Improv: The Real-Life Superpower

Picture yourself standing in front of an audience.

They’ve all taken time out of their busy schedules to listen to you speak. None of them have met you before. They are sat, chatting, and go quiet as you enter the room. Their eyes are fixed. You have one chance to make your point and make an impression.

For some people, this is enough to make them nervous – but lets take this scenario a step further.

Imagine now that you’ve got absolutely nothing scripted on what you have to say – that you have to entirely improvise.

This, for many, sounds like a nightmare scenario.

However, for improvisers, this is no nightmare. This is an environment where they thrive.

This is fun.


 Improvisational comedy (or improv for short) is a dramatic art form that embraces spontaneity, chaos, and seizing the opportunity of the moment. It’s the skill set being deployed in shows such as Whose Line is it Anyway?  and modern day talk-shows like Mock The Week or Have I Got News For You.

Shows like these are quite narrow (albeit entertaining) applications of improv. Most of us won’t find ourselves onstage in front of a live studio audience in a show setting. However, almost all of us will be in a situation where we need to give some form of presentation, or do some form of public speaking. All kinds of events, from weddings to board meetings, present themselves as occasions whereby commanding an audience in a charismatic manner is necessary.

What creates nervousness for those in these far more common situations is the element of uncertainty. Unexpected questions, technical interruptions, and general chaos can disrupt the flow of a pre-planned script you wish to put forward. This is why improv, particularly in a professional environment, is a superpower.

 

 

Improv - in a professional environment - is a superpower

 

Being able to not only deal with unexpected hitches and disruptions, but to benefit from them and enjoy them, completely changes your mindset when it comes to public speaking.

Suddenly you’re present with the audience – speaking to them with enthusiasm, and actively enjoying the moment, rather than gritting your teeth and hoping something doesn’t go wrong.

Nassim Taleb recently coined the term Antifragile as a description of systems or organisms that benefit from disorder. Most public speakers are fragile systems – disruptions destroy their flow, interruptions shake their confidence. Some public speakers are robust – they can patiently and confident wait out problems or deal with questions, but they don’t necessarily benefit from them. Improv makes you antifragile in these environments – you love the unexpected, as it enables you to show off your greatest strengths.

 

Hivemind at the Museum of Comedy

Hivemind at the Museum of Comedy

When it comes to seeing improv, be it on stage or otherwise, many people think “I could never do that” – believing themselves not to be witty, funny or charismatic enough.

This could not be further from the truth.

Improv is a skillset, and it can be learned. It is also much more natural than you think.

Not convinced? Consider this:

Every conversation you have ever had has been improvised.

You begin with some inkling, some yet-to-be-articulated sense of what you want to say – and you make it up as you go along. Improv uses this same basic premise, which you use daily. You simply build upon it in a new, and playful, way.

Here at Hivemind, we’ve been teaching complete beginners improv for over 3 years. We’ve taught everyone from c-suite executives to teenagers how to embrace spontaneity in the moment so that they can present the best version of themselves regardless of the situation or circumstance. We do workshops for all levels of experience and group sizes.

If you’d like to learn more, and keep up to date with Hivemind’s antics, improv tips, or are interested in booking us, drop us an email at hello@hivemindimprov.com or check out our pages below:  

Alex O'Bryan-Tear