Nothing to be afraid of: Improv vs. Applied Improv

June 17, 2014

From time to time, people get a little apprehensive when we talk about facilitating an applied improv workshop with their organization. “Some of my team . . . I don’t think they’d make very good improvisers,” they’ll say. To that, we say, “Good. We don’t expect them to be.”


Improv Effects workshops aren’t designed to prepare participants to take the stage, they’re designed to explore improvisation techniques and the ways that they can be applied in a professional setting. We recently had a client voice this concern before their first workshop with us. One of their employees had been in a more traditional corporate improv workshop a few years back with a more traditional corporate improv firm.  


This employee said that for a lot of people that workshop went poorly. People were pushed too hard in more “performance-based” exercises. There wasn’t the feeling of day-to-day application or, more importantly, support. This being their only experience with improv workshops, they were apprehensive about our workshop.


We met with them to explain the difference in our approach and they proceeded with our workshop. It was a huge success. The participants all had fun, felt safe and supported, and were excited about the ways they could implement improv moving forward. The employee that had had the negative experience with that previous workshop said the difference was night and day, and she did awesome in the workshop!


From the day we started Improv Effects, our priorities have been for people to feel supported in our workshops and for participants to feel good about the exercises they engage in. We believe this is the best way to learn the techniques. 


Will people be asked to step out of their comfort zone? Sure. If they’re not out of their comfort zone, it means they’re not learning anything new. However, we’ve designed our workshops to make sure that the progression is gradual and safe. We keep it positive and we focus on support. We know it’s a new experience for people.


We start with simple ice breaker-style warm-ups. After that, our early exercises are in small groups and pairs, not performance style. When we do get to exercises that take place in front of the rest of the participants, they are done in the safety of groups and are variations of exercises already performed in smaller groups. Participants are never thrown into the deep end.


A participant’s ability to be successful in the workshop has nothing to do with whether or not they are extraverted or introverted, or whether they are funny or witty. Again, we’re not grooming anyone for the Second City main stage. The applied improvisation techniques we coach can be utilized by any personality type. They are, at their heart, tools for communication - adaptable by anyone.


Don’t let fear of performing tradition improv prevent you from bringing in a fun, valuable communication workshop to your business. Contact us today and we’ll be happy to answer all your questions about what you can expect.


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Brian at WMU Haworth College of Business

Whether you're looking to ease into a culture change, want solutions for conflict resolution or are looking for more communication tools when it's time to go "off script," applied improv will provide great take-aways for your team. It makes for a great team building event too!

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It's improvisation, but there's a method to the madness. We have a proven process that begins with simple communication concepts, which then build on themselves until we arrive at specific, real-world techniques for effective, positive communication. 

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Let us know how we can introduce the benefits of improv to your group. In addition to performing and coaching improv for years, we have backgrounds in sales management, event planning, focus group facilitation, business development and small business ownership.

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