You Can’t Improve without Improv!

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Learning effective communication by wearing a chicken hat, dancing and speaking gibberish may sound – for the lack of a better word – weird. I get it, it’s not what you’d normally do at a networking event, but let me tell you, this was no ordinary event. This BMA Chicago Breakfast was led by Erin Diehl from Improve It!

 

Her aim was to teach us effective communication through improv. It sounded fun and I was intrigued but I got a lot more out of it than expected. Why? Well, there was a purpose. Right then and there we started putting theory into practice. There were no laptops or note taking, this was a roll up your sleeves, we’re doing this kind of BMA Breakfast.

 

Erin started us off with this simple message: “Our mission is to provide high-energy, laughter-filled team-building workshops that incorporate improvisation.” From there it was all fun and games, although I did learn a thing or two.

 

  1. You need a purpose. This is something we’re fans of at Tell Your Story. Trust us, we’re big advocates of purpose driven messaging. When you have a purpose, you know why you’re doing something and it guides you in the right direction. One of the first things we did was set our intention for the morning. This meant answering the simple question: “What did we want to get out our time with Improve It!”? We had a minute to think and then choose one word to describe what we’d want to get out of our morning. There was everything from “learn” to “fun” (that’s what I chose) and we did everything in between. Did I have fun? Absolutely. That was my intention.

 

  1. Mom was right; it’s not what you say, it’s how you say it. Imagine saying the word ‘toenails’ three different ways; excited, sad and flirty. Sounds ridiculous doesn’t it? It kind of felt a little silly saying it, but when you THINK about your tone each time, it changes HOW you say it. Yes, it’s the same word but your tone almost gives it a new meaning. When communicating, tone is very important. It could be the difference between winning a new client or not.

 

  1. What you don’t say matters too. While we must be aware of what we say, what’s equally important is non-verbal communication; eye contact, body language and facial expressions. Never underestimate the power of a smile. Awareness of how you communicate non-verbally could go a long way at a networking event – are your arms crossed, do you look approachable?

 

  1. Listen to learn, not to respond. Are you listening to respond or to learn? Again, listening is just as important is speaking, it’s amazing what we can learn when we listen to understand rather than to respond. Active listening may be difficult at first, but there are many ways to practice.

 

What may have had an awkward start ended with valuable lessons that I’ll definitely implement. You won’t find me sporting a chicken hat anytime soon though.

Photo credit: Improve It!