Networking with Improv

Me, in my happy place, performing improv with Nashville Improv. 

One of the best decisions I ever made for my career was to take an improvisation comedy class. I enjoyed it so much that I ended up studying and graduating from The Second City school in Toronto. When I moved from Toronto to Ireland, I formed an improv troupe and provided improv for business training. Nowadays, I am thrilled to perform with Nashville Improv

Whether you are attending a networking event or conference, presenting to your board of directors, pitching investors or new clients, or interacting with industry peers, there is something for every person in improv. 

One of my favorite books on the topic of improv for business is “Getting to 'Yes And': The Art of Business Improv” by Bob Kulhan with Chuck Crisafulli. The authors ask great questions in the book for business owners and managers: “Do you know concrete steps to create a culture in which people are not afraid to fail and are not afraid to openly share ideas? Do you know how to instill trust and mutual support in your team? Do you know how to inspire an attitude of openness and acceptance?” 

The aforementioned questions all relate to creating a strong company culture. Companies with great cultures retain employees, which pleases every stakeholder involved. We all know how costly it is to hire and train new staff. 

According to a CNBC article, “On average, companies on the 2016 Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For list experienced 50 percent less voluntary turnover than their peers. The war for talent in today's knowledge-driven economy is intense. Once a company has hired the best talent, it is critical to keep those employees engaged in the company, its mission and their own personal growth.”

Teaching your team how to use improv in the workplace will lead to stronger communication and acceptance of new ideas. In “Getting to 'Yes And,' ” Kulhan explains how improv leads to “creativity, risk-taking, innovation, flexibility, strong and supportive teamwork, empathetic connection, authentic leadership and, of course, thinking outside of the box.” 

Yes, and...

The rule of “Yes, and” is essential in improv. It is the underlying code that makes the magic happen on stage. This thinking can also make magic happen in the office. When improv actors use “Yes, and,” they accept offers from fellow actors or suggestions from the audience. The “and” functions as a way to add to the scene. For example, an actor may hand an invisible hammer to the other actor. The first actor says, “Here is the hammer you asked for.” The second actor replies, “Yes, and I need it to destroy this toilet. Will you help me?” The scene continues forward. 

Improv will teach you acceptance, how to listen better, and how not to fear failure.

Kulhan writes, “ 'Yes, and' helps develop mindfulness and makes one aware not only of one’s own behavior but also how that behavior influences others.” When teams accept and add on to ideas, true innovation can occur. Allowing teams to share their ideas is an important way to empower them, which improves business and keeps employees happy. 

Improv will teach you acceptance, how to listen better, and how not to fear failure. It is these key items that have helped me throughout my career. I have learned to accept the circumstances I face in my business by using the “Yes, and” rule. I have become a better listener by focusing on what the speaker is saying and not what I will say next. In fact, I always strive to let the other person do the bulk of the talking. Improv has also taught me not to fear failure, which has greatly helped me in my public speaking, networking, and sales calls.

For more ideas on how improv can improve your life, I wrote a little ebook about it called "Improve With Improv." Networking for Nice People readers can download it for free using the code: NICE