Improvisation is a thing

Improvisation is a thing in its own right. Here’s how to book it for your event.

This is a short article to confirm that improvisation, or to give it its snappier name, ‘improv’, is indeed a thing. That might sound obvious, particularly to improvisers, but there are possibly a couple of misapprehensions that need clearing up, if you’re thinking about booking some improv for your next corporate event.

By Richard Bradford

Improvisation, and improvised comedy, is definitely about making stuff up in the moment, usually for great comedic effect or sheer wow factor. So when people on stage spontaneously burst into song accompanied by improvised music, singing about a theme just dreamt up by the audience, that’s improvisation.

It is, however, very very very different from just winging it. So the phrase “We’re going to provide improvisation based facilitation to ABC Corporation” is a very different utterance from “We’re doing some training with ABC Corp. next week. We’re just going to improvise it as we go along”.

So is Improvisation random or not?

Annoyingly, improvisation both is and isn’t about random decisions made in the moment, which doesn’t make this piece any easier to write. Improvisation is about randomness, in the sense that it uses random inputs to force improvisers to be totally in the moment, be totally present, alert and listening, and respond on a knife edge, yet keep the narrative flowing. Improvisation isn’t about randomness because you can most definitely guarantee outcomes.

During on stage comedy improvisation you can guarantee it’s going to be funny and entertaining, because we use randomness to great comedy effect.

In a training and facilitation context, we can guarantee very specific outcomes around how our delegates will feel, think, and act collectively. We do this by continually tweaking the sequence of activities we’re using, and by being acutely aware of the mood in the room at any given moment in time. However we improvise the delivery solution to ensure the session keeps on track to hit the agreed end point. What happens within each exercise, what people say and do may well be random and even comedic. But what that leads to is highly predictable.

How much of a brief do improvisation people need?

Our work as an improvisation-based training and facilitation company leads to three common comments from corporate clients:

You don’t need details, you’re improvisers

Yes we are. Erm, but yes we do. It will matter to us how many delegates you’ll have on the day. And we do need to know how long the session will be (45 minutes is a great minimum duration). It will help to know what it is you’re trying to achieve globally at your event well before we get there. We’ll want to be all over the logistics too.

We have a very specific thing we want you to deliver

That’s great. But remember, improvisation is a thing. It is a thing in its own right, and whilst we can easily steer our thing to align to your thing, the more you respect improvisation as its own thing, the more we’ll be able to help your people. Just a quick recap, improvisation helps with team confidence, team cohesion, trust at work, mutual respect, active listening skills, focus, engagement, motivation, being happy and relaxed at work, shared positive experiences, presentation skills, emotional intelligence, group problem solving, collective creativity and building resilience to name but fifteen. What’s more, if left to our own devices and given enough time, we can impart much of this in a holistic way which will stay with your people for years.

Do what you like, we totally trust you

Yes, that’s good, but let’s make sure we do agree on what the thing will look like. Some people in your wider team of stakeholders may require assurances that you don’t need, so let’s be aware of everyone’s views first off. We can then respond to explain which of your expectations our thing will meet quite naturally. But we do like starting out with your explicit trust. Thank you.

How would you use improvisation to boost your organisation’s thing? Contact us today and let us know. Speak soon.

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