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.
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.
Q: Most people will tell you there is lack of trust in many working environments. One of the main foundations of improv is trust. How do you “break the ice” and have colleagues gain trust in eachother in your workshops?
A: When a bunch of “non-improv” people engage in improvisation, it often starts with most people feeling anxious or nervous about doing something they think is VERY hard, and takes a special kind of ‘artistic mind’. Once they realize that what we’re really doing is just playing a bunch of games and having fun, the nerves calm down and give way to fun and silliness. This transition from fear to fun is when all the benefits start to happen. In a workshop, it is made crystal clear in the beginning that their goal is to MESS UP. When they’re given license to fail, and they know that everybody in the room has the same license, then the pressure is removed and people begin to let themselves play. That’s how the ice is broken. Here are a couple of great trust-building exercises you might try with your teams before your next meeting:
Team walks randomly around the room. Periodically and randomly, someone says “Hey, Let’s _____!” Everybody enthusiastically replies, “YES! Let’s _____!!” and all begin doing that thing until the next random person yells, “Hey, Let’s _____!” Everybody enthusiastically replies, “YES! Let’s _____!!” and all begin doing that thing, etc…
THE TAKE AWAY: This game is not only hilarious to play, but also introduces a culture of agreement and support in your meeting.
Each team has exactly five minutes to create an ad campaign for an
ordinary product that does something ABSOLUTELY EXTRAORDINARY.
Each group must come up with an entire marketing strategy AND finished
commercial. Specifically, they must come up with: a name for the product,
a package design, a slogan, a spokesperson from the team designated to
lead them in the pitch, and they must come up with, and perform a jingle
(which all members of the team must participate).
Naturally, the only way to do this in five minutes is through complete and
total agreement. No negative thinking is allowed. Every idea should be
accepted enthusiastically and remembered, each step is built off the
previous idea. After five minutes, each team stands in front of the whole
group “the audience”, and presents their pitch, (to thunderous applause
and support from the audience!)
THE TAKE AWAY: The Advertisers is high energy and thoroughly entertaining for all involved. It requires agreement, non self-judgement, and creation.
Q: Aren’t un-scripted performances haphazard and chaotic?
A: When improv is done right, it can absolutely be chaotic, but not haphazard. A lot of people think that improv is just getting up and doing anything and everything that pops into their mind. Improvisation on the stage is totally free in that is has no script & no blocking (planed movement), however, within that freedom, there are general guidelines that improvisers follow that create a ‘framework’ in which we play. These guidelines keep us from “haphazard” performances. This framework consists of tools that force us to constantly and intensely listen to each other, and cause every action to be in support of the others on the team, rather than making one’s SELF look good. This is the key to making improv look good!
Bridging the gap between Business and Improvisation
There is a recurring question that I have been grappling with an effective answer to now for almost a year. Myself being an artist & business leader, I already get the power of improvisation to effect change in teams & organizations. I’ve seen it, been a part of it.. I trust it!
However, as a teacher of improvisation in the world of business and higher education, I am constantly in the position of conveying this value to business and academic leaders who are looking for something more.. concrete, specific. Less conceptual and general.
The world in to which I’m trying to bring improvisation is constantly looking for the solution to their specific problem(s), they want to define the ROI, they want to see an outline with benchmarks. I find it next to impossible to avoid trying to fit improv into a box in order to cause my prospective clients to realize the value of subjecting their employees, students or clients to improvisational workshops.
Here is a Saturday morning attempt.. a thought journey, if you will:
I liken the practice of improvisation to the practice of lifting weights: You don’t pump iron just so you can lift weights better, you pump iron to tone your muscles which you will then use more efficiently in your daily life. In the same way, improvisation is not the result. It isn’t even the direct solution to the result. When people intentionally improvise, they use their brains in new and unfamiliar ways, and when these activities are introduced in the context of ‘play‘, ‘fun‘ or ‘exploration‘, people tend to lower their defenses and engage. Practicing improvisation is all about listening, accepting & supporting other’s ideas, and building, building, building.
Is there anyone out there who would prefer less listening?
Less supporting? Less building in their organization?
Finally, Pumping iron is SEXY, and so it’s commonly practiced. The practice of improvisation, however, is generally considered to be only for Artists or Comics. The more we can change this stigma, the more improvisation will be adopted in business, education, and the world.
I believe that creativity comes as standard equipment in humans. The trick to fostering creativity in an organization is to find a way to allow each person to discover that creativity within themselves. This is a scary thing for almost everybody to do! We all seem to have this deep fear of failure. “Screwing up” is almost always not an option, and the more responsibility one has, the higher one’s position in an organization, the more pressure is on that person to “perform well”. So, along the way, we become conditioned to hide our mistakes and apologize when we don’t perform the way we think we’re expected to. This is where many of us forget the gift we were given at birth. Luckily, this is also where the magical fundamentals of improvisation step in to restore that understanding.
If you want to make your muscles stronger what do you have to do? Exercise them. If you want to be able to play the Moonlight Sonata on the piano, what must you do? Practice, make mistakes, practice, make mistakes, and practice some more. If you want to be more creative, be a better communicator in your place of work! It’s no secret – you must exercise and practice!
~ Julian Schrenzel, Improv-Alive.com