By Mark Solomons, Managing Partner
Have you ever wanted to appear on ‘Whose line is it anyway?” You know the one where everyone gets up individually or in teams to improvise stories and make the audience laugh. You marvel at how quick thinking they are and at the things they come up with and think it must be scripted or they cheat in some way as they are just so good!
Anyway it does seem that you can learn this skill – though to be good enough for a TV show is going to take a lot of hard work and probably years of practice. Les and I and other members of the Developing Potential team, as well as developing others, are always looking at how we might improve our own performance – both to grow as individuals and also to better support our clients.
Although we already get great feedback about our skills as facilitators and the way in which we are able to lead workshops and present to large groups we figured that learning the skills of improvisation could only add to our repertoire and provide us with further conversational skills. So we went to a days programme, Improv your Biz, with Neil Mullarkey, a founder of the comedy store players and well worth a look on Wednesday and Sunday evenings at the comedy store when he and improvisers (some well known ones too) put on a show.
You can get a full run down on Neil at his site – www.neilmullarkey.com. Some highlights include – he was a double act with Mike Myers, appeared in 2 of the Austin Powers movies, was president of the Cambridge footlights, has appeared in numerous other films and on TV and radio, has written shows and books and appeared in programmes like ‘Whose line is it anyway?. Pretty impressive eh! And when you are with him you realise the stars of these shows really can improvise on the spot and come up with great and funny stories in the same way as we just have a conversation.
What you get from the day is a structure to start improvising, routines and activities that you can use to practice and a belief that you really can do this if you are prepared to give it a go and practice, practice, practice. The other secret seems to be not to try and be funny or too clever too quickly…just get the process right and then the other stuff will come. Oh yes, it was also great fun. So if improvisation is something you aspire to or you just want to have more natural and collaborative communication skills then a day with Neil might be for you?
For us it will just help us get even better at what we do and we constantly strive to ‘Be the Best we can Be’, in the same way as we encourage all our clients to go that bit further for themselves and their customers.