Stepping out of the comfort zone

Every New Year, in the name of self-improvement, I challenge myself to attempt one new activity or project. Over the years, this quest has lead me to figure drawing, a cooking class, pilates, and a host of other worthwhile endeavors. For 2019, I’ve decided to hone a new skill which might also benefit my professional life (not that whipping up a yummy snack doesn’t bring smiles to the faces of my coworkers).

While hearing a speaker at an account management conference talk about the benefits of improvisation for presentations and public speaking, I carefully placed the idea in my memory bank. You see, it’s been about two years since I heard this advice, so obviously it’s taken me a little time to warm up to this suggestion. But, I made the leap in January, and now I regularly find myself “on stage” with a group of folks ranging from stand-up comics to new-to-towners to wannabe performers. And then there’s ME – an Account Manager at an ad agency.

What have I learned? Well, improvisation is the art of creating scenes and stories out of given suggestions. While I’m only a few classes in, I’m proud to report I’ve already broken through the “gosh, that would sound really stupid to say in this scene” phase, along with the fear of pretending to look out a window and saying the first thing that pops into my head. In improv, it’s all about focusing on what’s happening here and now. It’s about adding something to what your partner is saying in order to continue the flow of a scene. It’s about listening, body language, effective communication, and signals of affirmation which contribute to an ongoing conversation. Truth is, all of these skills help in almost any business situation, from a branding presentation to a new business lunch, as well as in day-to-day life. In other words, a little spontaneity can go a long way.

If you’re interested in learning more about the link between improvisation and business success, check out this recent article.