“You need to get a hobby.”
Those are the words of my husband politely hinting that I need to get a life. But man was he right. I had been so focused on school and building up my career that I forgot to invest in myself. So, wanting to do something fun and different (and knowing how to take a hint), I joined my first improv class.
I came home from my first class having felt like I had just unlocked the secrets of the universe! Ok, maybe that’s an exaggeration, but I definitely felt like I just had participated in a surprisingly affordable group therapy session. I quickly learned that improv wasn’t just about a group of people making stuff up on a stage together, but that it also had so many applications to life and my career I had been working so hard at.
Fast forward three months and I find out that the ‘dream’ position at work I had been wanting, but was super under qualified for, opened up: Training Specialist. Part of the interview process required that I deliver a fifteen-minute presentation on how to keep the audience engaged throughout a training session. Having zero training experience, I knew I had to showcase the skills I did have that applied to the position – public speaking and improv.
I decided to make the topic of my presentation, “Engaging Learners Through the Rules of Improv”. That way I could show them that, although I don’t have any professional experience training others, I still understand the importance of the audience and how to keep them excited and connected to the topic at hand. After some research via my best friend Google, I quickly learned what it takes to be a good trainer (thank you, internet!). Then, I connected each of those guidelines to a rule that I had learned in my improv classes to show how freaking fun and amazing my classes were going to be.
In case you ever find yourself having to talk in front of a group of people, here are some improv rules that you can apply to make it awesome (aka: this is what I talked about during my presentation):
- Set the Scene: give background information, provide context, and set expectations. This will help get everyone on the same page and create a comfortable learning environment.
- Listen With an Open Mind: listen to your audience and build off their ideas. There are no stupid questions or ideas.
- Justify: show how the subject matter relates to the bigger picture. Not explaining everything will confuse and disconnect the audience.
- Make the Active Choice: get everyone up and actively moving around the room. This will cause the audience to better connect with one another, not to mention wake them up from their snooze break.
- Ending a Scene: stay in tune with your audience and know when to take breaks. Everyone needs a break to re-energize, no matter how awesome your presentation is.
Obviously you can tell by reading my super insightful tips above that I got the position (not to mention the small hint contained within the title of this post). Using the rules of improv has drastically improved my trainings and has continually helped increase my confidence speaking in front of an audience. It is noticeable that the more I grow as an improviser, the more I grow as a trainer.
It’s just crazy how working so hard on my career led to me not having a life. Then when I finally tried to have a life, it led to me down a career path I never even knew existed.
So what is the moral of the story here? Listen to the people you trust because they probably know what’s best for you. Oh, and do improv! It will take you on an unexpected journey not only in life, but each time you step onto that stage.