A few months ago, I finished taking level 2 of improv classes. I had a great time in the class and I learned a lot from it.
I needed a topic for a Toastmasters speech. I decided to write about some of the lessons that I learned from Improv.
The following is the text of the speech.
I could not have improved without improv
Good morning guests and fellow Toastsmasters. Today I will be doing Speech 4. Speech 4 is a personal topic for myself. Most of you know that Speech 4 is the “How to say it” speech. When I hear the phrase “How to say it”, it reminds me of my goal of becoming a better communicator.
About a year ago, I realized I needed to make some improvements in my social and communication skills. I had just completed my first year at my current job. On my review, my communication skills were mentioned as needing improvement. I’d also had some communication issues in my personal life.
Around this time, I had started attending this Toastmaster group with you fine folks. I noticed after a few months I was making progress. However, I wanted to make more progress.
Like most people in their mid-20s, when I have a problem I turn to the Google search bar for the answer. I did a search on “improving social skills”. I found an article that listed 3 ways to improve social skills. Those things were: Partner Dance, ToastMasters, and Improv. I passed on the partner dance, because I thought my piano lessons were in some ways similar. I was already in this Toastmaster club. I figured that joining another club would be an over kill. I then decided that I would look into improv lessons.
I did another Google Search and found an organization that offered affordable improv lessons in central Indiana. That organization was IndyProv. In the past 8 months, I have been through 2 of their 8 week classes.
Those of you that are unfamiliar with improv, it is a form of comedy. An improv show consists of various skits with 2 or more players. The skits usually run 2 to 5 minutes in length. A show can last an hour or two.
I found my experiences in the improv classes to be like a rollercoaster. I started off really anxious and nervous as the class started. During the class, I enjoyed all twists, turns and loops that the class put me through. By the end of each class, I was really happy and enjoyed the experience.
I thought I would share with you 3 lessons that I learned from my experiences with improv.
The first lesson I learned was agreement. The “yes and” game is an old classic game in improv. There are two players in this game. The rules of the game are to listen to each other, agree, and to not say, “no”. Player 1 will make a statement and then Player 2 will make a follow up statement acknowledging what Player 1 said. This will continue back and forth.
An example of this would be, Player 1 makes the statement, “I think our Geography teacher is really bad.” If Player 2 replies, “No, it’s really cold outside.”, the scene does not work. If Player 2 had said, “Yes and I can’t believe he said that Georgia was the capital of Montana.” the scene starts to work. It also becomes potentially really funny. The two players are able to work together by listening and agreeing.
The great thing about this skill is it can be used in real life to have more interesting and engaging conversations.
The second lesson that I learned from improv was to speak more confidently. Another great game in improv is “Objection”. This game consists of anywhere from five or more people. It starts by a person making a ridiculous statement. As the game is played, other people will object to what the speaker is saying. After they object, they will provide more information as to why they are right.
An example of this would be, Player 1 makes the statement, “Potato chips are a great food to eat if you want to lose weight. They are smaller and thinner than regular potatoes. Obviously, this must mean they have less calories.” Player 2 would object and say, “Actually that is false. Oreo cookies are the ultimate health food. Another little unknown fact about Oreo cookies is they can improve a person’s hearing.” This silliness would continue until the game ends.
This game taught to me act confidentially when speaking. It was the only way to sell really ridiculous statements. Unfortunately, I might be better at this than answering table topic questions. One day I might answer a question with details of a bareknuckle boxing brawl or scary skydiving story. Sadly, you will be disappointment when you find out these stories are not true.
The third lesson that I learned from improv was how to speak and think quicker. There are a lot of improv games that I could list out that kept me on my toes. The one game that helped me grow by leaps and bounds was “What did you say?”. It is a 2 player game. One player will make a statement. When the second player says, “What did you say?”, the first player has to come back with a different sentence that rhymes with the first sentence.
An example of this game would be, Player 1 says, “I feel like going to the mall.”. Player 2 asks the question, “What did you say?”. Player 1 could come back with, “I’m really looking forward to fall.”. Player 1 would continue on talking about the fall season. Eventually, they would get the opportunity to return the favor to Player 2. This would continue until the game ends.
It took me a while to learn this skill. Learning this skill has definitely helped me think and respond quicker in my day to day conversations.
Improv has also taught me to speak louder, speak faster, make better eye contact and have a better understanding of body language. Unfortunately, due to time constraints, I cannot go on about how I improved on these skills.
I would conclude by saying that improv has helped me to become a more capable competent communicator.