1.Work with what you get
2.Say whatever comes into your head and avoid saying no
3.Always make your partner look good.
As simple as the three rules of Improv are, they are not always easy to put into practice especially for adults. If you have watched improv on television or gone to see a Second City production, you may believe that improv is about being really quick and really funny at the same time. That can set you up before you even start.
The kind of improv we use in our workshops is designed to help people get comfortable on their feet using some simple techniques and exercises. No one has run screaming from our improv workshops. But there is always a lot of laughter and the kind of camaraderie that takes place when we loosen up and just be ourselves.
We put our own ability to live in the moment to the test recently at this year's Cannexus conference. When our colleague fell ill we offered up improv as a substitute for her workshop. With just a half hour to spare, we were able to pick some tunes from my smart phone, push the tables back and pick out ten improv exercises from our repertoire. The 40 plus people, who very spontaneously attended, were a highly memorable group. One fellow offered up one of the best rants I have seen and there was some great body walking too.
Here is one of the exercises we did that morning. This is a positive way to start a meeting or lead a group.
Have everyone form a large circle so they are able to see each other. Ask each person to say the thing they like most about.....in our case we were in Ottawa so we used Ottawa.
It was 35 degrees below that morning so this prompted comments about weather, but the responses included hats, skating on the canal, beaver tails, shopping, parliament buildings and great food. Some people said the same thing and that is perfectly fine.
This simple exercise demonstrated how many great things the group had to look forward to over the three days at the conference, and showcased both similar and varied interests. People really paid attention to what was being said and what had not been said.
Improv is a great way to help a group get comfortable and share ideas.