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Improv Yourself: Using Improv Towards Your Professional Development

Improv Yourself: Using Improv Towards Your Professional Development

Can we get a suggestion from the audience- feel free to shout it out! Did I hear “improv as a business tool?”

Lights up, Action!

Earlier this week, D&A’s Copywriting Intern and improv extraordinaire Tess gave us a rundown on how to use improv for our professional development. Since being the captain of her high school’s improv troop, Tess has utilized the skills she learned in the most unlikely of ways. Having taught improv to all ages, Tess decided to give D&A a go- and is happy to report that everyone was a natural!


What is Improv?

Improv is short for improvisation- a type of theatrical performance, in which every scene, action, dialogue, and character are made up on the spot. Even though improvisational comedy began in the 1950s, you’re probably most familiar with this type of performance due to modern television shows (WPR, 2020). Shows like Whose Line is it Anyway?, Murderville, Curb Your Enthusiasm, and Reno 911! incorporate improvised comedy into their episodes. Heck, some of the most iconic moments in film and television were improvised! Although improv is heavily featured in the entertainment industry, the same rules and skills can improve your professional development. To help get you started, we’re going to introduce you to the rules of the game.

The Rules of the Game

1. “Yes, and…”

If you have any basic knowledge of improv, this rule should come as no surprise. The “yes” is you going along with what your scene partner proposed and the “and” is you building off their proposal. The idea is that by saying “Yes, and…” in response to what your scene partner proposed, you have created a collaborative scene built on positivity and trust.

Taking on a “Yes, and” attitude is sure to help you in a group brainstorming session, pitch meeting, or email response. Applying this improv rule to your professional development will allow you to build off your team members’ ideas and offer proper encouragement. With this rule, everyone is seen and heard without their idea being struck down!

  1. Manage Change with Confidence

In improv, chances are an unexpected twist in a scene will occur, but that is the beauty of improv! When this happens – don’t sweat it and make the best of it! Follow the twists and turns of a scene by staying confident and going with the flow. There are no mistakes on stage, only opportunities for you to showcase your spontaneity.

If a business meeting doesn’t go your way, that’s okay! Improv teaches you to be flexible no matter what obstacles are thrown at you. Just remember to remain calm, cool, and collected in these situations. Showing your adaptability in difficult situations to your coworkers, clients, and superiors will solidify you as a leader.

  1. Have Energy

Putting energy into everything you do will benefit your performance, your scene partners, and your audience. Don’t be so roused up that you steal the spotlight and bounce off the walls entirely. Instead, let it keep you sharp – this will allow others to build off your energy and makes it enjoyable for the audience to watch.

This does not mean drinking five Red Bulls or a triple espresso shot before work. It means remaining positive and giving everything your all. Positive energy will help you follow through on projects, team morale, and your client relationships.

  1. Be Present

Paying attention during an improv scene cannot be stressed enough. Listening to your scene partner and audience will help you continue a cohesive storyline, stay on your toes, and make everyone happy. In the end, being present will always pay off!

There is nothing worse than dozing off in a meeting and not remembering crucial information. Don’t be that person. Being alert in meetings, calls, and events will help prepare you for the present and be ready for the future. Similar to listening to the audience’s reaction in improv, putting out feelers for a client’s mood toward your proposal or seeing what your coworker might need help with based on their reactions is just as useful. 

  1. Improv is a Team Sport

Newsflash – there are no improv teams consisting of one member – that is because improv works best in a team setting. Being a part of a team is knowing your own strengths and weaknesses as well as your team members. When the lights go up on stage, the trust and support between you and your scene partner is everything. If there is a mutual understanding that no one person will hog the scene, ignore the other’s ideas, or be unwilling to build off the other, that is a team’s foundation.

Working for a company means being a part of a team – to offer your teammates support and build trust with one another. Trust and encouragement help to know your co-workers’ strengths and weaknesses, so you know how to uplift and help out when the time comes.

And Scene.

Remember, improv can be used both on and off the stage. Keep these five rules of improv handy and ready to pull out at your next business meeting – you’re bound to be met with a round of applause.

Let the (newly crowned) improv queens of D&A set the stage for your company’s marketing strategy!