Corporate Events – How improvisation fixes everything
The Maydays are frequently asked to intervene as part of structured corporate events, such as annual conferences, big international or multidisciplinary training events, product launches and anniversary events. The reason The Maydays are in demand for such corporate events is that improvisation ticks many boxes at once – it’s energizing, it’s about high performing teams and it’s entertainment. Put together in the right order, it paves the way for organizational openness to change. It’s a three course meal. It’s starters, main and dessert.
By Richard Bradford
Improvisation for Corporate Events – Entertainment
The easiest and probably most traditional way to use The Maydays in corporate events is when the team tops off proceedings with a trademark high-energy show. This can provide dynamic counterpoint to an occasionally laboured top-down corporate message, annual review or new strategy launch. The brief will often start with “We need you to brighten it up, but in a way that’s clever and relevant to the event”.
Typically 10-20-minutes in duration, these entertaining improvised shows draw delegates in and give them an amazing shared experience which is crackling with audacity, excitement and humour. It provides a talking point as well as a memorable association and an entertaining interlude. If you’ve seen Showstopper, the improvised musical show which hit the West End of London last year, you’ll know what we’re talking about (some of The Maydays occasionally appear in the show).
Corporate Events with the goal of building high performing teams
The smarter corporate events planners know us to be capable of delivering something altogether more holistic than an entertaining show. Increasingly we’re finding The Maydays’ influence in the corporate events world to be more central, more pivotal. The secret of its success lies at the very heart of what improvisation is, and what it does for people.
Improvisation is an entertaining art form which takes random audience or actor inputs to steer a funny or surreal path through a given narrative. The twists and turns, and how the actors on stage deal with these, are a source of delight and hilarity. In order to create improvised work, the troupe needs to be able to spin on a sixpence. They are agile, they listen incredibly hard to each other, they take in a massive array of verbal and non-verbal cues, they process information quickly, and they stay on the front foot. Above all, they work in a tight-knit, total-trust, mutually-supportive team. They step out of their comfort zone and they create something amazing together. Every single time. Now it doesn’t take a massive leap to see why corporate clients are using improvisation as an exemplar of best practice behaviour.
From a corporate events perspective then, we can model great behaviour in a form which is entertaining and uplifting, but we can also switch into a workshop mode (all delegates together or in smaller groups), and we can share our improvisation skills to get people up and performing better. By anchoring great skills and behaviours in a positive and happily memorable event, you’re hitting the ‘win-win’ spot.
How Improvisation actually works at corporate events
We’ll often use the following format. We headline our sessions with a performance which both engages people emotionally and provides some entertainment. This creates the wow factor, gets everyone on the same page and excited by what they just saw. This gives some interesting food for thought. We’ll elicit some of the qualities they just observed from our own high performing team. Moments later, we’ll start sharing our techniques experientially. After about 45 minutes, you can expect to have your own delegates ready and willing to step up on stage and perform an improvised comedy set. And when they do, the crowd goes wild.
Of course, if that’s a step too far, we can stay focused on more specific prized behaviours, such as dealing with uncertainty, communicating effectively and orchestrating collaboration (see our brochure for a wider list of frequently requested formats). It is good at some point though to have your people rise to the challenge.
Improvisation as a warm up exercise at corporate events
We’re increasingly being asked to provide a thread which runs through the whole event. The Maydays perform effectively by listening effectively, and we have exercises, skills and techniques we impart experientially to do this. If you’re going to spend all day talking to your delegates, announcing new approaches, new philosophies or training them up in the latest techniques, then best to start your event by getting people to listen. Really, actively listening. That means you. Yes you. It’ll be fun, light-hearted, appear innocuous, but by the end of the warm-up, you’ll have delegates who are focused and attentive in a way the registration coffee and cookies will struggle to achieve.
In short, there is no limit to what we can achieve with corporate events delegates. The more time we have before the event in collaboration with the major stakeholders, and the more time we have with the delegates during the event, the higher and more sustainable the impact. If you’re an independent events organiser, we can also come in at the planning and pitching stage with you, create detailed proposals and even provide a pitch video. Give us a shout.