Improv Alive LLC is proud to present IMPROVISATIONALLY SPEAKING The Podcast. This weekly podcast highlights The stories of people who are doing extraordinary or unusual world-changing life work in which improvisation is playing a big role. Interviewing entrepreneurs, world-travelers, artists and misfits. You can find this podcast at the following locations (so far..)
For our first episode, we’re talking about the role of improvisation in creating extraordinary life-work, the kind that changes the world for thousands of people. Our guest is Chris Schembra, founder of the 747 Club in New York City.
January 20th is swiftly approaching.. I can’t think of a better way to spend a presidential administration change than to focus on your friends, teammates or co-workers. ZIP-BOING-SCHBLAMY! is an attention focusing, teamwork centric game that is as ridiculous and fun as it sounds. If you can get your whole team in one room for 15-minutes this Friday, I recommend giving this game a try. If nothing else, you’ll have had 15 minutes of fun, smiles and laughter, and end up with a sharp, focused team!
This exercise is especially helpful for teams that are having a challenge loosening up with each other. Another great thing about Zip-Boing-Schblamy is that it completely stands on it’s own as an exercise. You don’t need a warm-up, give much of a preface, or anything. Just a team who is willing to give it a try. Giving your team permission to play a little, especially before a serious office meeting or client engagement can dramatically alter their mood and performance for the better.
ZIP-BOING-SCHBLAMY!: (a teamwork exercise by Improv Alive) All in a circle. 1 person starts by pointing to their neighbor and saying “ZIP”, this continues until someone makes an ‘X’ with their forearms and says “BOING”, thus changing the direction of the action around the circle. Finally, one can send the focus across the circle by clap-pointing to anybody other than their direct neighbor and saying “SHABLAMY!”
The new year is on our doorstep. Is one of your new year’s resolutions to lead more efficient, effective team meetings? SLAP & CLAP is an extremely versatile and fun corporate team focusing improv exercise that promises to prime your team for an energized and positive kickstart to any meeting. Taking it’s inspiration from PASS THE FOCUS (see our last blog entry), SLAP & CLAP adds an additional level of complexity into the mix, requiring a higher focus and concentration by each player. SLAP & CLAP is all about maintaining a CONSTANT, DISTRIBUTED FOCUS on each player while the game is in play. It is a terrific add-on to PASS THE FOCUS, to continue developing an ice-breaking, team bonding company culture. The greatest thing about this improvisation game is its ability to occupy your employees senses so fully, there is no option for anything but positive, joyus engagement, (which is what this season is all about, right?)
This exercise is especially helpful for teams that tend to get bogged down in negative dialogue in meetings. We suggest preceding SLAP & CLAP with PASS THE FOCUS, allowing your team to first become acquainted with the simpler version before attempting this slightly more involved version.
Engaging your team in or out of the corporate office in a quick 5-10 minute session of SLAP & CLAP, especially before an important meeting, or collaborative event can dramatically boost the energy and positivity of the overall experience. This game works equally well for Vice Presidents, HR Managers, Business Development Specialists, Consultants, and support professionals alike! Enjoy and Happy Holidays & New Year from Improv Alive.
SLAP AND CLAP:All players stand in a circle. 1 player starts by either slapping his RIGHT thigh (sending focus to the right), slapping his LEFT thigh (sending focus to the left), OR establishing eye contact and clapping once in unison with anyone in the circle (other than immediate neighbor on either side). Then that person either SLAPS or CLAPS, thus sending the focus on to another, etc.. The idea is to establish a rhythm and always keep your focus broad so you are open and ready to establish a connection with anybody in the circle to slap or clap in rhythm.
Company Team Building, Communication, Improv Alive exercise
Despite a most unfortunate name, this is possibly the greatest teamwork-fostering, ice-breaking, group-energizing warm-up improv game ever created. We at Improv Alive like this game so much, we try to incorporate it, in one form or another, into almost every business improvisation workshop we lead. Pass the Clap is all about shifting your focus from internal (introspective), to external (extrospective), out to the other members of the team. It is a terrific ice-breaker and bonding exercise, but the real power of this exercise is in its ability to cause each player to forget about how embarrassed he or she is to be doing improv in front of his company co-workers, and focus fully on what everybody else is doing, and how he can keep the exercise going!
This exercise is especially helpful for teams that are challenged communicating with each other. We strongly advise engaging your team in or out of the office in a quick 5-10 minute session of Pass the Clap before an important meeting, or collaborative event in order to start things off with an extra boost of energy and team focus. This game works equally well for CEO’s, managers, sales professionals, customer service reps, developers and librarians alike! Enjoy and Happy Holidays from Improv Alive.
PASS THE CLAP (aka: PASS THE FOCUS):All participants in a circle. Doug establishes eye contact with anyone in the circle and he leads that person in a single unison CLAP. Then that person makes eye contact with another random person in the circle and leads that person in a single unison clap, and so on.. the ‘Clap’ (or Focus) gets passed randomly around the circle. The idea is to establish a rhythm and always keep your body ready, your energy high and your focus broad, so you are open and ready to establish eye contact and clap on rhythm.For an additional challenge, try it while moving randomly around the space.
A great game for the tactile and kinesthetic group, The Knot is a great bonding exercise, and the only way to solve it is to work together, and to improvise..
The Knot: Everyone in a circle. All reach one arm into the middle of the circle (either arm), & take someone else’s hand. Then, everyone reach their other hand in and take the hand of another (nobody should be holding both the hands of another). Without anybody letting go of another’s hand, the group must work together to un-tie the human knot.
Last week, we offered up an improvisation game called THE NAME GAME as a great improv ice-breaker and team focusing game. This week, we offer the perfect companion game to get your team fully ready to stretch their minds.. THE YES GAME! Add a little cinnamon to your team sugar and try these two together! Here’s how it works:
THE YES GAME:
Everyone in a circle. Before Doug can leave his own spot, he must receive permission from Alice. Doug asks for permission by saying Alice’s name. Alice gives permission by saying ‘Yes’. Doug starts walking toward Alice. Alice then must receive permission from Brian before she can begin to move to take his place in the circle. The object is never to have Doug arrive at his destination before Alice has departed.
Call or email me with any questions at all! ~Julian email@example.com
Your workforce is under pressure. Each employee is doing the job of two, and the responsibility feels like stress. You’re starting to notice a drop in morale, which goes hand in hand with a drop in workforce efficiency. Getting your leaders and teams to engage in improv at work is one of the best ways to turn stress to joy and boost morale. Here’s another terrific, easy-to-play game that breaks the ice, encourages a team-centric focus, and is more fun than a photobombing seal:
The Name Game is a simple, fun and effective game to be played by 6-30 people. Here’s THREE versions of it to try out:
The Name Game I, II & III:
Breaking the ice, Focus & Concentration (6+ people)
I. Everyone in a circle. Doug says his own name and points to Alice, Alice says her name and points at Brian.. until everybody’s name has been said several times.
II. Doug points at Alice and says her name, etc.. (if the wrong name is said, the pointed tells their name and we move on).
III. Begins by starting a rhythm (group snapping their fingers). Doug says his own name and Alice’s name, Alice says her name and Brian’s name.., hence passing the focus around the group in rhythm.
Getting your teams at work to engage in theatrical improvisation is one of the best ways to break the ice when you’re introducing one group to another, or striving for more of a sense of teamsmenship within a group. Sometimes, the mere mention of the words “We’re gonna do Improv!” can strike fear in the hearts of many. It’s important to start the event with a game that is light, fun, and quickly defuses the angst.
NAME & GESTURE is a simple, fun and effective game that I learned at the Upright Citizen’s Brigade in New York City. Here’s how it works:
Name & Gesture:
Everyone forms a large circle. The first (brave) person says their name and does an associated bodily gesture to accompany their name. For example, the 1st player (let’s say Scott) says “Scott”, and slaps his thigh. Then EVERYBODY in the circle repeats “SCOTT!” and slaps their own thigh. Then, the player to the right of Scott, (let’s say, Ellen) says “SCOTT!” and slaps her thigh, and then says “ELLEN!”, and spins around in a circle. 1-by-1, all the way around the circle, each plays says the previous names & gestures of all the previous players, ending with their own name & gesture. This goes all the way around the circle. Finally one brave soul must do the names & gestures of the ENTIRE circle.
In early December this month Improv Alive began offering a Business Improvisation boot camp for Puget Sound area businesses to send their employees to, in order to learn and practice some new and different communication & collaboration techniques. There were Business Consultants, Life Coaches, Marketing Directors, Tour Guides, and even a retired Fish & Wildlife Scientist! 14 people in all, and the range of personalities throughout the group couldn’t have been wider. It was a fun and successful morning of play and learning, and the reviews were positive, but one review caught me by surprise. I share it here:
“I wanted to just share an observation about my experience today in Boot Camp: What I noticed was that there were quite a few extroverts (makes sense for tour guides) who were really into the improvisational opportunities. In the moment, I recall feeling a little out of place, and I recall kind of taking a back seat, allowing others to just go for it while I hung back. After the workshop, I spoke to a number of the other attendees, and each of them complemented me on how outgoing and engaged I was during those same exercises. Thinking about this, I wonder which one happened. I wonder if you have any thoughts on this?”
This feedback made me acutely aware of how differently one person may experience an improvisational engagement from another. An engaging teacher with a masterful lecture may take a fiendishly boring topic like.. Taxes, (sorry accountants), and create an intriguing lecture that inspires a diverse audience. The feedback would most likely be uniformly positive, the audience would have had similar praises and critiques, but they will all have experienced the same lecture.
In my experience as a teacher of improvisation for people who are not “improvisers”, this that the common experience phenomenon I mention above simply does not occur when one is engaging in Improvisation. The reason for his is that when one is engaged in the act of improvising, they are operating at an elevated state of consciousness, just as an athlete, or an artist is when they are in the midst of their performance. It’s called “the zone”. The person is said to be “in the zone”. When one is acting “in the zone”, there often occurs a kind of amnesic effect that literally changes, or more to the point, re-writes the participants’ recollection of the experience.
When leading corporate teams in improvisation workshops, I rely on the zone to help people overcome their inhibitions and escape self-judgment (because what difference does it make if they can’t even remember how bad or good they performed anyway?!)