When I told a business acquaintance that I was starting improv classes, she replied “I bet you’re great at that.”
This struck a chord. She assumed that I was already great at improv or that it came naturally because I teach people about public speaking.
I felt myself tense up, for a moment believing that I should already know everything there is to know about improvising. Then I remembered why I signed up for a class.
I wanted to learn. Improv is fun, and hard, and awkward. Like anything else, it takes practice.
I get up in front of groups regularly and teach workshops, but that doesn’t mean I’m not still learning.
For some, performing comes naturally, For others, you might dread being the center of attention. But you don’t have to be a natural performer to be a great public speaker.
I just finished an 8-week Improv class at Magnet Theater and I wanted to share 7 life lessons I learned from improv:
Doing silly things with strangers is fun - sure it’s awkward but it's also hilarious and it builds trust.
You don't have to know everything. In fact, it's a huge relief when you realize you’re supported by a team of other people who can help you figure things out
When in doubt, mirror what your partner is doing - imagine if you applied this concept the next time you’re in a situation where you don’t know the answer.
Listening is vital. As a naturally quiet person, listening was already a strength but knowing you have to respond to what your scene partner is doing makes you pay attention on a deeper level.
Let go of control - if you spend all your time planning what you’re going to say, it might be completely irrelevant by the time it’s your turn. You might miss the most important details, you might miss all the fun.
Commit - you might be unsure but if you look certain it will be easier to get other people on board.
Pretend - if you’re scared, do it anyway. Pretend you feel confident. Eventually you will.
Improv is simultaneously terrifying and exhilarating. It requires letting go of control (#scary) and trusting the people you’re working with.
I can recall a time when improv would have been my worst nightmare and now it feels fun.
So remember, however you feel about your presentation skills today, those feelings can change.
It’s okay to start at the beginning.
It’s okay to not know the answer.
It’s okay to still be learning.
Not quite ready for improv classes? I understand.
There are other ways to get started.
Grab 4 steps to a Winning Work Presentation to prep for presentations, even if you have no time, so you can stop freaking out and start communicating like the expert.