Becoming A Better Speaker Through Improv

Doing improv is one way that speakers can become better
Doing improv is one way that speakers can become better

So the question is do you want to become a better public speaker? If the answer to this question is “yes”, then the next question has to be “how?” It turns out that there are a lot of different answers to this question and some of them work, and some don’t. Through trial and error and experimentation, what has been found to work is for public speakers to engage in some improv. It turns out that spending your time doing this is a great way to engage in exercises that will boost your spontaneity and allow you to hone your communication skills.

What Is Improv?

So before we all go out and sign up for an improv class in order to improve our public speaking skills, perhaps we should first make sure that everyone fully understands just exactly what improv is. People who are participating in improv create stories without any practice or advanced planning. What they say and what they do is completely off the cuff. Often times improv actors will draw on suggestions from their audience or pull ideas from other sources in order to build the stories that they are making up. Improve exercises are called “games” and require a speaker to use their imagination, playfulness, humor, and spontaneity.

Improve can boost a speaker’s communication skills and confidence. Two things that no speaker can ever have too much of. The reason that improv can help a speaker become better is because the way that improv is organized.  While a speaker is doing improv they never know what location, character, or situation they will find themselves in. This causes speakers to develop the skills needed to adapt quickly. As speakers, we don’t control the settings in which we will be presenting our speeches and so this is a skill that we all need to have. Additionally, while performing improv, we generally work with a partner. This requires us to become skilled at picking up clues from what they have either said or done. This is a skill that lets us harmonize with the other person better. As speakers, being about to pick up on what our audience is thinking allows us to tailor our speech to their needs better.

The reason that using improv games can provide speakers with such a benefit is because the improv games are simple in nature and everyone can play them without having to have any training or developing special skills. The improv exercises are by design entertaining since they generally incorporate so much humor. Speakers who participate in improv activities generally find the experience to be both entertaining and emotionally uplifting.

How Can Speakers Use Improv To Improve?

So how does a speaker become involved in an improv presentation. There are a few rules that we need to learn to follow. The first of these rules is that a speaker who is involved in an improve presentation needs to go along with what your partner is doing. No matter what they are doing. The reasons for this is that you don’t want to shut down your partner and confuse your audience. As speakers this carries an important lesson for us when we are creating our speeches – we want to keep moving forward and not confuse our audience.

In the world of improv, the actors quickly learn that it’s really all about emotion not information content. What the audience has really come to experience is the emotions that the characters are going to be experiencing. One important thing that improv actors are taught to do is to make their first line of a game a reaction to something that they imagine that the other person told them just before the game started. As speakers, when we start our speech, we need to sense the mood of the audience and make sure that the first words out of our mouth are a response to that mood. Additionally, we need to make eye contact with our audience so that we can determine if they truly are getting the message that we are sending to them.

What speakers need to understand is that in order to give a good speech you don’t need to follow a set of rules. This is a point that is very clearly made in improv – there are no rules to follow. Instead of rules, there are simply guidelines. The problem that many speakers (and people doing improv) have is that they can get too caught up in an attempt to follow the rules. Instead of treating the rules as something that you have to follow, a much better approach is to let the rules become part of you and then allow them to become second nature to you. As speakers we need to learn how to go with the flow. Every presentation is going to be different and we need to learn how to make the most of them.

What All Of This Means For You

As speakers we are always searching for ways to become better speakers. There are a number of different techniques that we can use to make this happen. However, one of the most powerful is to use the art of improv. Working as part of an improv team allows a speaker to develop their communication skills.

Improv is simply when a group of people get together and create stories without any practice or advanced planning. Improve exercises are called “games” and require a speaker to use their imagination, playfulness, humor, and spontaneity. Speakers who participate in improv activities are able to boost both their communication skills and their confidence. Improv games are simple and don’t require any special skills to participate in. In order participate in improv, a speaker needs to go along with what their partner is doing. An important aspect of improv is that it’s really all about emotion not information content. When you participate in improv, you need to remember that you don’t need to follow a set of rules.

We all want to become better public speakers. If it turns out that participating in improv is what its going to take in order to allow us to get there, then we should all probably get out there and give it a try. No, doing improv is not going to be easy and in fact it may be just a little bit scary. However, speaking has the same characteristics and somehow we’ve been able to overcome them. Give improv a chance and see what it does to your speaking style.

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World Public Speaking Skills™

Question For You: Do you think that a speaker should try to work elements of improv into their speech or will that just distract the audience?

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Note: What we talked about are advanced speaking skills. If you are just starting out I highly recommend joining Toastmasters in order to get the benefits of public speaking. Look for a Toastmasters club to join in your home town by visiting the web site Toastmasters is dedicated to helping their members to understand the importance of public speaking by developing listening skills and getting presentation tips. Toastmasters is how I got started speaking and it can help you also!

What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

The reason that we are willing to give a speech is because we understand the importance of public speaking and we want to be able to connect with our audience. We want the words that we say to change their world. There are a number of different ways to go about doing this and each one of them has their benefits and distractions. However, one of the most powerful ways to ensure that your next speech will be remembered is to add humor to it. If you can get your audience to laugh with you during your speech, then there is a good chance that they’ll remember what you told them.

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