In today’s high-speed technologically advanced world, communication skills can be left behind. Less time is spent face-to-face as we tend to text, email or message via social media. Multiple studies have shown that technology has a negative effect on both the quality and quantity of face-to-face communications.

Several months ago, I jumped out of my comfort zone (and the digital world) by taking improv classes at Finest City Improv in San Diego. I knew it would be both challenging and fun, but what I didn’t know was how some of improv comedy’s most basic lessons can and should be applied to the workplace

I had no idea that many of Silicon Valley’s top companies, are encouraging their employees to take improv classes and are even paying for them to do so. After a quick search online, I was surprised to learn that taking nightly improv classes is an experience that many of the world’s biggest CEO’s share.

Dick Costolo, Former Twitter CEO – Performed improv at Chicago’s Annoyance Theatre and helped spur voluntary improv trainings at Twitter that began in 2011. He even helped write lines for HBO’s “Silicon Valley.”

Michael Dubin, Dollar Shave Club – Created one of the most viral and well known marketing videos when he first launched Dollar Shave Club. He took weekly improv classes during his twenties while working at a digital marketing agency.

Why Improv?

Well… your life is improv and marketing is no exception. It’s all about building relationships. Marketing done properly is a team sport, it’s almost impossible to do it alone, successfully at least. Improv is also a team sport! There’s a tendency (at work and in life) to think you have to do everything yourself. In reality, that’s impossible and that’s where some of Improv’s most basic improvisational lessons comes in.

Lesson 1 – Yes, And?

“Yes, and….” is the core concept of improv and it’s simple, say yes and totally commit to an idea, then build on it when performing a scene.

In marketing, it’s a great way to come up with ideas as well. Instead of coming up with reasons not to do something, it gives a platform for even better ideas. Look at the alternative, “No, but…”. It closes the audience or co-workers down and doesn’t open up any new possibilities. Try having this mindset next time you are in a brainstorm.

Lesson 2 –  Make Your Teammates Look Good

In improv, a scene can fall flat if the actors don’t work together. Continuity of the story becomes compromised as soon as one actor is focusing on “how funny” they are. In reality, the better you make your partner look, the better you look.

The same applies to the relationship you have with your clients, customers and co-workers. A successful marketing campaign (in any field) requires a constant flow of maintaining positive communications. It’s good to focus on day to day work, but don’t forget to check in with the people around you. Lots of questions, high fives, and face-to-face interaction usually results in happier people. Happier people leads to more productivity.

Lesson 3 – It’s All About The Story

Storytelling is everything! Successful marketing campaigns not only have to connect with a customer’s head but also their heart.

Jennifer Aaker, a social psychologist and marketing professor at Stanford, tells us stories are remembered up to 22 times more than relying on facts alone. Facts can be important but they should compliment your main theme, not drive it.

In improv, without a central story, the scene isn’t funny. A scene needs to draw the audience in with the relationship dynamics and character motivations, not just statements or questions. For example – no one cares as much when you’re explaining the fact that you went to the fair. Instead give a detailed personal piece of the story from the experience, like “We drank too many slurpees, ate a corn dog and then rode the roller coaster at the fair this weekend…”

People want to see and hear reactions such as. “Gosh Carol, did you really have to down a gallon of blueberry slushie before the roller coaster?

As marketers, we need to show our audience why we are doing something personally for them, not just the what. By building a compelling and personalized story behind a marketing campaign, we are looking to create an emotional draw that will attract a larger targeted audience.

All The World’s a Stage

Improv class is one of the few places in life where you not only have permission, but are encouraged to just react to situations and go face-to-face with “uncertainty”. Going with the flow of a story and committing to another’s interpretation is the only way to succeed.

The basic lessons taught in improv classes help to build our natural human ability to read facial expressions, feel someone’s energy and combine story details on the fly. Working on strengthening your improv muscles is a powerful tactic that can help every kind of professional situation.

Interested in giving improv a try? Yes, and…?