Improvise Your Way to Great Presentations


I just read a book about Chicago’s famous Second City improvisational theater group.  It reminded me of the improv classes I took while studying for my MBA at the University of Washington in Seattle.   Three principles I learned in the classes, and applied performing for the Seattle TheaterSports group, definitely translate to delivering great presentations.

Make The Other Person Look Good.  Great scenes happen when you respond positively to what your fellow improvisers do on stage, rather than trying to steal the show yourself.   Great presentations happen when you focus on providing value to the audience vs. worrying about how you are doing.

Structure Provides Flexibility.  You’re not completely winging it as you improvise, since most scenes have a structure or theme.  You might be limited to speaking one word at a time, have to rhyme with another performer’s last word, or even do the scene in reverse!  You are ‘freed up’ to improvise because the structure helps guide how you create the scene.  The same holds true for presentations.  When you take time to create a structure or theme for your ideas, it’s easier to be flexible and respond in the moment to your audience.  You can answer questions and be spontaneous because you have a structure that gets you back on track.

Passion Counts.   Improvisation is a risky activity– some scenes go well and others fail miserably.   While audiences love great scenes, they also love bad scenes, if you give a 100% effort and have fun while performing.   If you hesitate, become self-conscious or deliver a half-hearted performance, you’ll lose the audience’s support.  With presentations, a 100% efforts means you develop content that has value for the audience and you deliver it with enthusiasm.   You’ll keep the audience’s attention and their support if you show them your passion for your topic.

Keep these principles in mind and you’ll have more success and more fun with your presentations.