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How to Use Improvisation in Business

When you think of improv, you probably picture a group of people in khaki pants on an empty stage pantomiming a wild west stick-up while one person shouts at the others do perform acrobatic tricks. It seems like nonsense, but the rules of improvisation are keystones in the world of business.

The business of marketing is about collaboration and communication. You must be able to work efficiently with others to seamlessly communicate your ideas in a compelling way that will get your audience on its feet ready to follow you wherever you take them! The Second City, one of the world’s leading authorities on comedic theatre and improv has been a powerhouse for decades churning out headliners like Tina Fey, Steve Carrell, John Candy and Amy Poehler. What makes them exceptional is they have taken the principles of improv and focused those skills on entrepreneurial enterprises like directing, writing, and producing.

The Second City now has a new division called Second City Communications which hosts seminars for businesses that want to expand their reach and be more influential to their target audience. The seminars focus on everything from sales effectiveness to talent development to marketing and content!

Tom Yorton, CEO of Second City Communications says, “Working without a script, creating something out of nothing, working in teams, co-creating solutions with input from the marketplace – all that’s improvising.”

So where does business come in? The number one rule of improv is “Always say yes,” closely followed by “Always say yes…and!…”

“Yes…and!…” Whether you are in a meeting with co-workers or giving a presentation in tandem with a partner, use what the other person is saying and keep moving forward. If someone asks you if you can change something and you say, “No,” the whole thing comes to a screeching halt. You sound argumentative and the audience has nothing to go off of. Negotiations halt, money is lost and time is wasted. But if you say, “Yes, and…” you’re progressing. Contribute ideas, use what the other person is saying and you will appear confident and the collective world you have created becomes real to your audience.

The world is full of obstacles. In business, you’re challenged with connecting with your customers, engaging and motivating your employees, coping with change be it big or small, innovating new campaigns, moving into new markets and on and on! There’s no script, there’s no plan, there’s just a goal: get our message across! You have to be willing to improvise a little to work your way around, over, under and through these obstacles.

Embrace the “Yes…and!” rule and lean to listen intently so you don’t miss a single idea. When you yourself are actively engaged in what is happening, people can’t help but meet your enthusiasm. “Yes…and!” is even effective in workplace conflict resolution. By saying “Yes…and” and following where the conversation goes, you destroy barriers and create open and honest communication.

So the next time you give a presentation or hold a meeting, use “Yes…and” and see what it can do for you. Before long, your audience will be on its feet and you’ll be taking a bow!How to Succeed in Business Without Trying*credit: “How to Succeed in Business Without Trying” musical cast