Marlin PR

The Marlinite who's using improv to improve himself

Adding some improv to the creative mix

Despite working in communications, it’s not always easy thinking of something to say. Sometimes I’ve been in a new business meeting, or at a conference, or making small talk with a journalist before a client joins an interview. I’ve struggled to come up with the world’s best idea under pressure in a brainstorm many a time. I like to go away and think by myself – but that’s not always possible. Sometimes, you need to improvise…

As part of Marlin’s Pursuit of Better programme I took an improv comedy course – six weekly lessons from Hoopla, near our office. On day one my teacher said:

“You don’t need to be quick, you don’t need to be clever, you don’t need to be funny.” We all learnt how to apply a little silliness, a lot of collaboration, and a healthy dose of teamwork into our scene creation. We made each other shine, we made each other’s ideas work, we supported each other and yes, despite there being no need, we all ended up quick, clever and funny. But that was no accident.

And life, just like comedy, can sometimes do with a little dose of all that silliness and collaboration to make the ideas flow a little easier, to help us take a managed risk – to be more creative.

I learnt some of these lessons through a very experiential course that would look utterly silly to anyone peeking into the studio. In pairs, circles, or running around the space we played some very silly games. Very, very silly games. Games that looked nothing like a business meeting!

We sent ‘energy’ round the room, bungled shared messages, acted out some very strange scenes, mimed, translated gibberish, and learnt to say some very tongue-twisting phrases under duress. We fled from vampires, we used our bodies to become ennui, or sea life, or furniture.

Whatever the form of the exercise, the learnings were very easy to see – under the surface.

You had to be positive, you had to learn the rules, and you had to learn that if you made a mistake it really didn’t matter – in fact, by making mistakes you might create a bigger laugh and a better scene.

We learnt to build on the idea before us, to put our ego, our preconceived ideas to one side and really collaborating by laying brick on top of someone else’s – because it made a better structure for the group.

Most of all, we learnt to make everyone around us look good by supporting them, and that great things can come out of the most mundane scenes and starting ideas – when you work together.

I took away some lessons to apply in my next work brainstorm: Let’s build up ideas, let’s work together on one vision, and let’s have a heck of a lot of fun doing it. I’m going to have fun sharing them!

Monday nights won’t be the same again for me since that course, and I’ll definitely sign up to the ‘level 2’ programme in a few months. It’s going to be a voyage of self-discovery. Whilst I don’t see myself getting up on stage anytime soon I do see myself helping impart these lessons to my colleagues through a variety of silly games and silliness to help relax us, feel safe, and take some risks to make something amazing.

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