Picture a six-year-old boy standing on a stage in front of an audience. The school production is of Little Red Riding Hood. The little boy stands erect, his arms spread out on each side, facing stage left and stage right. He's wearing Buster Brown shoes, brown corduroy slacks, and a forest green colored turtleneck shirt.
At an earlier date, the boy was to play the woodsman, who would rescue Little Red Riding Hood in her moment of wolf-related terror. He had trouble paying attention in class and was considered the class clown. One too many antics led to his demotion from playing the courageous hero to becoming a background actor as a boring, old tree.
His direction was simple. The replacement woodsman would act as he was chopping the tree (played by the boy), when suddenly he would hear Little Red Riding Hood's screams for help. He would take one final swing of his axe into the tree, and run off stage to her rescue. The tree, would simple tilt to the left as if slightly cut from the axe. The lights would go to black and the scene would end. That was the only action the boy would have in the play.
The proud parents in the audience were enjoying the children in the performance that evening. Everything was going as planned until the scene with the tree and the woodsman. When the woodsman heard Red's cries for help, he swung his axe one final time, only something unexpected happened. The tree tilted forward instead of to its side. The boy, standing erect, fell forward to land flat on his chest in the center of the stage. He probably yelled, "Timber!" in his mind as he slammed down onto the stage. The audience roared together in a moment of absolute hysterical laughter. The only face in the audience not laughing was the angry teacher, who directed the performance. Her punishment of the class clown had backfired. The boy's improvised fallen tree scene stole the show.
That boy was me.
I have always had a love for comedy and performance. This is why I bring humor into my presentations and workshops. I've seen presentations on similar topics that I speak on which lacked humor and ended up being dry and dull. I always aim to get the audience laughing as I present, so we all have fun together.
Improving with Improv
Back when I lived in Toronto, I studied and graduated from The Second City's improv training program. If you're not familiar with improv, picture the TV show, "Whose Line Is It Anyway?"
I went on to perform improv in Canada, England, Scotland, and Ireland. In fact, when I lived in Galway, Ireland, I founded an improv troupe. We performed every Thursday night at a local wine bar, and I also provided corporate improv training.
When Hubspot hired me to speak at their Inbound Conference a couple of years ago, I decided to create a new presentation entitled, "Improve with Improv". I've included the twelve-minute video below for your viewing pleasure. I wanted to share how I apply some of the key lessons from improv to my everyday life, so that others can too.
After the Hubspot event, I was craving to perform improv again. So, I auditioned to join the Nashville Improv Company. To my happy surprise (and Heather's shock), I was accepted as a cast member! For the last year, I've been performing improv every month or so. It's been wonderful to tap back into a deep passion of mine.
My consultancy, Futureforth, is all about helping others learn how to use digital marketing for their businesses. What I didn't really consider until recently was the fact that what I do is all about communication. In fact, I did the famous Strengths Finder personality assessment and discovered my top strength is - communication (followed by consistency, woo, activator and harmony).
Being a solopreneur means working alone most days - not by choice, it's just how it is. My favorite moments are spent with my clients and audiences in-person. This got me thinking about how I could offer something new to help my clients improve their communication.
Light bulb moment! IMPROV.
There are countless articles about how improv training can help companies improve their communication, employee morale and retention, culture, listening and presentation skills, plus… it's a heck of a lot of fun to spend half a day (or a full day) away from your computer and playing with your colleagues.
"Whether you're selling a product, an idea or yourself, learning to listen, connect and play like an improviser can make all the difference." - Inc Magazine.
"If you want to get ahead, work on your improv skills." - Wharton College School of Management.
"Improvisation – and the improv toolkit – offers great grounding for leaders challenged to thrive in a business climate that demands agility, resilience, quick thinking, and ease with ambiguity. Counterintuitive as it might seem, business is often an act of improvisation, not planning. So we say “lights up” on the era of the leader as an improviser." - Harvard Business Review.
If you want to improve your business, I have no doubt that improv will help. I want to prove this to you by coming to your office and providing your team with a fun-filled morning or afternoon of improv exercises.