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The Futureforth Blog

Helpful tips and articles about social media strategy, content marketing, and business networking. 

Filtering by Tag: improvisation

Three Ways Improv Can Help Your Business

Dave Delaney

Reprinted from the  Nashville Business Journal  by Joel Stinnett - October 19, 2017.   

Reprinted from the Nashville Business Journal by Joel Stinnett - October 19, 2017.

Have you heard the one about the company that hired a social media strategist to teach their employees how to perform improv comedy, with the expectation it would improve office communication skills and improve employee retention?

Probably not, because it hasn't happened yet. But networking guru and public speaker Dave Delaney is hoping that will change.

Delaney, who runs a consulting practice called Futureforth, is launching Communication Reboot, a new service aimed at teaching improvisation to businesses.

Many business leaders may wonder why they'd want their employees learning how to crack jokes on the fly and goof off. But Delaney, who graduated from Second City Toronto's improv course and still performs with the Nashville Improv Company, said he knows firsthand how improv can help a company.

"I know what it's like to work in an office and how mundane it can be," said Delaney, who also teaches improv to non-corporate clients. "I also know how valuable the lessons learned in improv can be to anyone, but especially to teams and businesses."

With that in mind, Delaney shared three ways improv can benefit your organization.

3 Ways Improv Can Benefit Your Organization

1. Improved listening skills and acceptance — Delaney said improv teaches you how to be silent and truly hear people. He said the fundamental rule of improv is, "Yes, and...," and he incorporates exercises into his training that emphasizes that principal. In one drill participants must listen to their scene partner to know what to do next and always begin their reply with, "Yes, and..."

"It's the idea that, 'Yes, I accept what you are saying and I am going to build on it,'" Delaney said. "If we are doing a scene as two plumbers working on a toilet and I say, 'Hey pass me that wrench,' and you say, 'It's not a wrench, it's a hammer,' then the scene doesn't flow. But if instead you replied, 'Yes, and here are some pliers,' then we have an idea to build on."

Delaney said this not only teaches people to listen, it teaches them to be open-minded. People become more accepting of other people's ideas and learn to build on them rather than automatically dismissing them. When teaching improv, Delaney also has students participate in a drill called, "Yes, but..." to demonstrate how much more difficult it is when you start from a place of contradiction.

2. Overcoming fear — Delaney said improv puts people in vulnerable situations and teaches them to think on their feet. Most people have a crushing fear of public speaking, he said, and improv gives people the confidence that they can handle stressful circumstances in front of a crowd.

Delaney said he was once giving a presentation to a health care company in front of 200 executives in a room and 20,000 employees streaming it online. He said instead of using his own equipment he used the company's. Shortly into the presentation, he was impressed that everyone knew the answers to the questions he was asking the crowd.

"I like to use slides and visual aids. I asked the crowd how many people they thought were on LinkedIn and every single hand went up. I turned around and the slides were advancing on a timer instead of with my clicker," Delaney said. "Under those circumstances some people would jump off the stage screaming and crying but I really tapped into the improv skills that I have learned and was able to push through."

He said it also teaches people to share ideas with colleagues and management without fear of rejection.

3. Employee retention — Delaney said businesses today, especially technology companies, are becoming more aware of the importance of culture. He said there is a talent gap in Nashville's tech industry and programs like Communication Reboot can help with employee retention by improving morale and team building.

Delaney said he tailors the course to the company and the department he is teaching and that pricing is determined by the size of the group. He said he is offering the improv training in Nashville and throughout the Southeast.

"Improv is a great way to improve company morale and educate people on communication," Delaney said. "And it's fun. It's a fun way to spend a half of a day with your coworkers."

Reprinted from the Nashville Business Journal by Joel Stinnett - October 19, 2017.

Your Communication Reboot awaits! Contact us today

Improve Communication with a Reboot

Dave Delaney

Business improv for tech companies

Picture a six-year-old boy standing on a stage in front of an audience. The school production is of Little Red Riding Hood. The little boy stands erect, his arms spread out on each side, facing stage left and stage right. He's wearing Buster Brown shoes, brown corduroy slacks, and a forest green colored turtleneck shirt.

At an earlier date, the boy was to play the woodsman, who would rescue Little Red Riding Hood in her moment of wolf-related terror. He had trouble paying attention in class and was considered the class clown. One too many antics led to his demotion from playing the courageous hero to becoming a background actor as a boring, old tree.

His direction was simple. The replacement woodsman would act as he was chopping the tree (played by the boy), when suddenly he would hear Little Red Riding Hood's screams for help. He would take one final swing of his axe into the tree, and run off stage to her rescue. The tree, would simple tilt to the left as if slightly cut from the axe. The lights would go to black and the scene would end. That was the only action the boy would have in the play.

The proud parents in the audience were enjoying the children in the performance that evening. Everything was going as planned until the scene with the tree and the woodsman. When the woodsman heard Red's cries for help, he swung his axe one final time, only something unexpected happened. The tree tilted forward instead of to its side. The boy, standing erect, fell forward to land flat on his chest in the center of the stage. He probably yelled, "Timber!" in his mind as he slammed down onto the stage. The audience roared together in a moment of absolute hysterical laughter. The only face in the audience not laughing was the angry teacher, who directed the performance. Her punishment of the class clown had backfired. The boy's improvised fallen tree scene stole the show.

That boy was me.

I have always had a love for comedy and performance. This is why I bring humor into my presentations and workshops. I've seen presentations on similar topics that I speak on which lacked humor and ended up being dry and dull. I always aim to get the audience laughing as I present, so we all have fun together.

Improving with Improv

Back when I lived in Toronto, I studied and graduated from The Second City's improv training program. If you're not familiar with improv, picture the TV show, "Whose Line Is It Anyway?"

I went on to perform improv in Canada, England, Scotland, and Ireland. In fact, when I lived in Galway, Ireland, I founded an improv troupe. We performed every Thursday night at a local wine bar, and I also provided corporate improv training.

When Hubspot hired me to speak at their Inbound Conference a couple of years ago, I decided to create a new presentation entitled, "Improve with Improv". I've included the twelve-minute video below for your viewing pleasure. I wanted to share how I apply some of the key lessons from improv to my everyday life, so that others can too.

After the Hubspot event, I was craving to perform improv again. So, I auditioned to join the Nashville Improv Company. To my happy surprise (and Heather's shock), I was accepted as a cast member! For the last year, I've been performing improv every month or so. It's been wonderful to tap back into a deep passion of mine.

My consultancy, Futureforth, is all about helping others learn how to use digital marketing for their businesses. What I didn't really consider until recently was the fact that what I do is all about communication. In fact, I did the famous Strengths Finder personality assessment and discovered my top strength is - communication (followed by consistency, woo, activator and harmony).

Being a solopreneur means working alone most days - not by choice, it's just how it is. My favorite moments are spent with my clients and audiences in-person. This got me thinking about how I could offer something new to help my clients improve their communication.

Light bulb moment! IMPROV.

There are countless articles about how improv training can help companies improve their communication, employee morale and retention, culture, listening and presentation skills, plus… it's a heck of a lot of fun to spend half a day (or a full day) away from your computer and playing with your colleagues.

"Whether you're selling a product, an idea or yourself, learning to listen, connect and play like an improviser can make all the difference." - Inc Magazine.

"If you want to get ahead, work on your improv skills." - Wharton College School of Management.

"Improvisation – and the improv toolkit – offers great grounding for leaders challenged to thrive in a business climate that demands agility, resilience, quick thinking, and ease with ambiguity. Counterintuitive as it might seem, business is often an act of improvisation, not planning. So we say “lights up” on the era of the leader as an improviser." - Harvard Business Review.

If you want to improve your business, I have no doubt that improv will help. I want to prove this to you by coming to your office and providing your team with a fun-filled morning or afternoon of improv exercises. 

I'm calling this my Communication Reboot. Let's talk about how I can help you use improv to improve your business today. Hit contact and let's chat.

Hubspot Inbound VIDEO: Improve with Improv

Dave Delaney

As you know, I wrote a short ebook recently entitled Improve with Improv. The book was inspired by my presentation from Hubspot's Inbound conference last month. The following is the video of my #Inbound15 Bold presentation. 

3 Key Ways Improv Will Help You 

In this presentation (and my ebook), I share the three key things I learned from studying improv with Second City, and performing it regularly when I lived in Ireland. They are: acceptance, how to become a better listener, and how not to fear failure

This twelve minute video will walk you through each point. You will learn how to apply each to your own life and business. Sit back with a coffee and enjoy my Inbound Bold presentation.

Your company will greatly benefit from improv training. Workshops like this help teams learn how to work together, think quickly on their feet, listen effectively, and be brave enough to close new clients. Learn more what I offer in our Communication Reboot improv workshop.

I also available for speaking, my speaking page has these details, video, testimonials, and much more. Check it out

3 Ways To Improve With Improv

Dave Delaney

Photo by @PhilGerb.

Last week, I had the great opportunity to reveal a new presentation at Hubspots' Inbound Conference. It was a thrill to attend and speak at such a stellar marketing conference with 13,000 attendees (not all at my session, Maron!). My presentation was a 12-minute (TEDx-style) talk about how my life has improved with improv. 

As I put my deck together, I realized the story was too good to just share with the amazing audience in Boston. The lessons I learned studying improv with Second City in Toronto, and performing regularly in a troupe in Ireland, helped me in so many ways. So I decided to write a short book for you.

Improve with Improv breaks down the three key lessons I learned from improv: acceptancelistening better and not to fear failure. My friend, Daniele Rossi, did the wonderful illustrations. Call it a coincidence, but he's also currently studying improv at Second City. 

I sincerely hope you pick up a copy of Improve with Improv. It's a quick read with some valuable lessons inside. 

Grab your copy now to improve your life with improv. 

5 Ways You Use Improv and Didn't Know It

Dave Delaney

Many people don't know this, but I'm a Second City Toronto graduate. I have performed improv comedy in Canada, UK and Ireland. In fact, I had an improv troupe for about a year when I lived in Galway, Ireland. I attribute my love for public speaking with everything I learned from performing improv.

Have you ever been to an improv comedy show? The performers use a few chairs and an empty stage, combined with recommendations from the audience to create believable, entertaining scenes. In just a moment they can take the crowd to a bistro in Paris, a butcher shop in Brooklyn, or a honky tonk in Nashville. 

The art of improv is a combination of acceptance of an offer, the ability to tell a story, strong listening skills, knowing when to end a scene, and being a team player. 

In business we use improv everyday, but we don't realize we do. Here are five examples of how improv skills are like business skills. 

1. Acceptance of an offer or "Yes, and"

The golden rule of improv is called, "Yes, and". In order to keep a scene believable and moving forward we must accept the offers our co-performers and the audience give us. 

If an actor is performing a scene and gives his partner an (invisible) apple and says, "Here is the apple you ordered, mam." The audience would believe that the object she was now holding was an apple. However, if she replied, "No, that's not an apple", it would confuse the audience (and frustrate the other actor). Instead improv actors always use the "Yes, and" rule.

Now picture the same scene, but instead the second actor replies "Yes, and… I am going to use the seeds to grow an apple orchard." The scene moves forward and you have won your audience's attention.

In business we need to focus on accepting the offers from our clients and colleagues. If a customer asks us to deliver something we are not prepared to do. Instead of saying no you can say, "Yes, and I will have this to you by Friday" or "Yes, and I know just the graphic designer who can help with this project." 

2. The ability to tell a story

We are all storytellers, only some of us are better at it than others. You have to know your brand's story. What is the story of your products and services? How were they created? Why? Who created them? These all make your business human and the stories resonate with your customers.

In improv the story is crucial. Without an interesting and entertaining story you're scene is dead in the water. Your audience will get bored and run to the exit. 

3. Strong listening skills

You can bet that the best sales people are incredible listeners. They ask the right questions and carefully focus on what their customers and potential customers say. The best sales people are the ones who listen and provide the "Yes, and" when they reply. Here's how I recommend you listen better.

In performing improv you listen to your fellow performers and look for opportunities to bring twists, turns and laughs into your scene. You also listen to determine when it's time to throw in the towel and call it quits.

4. Knowing when to end a scene

Not all businesses flourish, in fact most don't succeed. You need to be focused on your goals and determine what is and is not working. 

In improv the audience can sense the awkwardness of the performers when a scene needs to conclude. Great improv actors can improvise the ending that fits the scene perfectly. Lights dark, curtain down.

5. Being a team player

Smart companies ensure they hire the right people. Hiring goes beyond talents and experience, it's also about culture. Will this candidate work well with my team?

Your improv troupe becomes a family. If you aren't working well with your team members, the audience will see it and your performance will fail.

Now consider your own business and career. I bet you're performing improv without even knowing it. Henry Rollins nailed it when he said, "For the last 30-plus years, I have been doing one long, uninterrupted improv."

Now please excuse me, I have a meeting at a bistro in Paris I must be off to, au revoir. 

What are your experiences with improv? Leave a comment, I'd love to hear about them. 

This article originally appeared in The Tennessean newspaper.

Yes, and ...

Dave Delaney

Dave Delaney ImprovMany years ago, I studied improv comedy with Second City in Toronto, and I performed regularly when I lived in Ireland. In Nashville, I am a mentor for start-ups participating in the popular business accelerator, Jumpstart Foundry. You are probably curious how the two are connected, right? A blog post by my friend, Suzan Murphy, inspired me to consider how improv can be used in start-ups. I recommend you take a moment to visit her site to read, “How Improv Can Help You Achieve Your Goals“.

The following are three ways improv is related to business. Consider these three items when starting your own company.

1. Yes, And. How to accept items and keep moving ahead.

In improv acting, there is a common technique called “Yes, And”. The gist of the rule is you must accept everything your partners give you in order to make the audience believe in the scene. For example, if an actor was performing an improv scene and gave his partner on stage an (invisible) apple and said, “Here is the apple you ordered, sir.” The audience would believe that the object he was now holding was an apple. However, if he replied “No, it’s not an apple.”, it would confuse the audience (and frustrate the other actor). Instead improv actors always use the “Yes, and” rule.

Successful founders do this too. They accept the questions from investors, feedback from customers, and advice from staff. Of course you must answer honestly!

“Yes, and we plan to earn an additional $20,000 this quarter.” “Yes, and our product will be updated to accommodate your favorite platform.” “Yes, and we need a foosball table in the break room.”

2. Picking a great team and knowing when to pivot the scene.

In improv acting, you are only as good as your teammates. Understanding each other and the ability to read one another is crucial. It is under these circumstances that you know to continue a scene or to change the direction. For example, an audience may not be connecting with the current premise of the scene. You should sense this and change things quickly to keep their attention.

Your team members, especially your co-founders, help you determine if and when to pivot your business model to meet the needs of an unexpected customer base or technical failure beyond your control. 

3. When an idea doesn’t work.

“Who’s Line is it Anyway?” may fool you into thinking that every scene the improv actors perform is a winner. We forget that not all scenes make the show, the weak ones are always cut. Not every scene is going to go well. The art of improv acting teaches you when to know to pull the plug. Monty Python famously added an angry Colonel who would enter a scene to declare that it is too silly and must stop, and the scene would abruptly end.

In business, it is also important to decide when an idea is no longer working. Not all ideas will succeed, this is a fact of life. However, with a strong team of positive, creative thinkers, you have a good chance of receiving a standing ovation from your customers and investors.