Center Team Improves Improv Skills

For some, public speaking and acting in front of groups comes naturally. But imagine you aren’t one of those people. The mere thought of performing in public is traumatic. Your stomach churns if someone suggests you give a presentation. That’s where Karen Bell-Brege of Improv You comes in.

Improv isn’t about just getting people out of their shells. It can be a mind-opening, learning experience. That’s what Partner Tim Wyman had in mind when he sprung a surprise improv workshop on us. Tim had given us only had two clues. Block out 2 hours from your afternoon and don’t wear heels. Here’s what happened:

The First Rule of Improv

We learned a lot from our crash course in improv. When it comes to improvisation, rule #1 is “Yes, and….” That’s the idea that anyone’s contribution to the group is accepted without judgment says Linda Flanagan who writes about improv’s impact on learning. We put that lesson to work in our office. Through the afternoon, we tried to stay open to anything and everything our co-workers contributed. It helped some of us to overcome the fear of making mistakes. We found that when we got categorical support for everything we did, our confidence grew with each new improv challenge.

Improv’s Educational Value

The techniques of improv are being used in many different ways, according to Flanagan. It helps kids with learning and physical disabilities develop a sense of play and trains budding scientists to develop critical emotional detachment. Graduate students at The Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science at Stony Brook University can even sign up for a course in improv. Beyond helping us let go of our mistake-making fears, improv can also:

  • Hone communication and public speaking skills
  • Stimulate fast thinking and engagement with ideas
  • Chip away at mental barriers that block creative thinking

After 2 hours on our feet, letting go of our inhibitions, Bell-Brege said we exceeded the expectations she had for a bunch of financial advisers. And we walked away with some valuable insight to improve both our personal and professional lives.


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