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We teach companies how to reach their people.

We are a social media strategy, digital marketing consultancy, and communications company based in Nashville. Our goal is to teach you inbound marketing, social media best practices, and everything you need to succeed with content marketing including your blog, email newsletter, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and other favorite social networking platforms.

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The Futureforth Blog

Helpful tips and articles about social media strategy, content marketing, and business networking. 

Filtering by Tag: improv

Improve Communication with a Reboot

Dave Delaney

Business improv for tech companies

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. 

I'm calling this my Communication Reboot. Let's talk about how I can help you use improv to improve your business today. Hit contact and let's chat.

A Successful Kickstarter Campaign Starts With Your Tribe

Dave Delaney

Third Coast Comedy Club Improv Comedy in Nashville

I love improv comedy. I've written here several times about my own experiences performing improv over the years. In fact, my presentation at Hubspot's Inbound Conference was all about how you can improve your life with improv. Imagine how excited I was when I learned Nashville was getting a club dedicated to improv and other forms of comedy.

Four years ago, Luke Watson, an Atlanta-born and raised improv comedy actor, moved to Nashville. At the time, Music City only had several improv troupes performing in the bars, cafes, and restaurants scattered around town. Space was limited for live improv comedy because this is music city. There wasn't a strong comedy tribe, because each performer and troupe was traveling to multiple venues around town. They lacked an in-person place to all convene.
 
Luke founded his own improv troupe, LOL Nashville. He also founded and produced the Third Coast Improv Fest. The improv festival brought together local troupes in ways they hadn't connected before. During these networking opportunities, Luke met Scott Field, the artistic director of Music City Improv, and co-founder of Improv Nashville. They both noted the constant challenge for members of their tribes to find regular venues to perform in. This is when the idea of Third Coast Comedy Club was born.

If You Build It They Will Come

The excitement came swiftly from Nashville's improv community when Luke and Scott announced their vision of their new home for local comedians. They didn't just want improvisers. They wanted all comedic art forms: sketch, stand-up, variety shows, live podcasts, talk shows, and of course, improv too. They found a location, but it was time to raise the capital to make it all happen. This is when they decided to run a Kickstarter campaign.
 
One of the best ways to test a concept is by connecting with a community first and using a crowdfunding platform such as Kickstarter. Crowdfunding expert and CEO of CrowdfundingHacks.com, Clay Hebert told me, "Find your tribe. Let them inside your process. Show them the journey. And then, when you're ready, you launch the project to your tribe. Don't launch and hope that magically the platforms will bring your tribe to you."

With a goal of raising $25,000, they launched their Kickstarter campaign and quickly surpassed their goal to $32,480. They were ready to invest their own money to make their club come to life, but achieving their goal on Kickstarter meant they now had the capital and community support to do it. Luke told me he loved the all-or-nothing aspect of Kickstarter. Their tribe had spoken.
 
Luke explains what really made this all happen, "Without the relationships and friendships Scott and I have made over the last several years with local comedians, the club would never have happened. We wouldn’t have felt the dream was possible. We wouldn’t have hit our Kickstarter goal. We wouldn’t have had the extra hands to help us paint and finish the buildout. We would have never opened our doors. Nearly every interaction at every comedy event in Nashville paid off in making the Third Coast Comedy Club a reality."
 
Today, there are twelve improv troupes performing regularly around town. Sketch comedy is starting to pick-up, and there are over seventy-five opportunities to see stand-up this month alone in Nashville. When Third Coast Comedy Club officially opens it's doors, it will stand as a testament of a dedicated tribe of comedians and comedy lovers in this city.
 
In Seth Godin's book "Tribes", he writes, "You can't have a tribe without a leader and you can't be a leader without a tribe." Luke and Scott found their tribe. Take a few minutes today to ruminate about your tribe. I'm excited to tap back into my love for improv. I'm looking forward to reconnecting with my tribe soon. Before starting your own Kickstarter campaign, be sure you have a tribe to support you too.

This article originally appeared in The Tennessean Newspaper.

Hubspot Inbound VIDEO: Improve with Improv

Dave Delaney

As you know, I wrote a short ebook recently entitled Improve with Improv. The book was inspired by my presentation from Hubspot's Inbound conference last month. The following is the video of my #Inbound15 Bold presentation. 

3 Key Ways Improv Will Help You 

In this presentation (and my ebook), I share the three key things I learned from studying improv with Second City, and performing it regularly when I lived in Ireland. They are: acceptance, how to become a better listener, and how not to fear failure

This twelve minute video will walk you through each point. You will learn how to apply each to your own life and business. Sit back with a coffee and enjoy my Inbound Bold presentation.

Your company will greatly benefit from improv training. Workshops like this help teams learn how to work together, think quickly on their feet, listen effectively, and be brave enough to close new clients. Learn more what I offer in our Communication Reboot improv workshop.

I also available for speaking, my speaking page has these details, video, testimonials, and much more. Check it out

3 Ways To Improve With Improv

Dave Delaney

Photo by @PhilGerb.

Last week, I had the great opportunity to reveal a new presentation at Hubspots' Inbound Conference. It was a thrill to attend and speak at such a stellar marketing conference with 13,000 attendees (not all at my session, Maron!). My presentation was a 12-minute (TEDx-style) talk about how my life has improved with improv. 

As I put my deck together, I realized the story was too good to just share with the amazing audience in Boston. The lessons I learned studying improv with Second City in Toronto, and performing regularly in a troupe in Ireland, helped me in so many ways. So I decided to write a short book for you.

Improve with Improv breaks down the three key lessons I learned from improv: acceptancelistening better and not to fear failure. My friend, Daniele Rossi, did the wonderful illustrations. Call it a coincidence, but he's also currently studying improv at Second City. 

I sincerely hope you pick up a copy of Improve with Improv. It's a quick read with some valuable lessons inside. 

Grab your copy now to improve your life with improv. 


5 Ways You Use Improv and Didn't Know It

Dave Delaney

Many people don't know this, but I'm a Second City Toronto graduate. I have performed improv comedy in Canada, UK and Ireland. In fact, I had an improv troupe for about a year when I lived in Galway, Ireland. I attribute my love for public speaking with everything I learned from performing improv.

Have you ever been to an improv comedy show? The performers use a few chairs and an empty stage, combined with recommendations from the audience to create believable, entertaining scenes. In just a moment they can take the crowd to a bistro in Paris, a butcher shop in Brooklyn, or a honky tonk in Nashville. 

The art of improv is a combination of acceptance of an offer, the ability to tell a story, strong listening skills, knowing when to end a scene, and being a team player. 

In business we use improv everyday, but we don't realize we do. Here are five examples of how improv skills are like business skills. 

1. Acceptance of an offer or "Yes, and"

The golden rule of improv is called, "Yes, and". In order to keep a scene believable and moving forward we must accept the offers our co-performers and the audience give us. 

If an actor is performing a scene and gives his partner an (invisible) apple and says, "Here is the apple you ordered, mam." The audience would believe that the object she was now holding was an apple. However, if she replied, "No, that's not an apple", it would confuse the audience (and frustrate the other actor). Instead improv actors always use the "Yes, and" rule.

Now picture the same scene, but instead the second actor replies "Yes, and… I am going to use the seeds to grow an apple orchard." The scene moves forward and you have won your audience's attention.

In business we need to focus on accepting the offers from our clients and colleagues. If a customer asks us to deliver something we are not prepared to do. Instead of saying no you can say, "Yes, and I will have this to you by Friday" or "Yes, and I know just the graphic designer who can help with this project." 

2. The ability to tell a story

We are all storytellers, only some of us are better at it than others. You have to know your brand's story. What is the story of your products and services? How were they created? Why? Who created them? These all make your business human and the stories resonate with your customers.

In improv the story is crucial. Without an interesting and entertaining story you're scene is dead in the water. Your audience will get bored and run to the exit. 

3. Strong listening skills

You can bet that the best sales people are incredible listeners. They ask the right questions and carefully focus on what their customers and potential customers say. The best sales people are the ones who listen and provide the "Yes, and" when they reply. Here's how I recommend you listen better.

In performing improv you listen to your fellow performers and look for opportunities to bring twists, turns and laughs into your scene. You also listen to determine when it's time to throw in the towel and call it quits.

4. Knowing when to end a scene

Not all businesses flourish, in fact most don't succeed. You need to be focused on your goals and determine what is and is not working. 

In improv the audience can sense the awkwardness of the performers when a scene needs to conclude. Great improv actors can improvise the ending that fits the scene perfectly. Lights dark, curtain down.

5. Being a team player

Smart companies ensure they hire the right people. Hiring goes beyond talents and experience, it's also about culture. Will this candidate work well with my team?

Your improv troupe becomes a family. If you aren't working well with your team members, the audience will see it and your performance will fail.

Now consider your own business and career. I bet you're performing improv without even knowing it. Henry Rollins nailed it when he said, "For the last 30-plus years, I have been doing one long, uninterrupted improv."

Now please excuse me, I have a meeting at a bistro in Paris I must be off to, au revoir. 

What are your experiences with improv? Leave a comment, I'd love to hear about them. 

This article originally appeared in The Tennessean newspaper.

Yes, and ...

Dave Delaney

Dave Delaney ImprovMany years ago, I studied improv comedy with Second City in Toronto, and I performed regularly when I lived in Ireland. In Nashville, I am a mentor for start-ups participating in the popular business accelerator, Jumpstart Foundry. You are probably curious how the two are connected, right? A blog post by my friend, Suzan Murphy, inspired me to consider how improv can be used in start-ups. I recommend you take a moment to visit her site to read, “How Improv Can Help You Achieve Your Goals“.

The following are three ways improv is related to business. Consider these three items when starting your own company.

1. Yes, And. How to accept items and keep moving ahead.

In improv acting, there is a common technique called “Yes, And”. The gist of the rule is you must accept everything your partners give you in order to make the audience believe in the scene. For example, if an actor was performing an improv scene and gave his partner on stage an (invisible) apple and said, “Here is the apple you ordered, sir.” The audience would believe that the object he was now holding was an apple. However, if he replied “No, it’s not an apple.”, it would confuse the audience (and frustrate the other actor). Instead improv actors always use the “Yes, and” rule.

Successful founders do this too. They accept the questions from investors, feedback from customers, and advice from staff. Of course you must answer honestly!

“Yes, and we plan to earn an additional $20,000 this quarter.” “Yes, and our product will be updated to accommodate your favorite platform.” “Yes, and we need a foosball table in the break room.”

2. Picking a great team and knowing when to pivot the scene.

In improv acting, you are only as good as your teammates. Understanding each other and the ability to read one another is crucial. It is under these circumstances that you know to continue a scene or to change the direction. For example, an audience may not be connecting with the current premise of the scene. You should sense this and change things quickly to keep their attention.

Your team members, especially your co-founders, help you determine if and when to pivot your business model to meet the needs of an unexpected customer base or technical failure beyond your control. 

3. When an idea doesn’t work.

“Who’s Line is it Anyway?” may fool you into thinking that every scene the improv actors perform is a winner. We forget that not all scenes make the show, the weak ones are always cut. Not every scene is going to go well. The art of improv acting teaches you when to know to pull the plug. Monty Python famously added an angry Colonel who would enter a scene to declare that it is too silly and must stop, and the scene would abruptly end.

In business, it is also important to decide when an idea is no longer working. Not all ideas will succeed, this is a fact of life. However, with a strong team of positive, creative thinkers, you have a good chance of receiving a standing ovation from your customers and investors.