Do you worry what others think of you? Are you afraid of making a fool of yourself? Would you like to be able to speak and think on the fly?

Imagine a safe space where intuition, creative energy, trust, and being fully present in the moment are all you need. An improvisation workshop will help you to tap into your creative side. It will give you the opportunity to communicate fully with those around you. But you need to be OK with letting go, and trusting the process.

I believe that improvisation helps leaders to communicate in a way that is not taught at business school. Yet the soft skills that you will pick up from doing and improvisation workshop will be valuable to your professional development.

You will leave with a greater sense of self, of others. You will have experienced techniques and activities that are alien to you, and that’s a good thing!

Perhaps you may even exit the class wondering where improvisation has been all your career, or how you can share it with your team!

For many people, the thought of participating in an improvisational workshop is terrifying. And that is exactly why I decided to give it ago. It scared me!

I now encourage those who I mentor to become professional speakers, to attend an improvisation class.

Get comfortable being uncomfortable has been my personal mantra ever since I began my professional speaking career.

Why do we feel uncomfortable?

One of the reasons why an improvisation class makes us feel like we want to run for cover, is that we fear ‘letting go’ or being less than perfect.

We can become conditioned to overthink, overanalyse and generally stifle our creative energy. This goes for our communication style too. Most of us are guilty of – listening to respond, of being less than fully present, trying hard to create a good first impression and worrying what others think of us.

What is Playback Theatre?

According to the International Playback Theatre Network

Playback Theatre is an interactive form of improvisational theatre in which audience members tell stories from their lives and watch them enacted on the spot. Founded in 1975 by Jonathan Fox and Jo Salas, it has spread around the globe and Playback companies now exist on six continents.

Improvisation is a beautiful experience that gradually allows you to unravel. You learn to let go of ‘what’s next’, and have the chance to simply ‘be’.

I have been a member of Perth Playback Theatre for five years. The Company host workshops, rehearsals, community events, and performances for individuals, corporates and not for profit organisations.

So how does improvisation help leaders to communicate?

Three Reasons why Improvisation Helps Leaders to Communicate

#1 Trust

The central pillar of improvisation is trust. You are never alone when you are on stage as part of an improvised scene. The most common set up for each ‘scene’ is four people on stage, a musician and a conductor. The conductor is like a facilitator and is the one who speaks with the ‘teller’ to help them share their story.

You are with people who are your cheer squad, we have one another’s back 100% of the time. Improvisation teaches us that we can intuitively trust that what we offer at that exact moment is what is needed. It’s as much about trust in self as it is in others.

Trust is essential for us to reach our full potential as a leader. Improvisation is a great way to experience the balance between leading and following, and to align your communication with others. The ‘yes, and’ principle is useful to enhance any communication and relationship as well as a way to flex your growth mindset.

#2 Listen Fully

The aim of the improvised scene is to recreate a story in a way that accurately reflects the teller’s version. To do this requires intensive a full listening.

As the teller is sharing their story, the improvisation team listen to the story on multiple levels. The words that are spoken, and the unspoken meaning behind the words are equally as important for the interpretation of the story.

What’s not said and is conveyed instead through nonverbal communication is very much part of the story. We listen with our ears, eyes, and hearts, and during that period of intense listening, we are 100% focussed. Something many leaders cannot claim to be.

In the early days of learning improvisation, it can be hard to do this, as your mind wanders, thinking about what technique you will use when it is time to ‘play back’ the story. With time and trust in yourself and your fellow actors, this feeling goes and an incredible stillness and deep listening becomes apparent.

#3 Being OK with Mistakes

There are no real mistakes in improvisation. None of the actors knows exactly what others will offer – although after time we get to know one another’s style and strengths.

We really have no idea what comes next and to fully experience the joy of improvisation we have to be OK with that. I believe that our fear of failure stamps out many of our ideas before they get a chance to fly.

Sometimes, all we need is to have the courage to try. This applies to all areas of life. Mistakes are opportunities to learn, grow and improve for next time. No one wins when we beat ourselves up over our mistakes.

Want to know what a typical rehearsal is like?

Here is a short video of Perth Playback Theatre in action during an Open Rehearsal, filmed by Louisa Mitchell.

The next open rehearsal dates for Perth Playback Theatre can be found here . There is no coast to come along, all you need to do is register.

The space created by the members is safe and nurturing. What’s said at Playback stays at Playback is our guide. You will experience connection on another level, and you will be mesmerised by the stories, and the way those stories are performed.

As a professional speaker, I have learned so much from learning improvisation . I have become comfortable with letting go of expectations, less concerned with ‘getting it right’ and more effortless in my movements.

If you would like to find out more about improv and Perth Playback Theatre, contact Arlene Quinn who is the Director of Perth Playback or myself Marketing Director of Perth Playback Theatre.

About the Author

Lisa Evans helps leaders and entrepreneurs to craft compelling business stories and become exceptional speakers. Lisa is a certified speaker coach, TEDx speaker coach, four times author, NLP practitioner, graphic recorder and visual storyteller, and improvisational actor. 

She has coached thousands of leaders across a range of industries, including resources, banking, finance, engineering, retail and sales as well as not-for-profit and community associations. 

If you wish to take advantage of a complimentary session in order to chat about how you can become an exceptional and successful speaker with a stand-out brand, then use this link to book a time to chat.

Here’s how I may help you

Whether you have a hidden story of your feet, or you want to nail your next presentation, I can help you.

My services include: 

Business Storytelling Coaching – together we can get started to create your suite of stories. A minimum of three sessions is recommended 1:1 in person or virtually via Zoom.

Executive Speaker Coaching – if you have an upcoming guest speaking opportunity, funding pitch, conference talk or you want to be an outstanding speaker, we can work together on your technique. You will see the results after one session.

Storytelling for Leaders Interactive Workshops – I can come to you, or we can host a workshop offsite for your team. From half-day to two-days immersive, this customised workshop is an ideal way to kick start your business storytelling strategy and get the whole team telling stories. 

Keynote/Guest Speaking at your next conference or event – I have several topics to choose from ranging from a 30-minute talk up to a 90-minute interactive session.