, improv will help you think on your feet. You don’t know what the other actor will say, and only have seconds to work on a response. This does not differ from a sales pitch, Q&A, or high stakes negotiation.

Expand your Emotional Intelligence

Last, and perhaps most importantly, improv training helps enhance your emotional intelligence. Raising your emotional intelligence will help humanize your interactions. By not reading off a mental script, you will come across as more authentic, trustworthy, and likable.

One key tenant improv teaches is the “yes, and” approach instead of “yes, but.” The “yes, and” approach is about listening and building on what others have to say, rather than tearing it town with a “yes, but.”

It’s disheartening to talk with someone about an idea you’re excited about only to have someone say “yes, but it’s a pretty difficult thing to do.” A more productive response would be to say “yes, and here are a few ways to make it even better!” Remember this: Positive interactions create positive associations. People will remember you by how you make them feel.

By looking at every interaction as an opportunity to practice, you will accelerate your social adeptness. For example, you can try new things when speaking with a grocery store clerk or your dry cleaner. Over time, you’ll find that all of these interactions will allow you to trust yourself in pressure situations. Give improv training a try – because as we shared today - the benefits are no joke.


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