Some find improv theater shines spotlight to success
August 13, 2007
Facing a potentially stressful networking event with broadcast industry bigshots, Carson City’s Darci Warner decided to improvise.
And she was good at it, after training with a performing-arts professional who teaches businesspeople and others how to put the skills of improvisational theater to use in the workplace.
Jennifer Rae will teach improv skills to a fresh set of students at Truckee Meadows Community College in a one-month course that begins in September, and she expects that at least a handful of businesspeople will sign up.
The skills they seek, she says, is simple: Learning to keep things moving, thinking on their feet and making conversational sense without a script.
Rae puts them into roles, tosses them a subject and tells them to hit the ground running.
Many business participants in the training, Rae says, arrive with a fear of public speaking even a fear of piping up during a meeting around a conference table.
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The solution? Lots of role-playing and laughter.
“This gets people out of their heads,” Rae says. “They need to tap into their talents. We try to do this in a fun atmosphere and show them that it’s OK.”
Warner, who produced a how-to video on cake decorating through her business, Darci Decorates, is looking to branch into further television productions as well as retail sales.
And that, she says, made a recent Southern California cocktail party with broadcast executives particularly nerve-wracking.
But Warner thrived by remembering an improv lesson taught to her by Rae focus on the moment and what needs to be accomplished in that moment.
In those settings, Rae says, improv masters remember that their conversational role is to respond, “yes, and …”
That keeps things moving.
“Any time you negate, that puts an end to the conversation and to the idea,” she says.
At first, Warner says, she felt self-conscious and silly acting the roles and situations that Rae tossed her.
“You’re out of your comfort zone,” she says. “But if you go one way out of your comfort zone with improv, you can go the other way out of your comfort zone in business.”