If there were a magic pill that would make you stretch outside your comfort zone in a way that benefited every area of your business and life, would you do it? Even if you had to get up on stage in front of an audience without a script to perform short sketches with other people you barely knew?
And, boy am I glad!
You see about 7-8 years ago I took a presentation skills class and one of the instructors was an improv guy. He was extolling the virtues of improve and I thought… “Hmmm that could be cool!” Since there were no classes nearby I let the idea slide into wishful thinking…until… two years ago. A colleague of mine started offering adult improv classes and I jumped in hook, line, and sinker. I never dreamed it would have had as huge of an impact on me and my business as it has.
Besides being more fun than you could possibly imagine having with very cool people and laughing until your sides split, there are some very tangible reasons why improv is the perfect fit for the self-employed business owner.
Here’s why I continue to do it (and you should give it a try)…
Improv teaches you to:
Think on Your Feet
You have to be on your toes when you play these improv games. You never know what scene you could be in, what role you will be playing, or what might happen. You can’t plan, script, or rehearse your way into success. You can practice skills that support your performance (like listening, experimenting, being present, thinking on your feet, etc.) but that is the extent of it. The rest is up to you – in the moment.
Be Comfortable with Being Uncomfortable
Who is totally comfortable with standing in front of a crowd knowing just about anything can happen? No one. Even the most seasoned performers will tell you they feel excited and a bit nervous before a show. Knowing that you might succeed or fail spectacularly is just part of the game. You may shine like a hero or look like a jackass. Either way is OK. You learn how to show up fully and make friends with the unknown.
Fundamentally you have to trust yourself. Learning to trust your instincts, ideas, and input is non-negotiable to the process. The only way it works is if you take an idea, commit fully, and go for it. Even if it bombs. As my improv leader Aviva says, sometimes the best thing you can do is die (as in let the idea/character die).
Confidently Handle Whatever Comes Your Way
Dancing with the unknown is what improv is all about. You have no idea what might happen next or what idea an audience might throw at you. Frankly that is half the fun, once you trust yourself and believe that you can and will confidently handle whatever is thrown at you. The only way to develop that trust is to just do it.
Be Fully Present with Others
Being in an improv troupe is not a solo monologue. For it to work, you have to be fully present and in relationship to others. I’ve been blessed to hang out and play with some of the coolest, nicest, and most fun people I’ve ever encountered. We talk about giving a gift to your fellow performers. That is when you set someone else up for the perfect win with big laughs. The only way to do that is to be present in the moment and be willing to give. It’s not about you. When you give and receive as a group, that’s where the funny happens best.
How this helps you as a business owner is…
Business is all about uncertainty and not knowing what will happen. There is no script to follow, and you have to relate to other people if you want to succeed (no people = no customers/clients = no profits). There are forces outside yourself that you have no control over (economy for instance), and you never know what other people are going to do or say (clients, competition, etc.). Life and business is nothing if not a big universal game of improv.
Personally as a result of improv I have improved my sales conversations (and conversions!), boosted my confidence when I speak in front of groups, and learned how to take others and myself more lightly. The golden rule of saying “Yes, and…” in improv has allowed me to translate that into how I operate day to day.
This stuff really does work to increase confidence, boost sales, and make you more effective at marketing. You simply become less attached to the outcome and more willing to be yourself and trust that you’ll handle whatever comes. When something bombs, you let it go. Learning to laugh a lot more certainly helps. If you can’t laugh at yourself as a business owner, you will live a long, painful existence.
So whether you give improv a try just to push yourself out of your comfort zone for a bit or find yourself under its magical spell and go back again and again, I can guarantee you that it is one of the best things you can do for yourself and the success of your business.
While I don’t personally teach improv (I can point you to people who do!), I love helping business owners apply these concepts to their day-to-day business operations. If your business could use a boost, let’s have a chat! Click here to schedule a time to explore working together.