When my friend, improv actress Katie Goodman, and I decided to co-teach a workshop, it felt like a natural.
She uses improvisation exercises as a life coach. I’m a marketing consultant who mainly helps small businesses and solopreneurs tell their stories.
What? That doesn’t sound like peanut butter and jelly to you?
I spent last weekend in Montana at an improv workshop Katie led that reconfirmed our connection. Many lessons of improv apply to marketing communication.
As you may know, improv is acting without the benefit of a script.
Through the course of the weekend, we partnered up to write poetry, sing songs and act out scenes totally created in the moment, based on suggestions from the audience — give me an object, an emotion, a type of location.
Katie directed us to listen closely to our scene partners, to be open to new ideas, whether they’re your own or other people’s, and of course to follow the best known philosophy of improv, to always build on other people’s ideas, instead of negating them, by using a “yes, and …” approach. All good advice in life, as well as on stage.
She also advised us to say what’s in our heads. You have to decide who you are, where you are and what you want, and communicate all three clearly or your partner doesn’t know how to react.
For example, we begin an improv scene and I just say “Sure is hot.” I might have an idea that we’re in a sauna, at the beach or standing on the surface of the sun, but my partner has to figure out how to react to me with almost no information.
If instead I say, “Wow it’s hot! I’ve been in this desert for a week and I ran out of water three days ago. Do you have any water?” I’ve given my partner enough information to maybe picture she’s got to get off her camel to share her jug of water with me.
When it works, it’s like watching skilled ballroom dancers. Partners appear to move together effortlessly, and though one is following and the other leading, the direction is invisible to the audience and both have equally important roles in their shared success.
How is improv like marketing?
I frequently see businesses creating content that doesn’t tell me who they are, where they are and what they want. As a result, I don’t know how to react. Read more