Earlier this year I graduated from ColdTowne Theater’s Improv Conservatory in Austin, Texas. I’m definitely a fan of improv comedy but most importantly, I’m an advocate of improv training for professionals and teams – and especially trainers.
Improv Fantasy League Competition Aug 2010
Of all the professional development training and train the trainer classes I’ve taken as a Microsoft Certified Trainer, my improv training has by far been the most valuable by:
- becoming a better listener – instead of just hearing what students tell me, I’m more focused and engaged;
- improving my memory – I use student experiences that have been shared with the class to reinforce learning and make it applicable to the group as a whole;
- seeing patterns – I can combine what seems like unrelated items into logical patterns to help illustrate certain ideas;
- being highly adaptable and flexible – projector doesn’t work? No problem. Everyone remain calm. Open your books to page 5 and begin reading the lesson while I go find another one;
- creating a supportive environment – whether students are shy or domineering, the goal is for everyone to succeed and my improv background allows me to use each unique group dynamic to create a supportive environment where students feel confident while learning;
- feeling comfortable in any setting – presentation-style vs. classroom style vs webinar style vs hey-let’s-have-a-class-right-here-right-now style; and
- being more confident & engaging – I’ve become more fearless as a presenter, which in turn gives students confidence in the class and what they are learning.
BUT the most important lesson…
…I’ve learned from improv is that mistakes are gifts. It’s what makes life interesting. Think about the mistakes you’ve made in the past – big or small – that put you where you are today. What about the mistakes that happen every day, like that left turn you missed or the file you spent hours on that you forgot to save and now have to retype? During the time you took to fix the mistake you may have discovered new shortcuts in the process…in both scenarios.
We learn more when we make mistakes and what better time to make mistakes than in the classroom. Additionally, when things go wrong in class it makes for a more interesting session for both the students and you – as long as it doesn’t make you flustered. But that’s where your improv training comes in. You’re ready for anything.
As part of your intro and after you’ve outlined the objectives, tell students that you encourage them to make mistakes in class. Even go as far as telling them to break the software – if you’re teaching technology, that is. Then when someone encounters something that goes wrong use that as a teaching moment. Whenever possible, have the entire class troubleshoot the issue rather than you tell them the solution.
My goal in class: Never strive for everything to be perfect because that certainly isn’t real life – at least mine anyway.
Interested in improv?
Many improv theaters across the country offer free Improv 101 workshops once a month. I encourage you to try one out. Read this recent blog post where a colleague of mine took a class despite almost chickening out. Can you relate to her experience? Be sure to leave a comment on her blog if you do.
If you need help finding an improv workshop near you, let me know. I’m happy to assist you.
Do you live Austin?
Check out the free Improv 101 workshop the first Monday of the month. Tell them I sent you. Oh, and let me know when you’re going. I’ll join you!!
PS. I want to give a shout out to the other schools where I studied improv: UCB New York and Four Day Weekend in Ft. Worth, TX.