3 Valuable Lessons Gleaned from Improv Comedy Clubs

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The Shakedown, DC Improv Comedy Club, Mayflower Hotel, Washington D.C., improv, team building
The DC Improv Comedy Club

Like most team building activities, improv helps bond attendees.

But improv goes one step further and teaches individual attendees valuable lessons that can be used in the workplace and beyond. A recent partnership between The DC Improv Comedy Club and The Mayflower hotel has made improv programming in the Washington, D.C., area even more accessible to meeting planners looking to educate attendees in an interactive way.

In this Shakedown, Liz Demery, corporate events designer and facilitator at The DC Improv Comedy Club, speaks about how improv can help improve communication, lead to positive thinking and encourages attendees to take more risks.

What are the three valuable lessons attendees can learn from improv?

Active listening is key to communication. We tend to hear only a third of what’s said to us because we listen to interject or to respond rather than to understand. If we could improve our listening even a little, imagine how effective interactions with others would be—and how efficient meetings and conversations could become. Because improv is created on the spot with others, participants learn to be present and pay attention to their partners. They respond and react to their partners’ needs and ideas, rather than focusing on or forcing their own preset agenda.

“Yes, and” others’ ideas. We’ve all been in a brainstorming session where we offer an idea that we’re excited and nervous to share, only to be hit with a three-letter word: but. It depletes the energy in the room. Through improv, we learn the impact of that word and how to overcome it. The cardinal rule of improv is “Yes, and” in an effort to accept and build on the ideas of those around you. Improv is all about accelerating others’ ideas as if they were your own. Working together to enhance an idea, we can strengthen team dynamics and open up opportunities for further innovation. When we bring our own perspectives to build on the ideas of others, we often create something even more innovative and increase productivity in the process.

Adapting to change is essential to success. When changes are forced on us, we might resist and halt progress. Since improv is unscripted and created with others, the outcome can’t be planned. Unexpected twists are introduced by a facilitator, game partners or your peers who are supporting you in the background. To play an improv game, we must adapt to unexpected changes. Improv exercises help us notice our innate resistance to change and teach us to accept and build on the changes introduced by others. In doing so, we can create progress and work together more cohesively in the process.

What is your No. 1 piece of advice to attendees scared of getting up in front of their peers?

You are already an improviser; you just don’t realize it yet. We are constantly improvising in our professional and personal lives, adapting to changes and our environment, coming up with decisions and actions on the spot. No one is walking around with a script telling them what to do. An improv team building is no different, and it can even help you get better at managing choices in the future.

Also, improv is a team sport. You aren’t alone on a stage, expected to tell jokes to a roomful of hecklers. The focus of improv isn’t to be the funniest person in the room. Instead, it’s to have fun, support each other and—most importantly—interact with and pay attention to your teammates. When that is the focus, the funny will happen naturally.

Stay tuned for the second part of this two-part interview in a future Spark blog post.

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