How Improv Can Enhance Your Messaging and Productivity

by Kayla Anderson, Marketing Manager - 02/15/16

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Discover how to enhance your role and effectiveness as a marketing leader with the principles of improv, which Inc. promotes to “help empower leaders, bolster creative and positive thinking, and increase team collaboration and adaptability.”

Managing Editor Jacob Moore is not only a content wizard, but also a talented improviser and teacher. He regularly leads classes right here at True North Custom, and the feedback has been outstanding. We interviewed Jacob to get more perspective on how marketers can use improv to build teams, enhance their leadership skills, and keep the creative juices flowing.

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TNC: What made you want to try improv?

Moore: A few years ago, a friend suggested I attend a free drop-in class in Manhattan. I had just moved to New York to pursue acting and editing, and I'd never done any improv. The thought of it terrified me, so I took that as a sign that I'd better do it. I showed up and was immediately struck by how happy everyone was to see each other—even happy to see this new guy walking in with no experience. My first scene was set in a vet's office. It got weird. I fell in love with the form and the community that night.   

TNC: How does improv help you with your work as a content creator and editor?

Moore:  Every day at work is an improv show. We turn content around rapidly and within pretty strict word limits. We're always looking for ways to keep it fresh and informative. You have to have two minds working at once in that sense, and that's essentially how improv works. We're always trying to create "in the moment" while keeping track of the overall flow of the story we're telling, the emotional touch points that get an audience interested, and the details that give the whole story a coherent feel. Improv is also great training for collaborative writing, and every piece of content we work on is touched by three or four different creative folks. 

TNC: What other benefits does improv give you in your professional and/or personal life?

Moore: Improv teaches people to respect and honor the reality of whatever situation they find themselves in. One of the first steps to building an improv scene that my teacher always emphasized was, "You're somewhere you want to be, with people you like, doing something you want to do." That's a good rule to build a life by, I think.

TNC: Describe one of your favorite improv moments.

Moore: It's hard to describe a scene that came alive in the moment and can never really be recreated. Let's just say one of my fondest memories involved the Seattle fish market, an open window that served as a delivery truck, and a halibut that just wouldn't die. 

TNC: What scares you most about improv?

Moore: An improv audience is the most frightening thing you'll encounter. They have all the open-minded joy of a child, and all the destructive power of a child with a magnifying glass. 

TNC: What is most challenging for your students?

Moore: Probably realizing that they don't have to be funny. The humor in improv is watching people being themselves in situations that get increasingly bizarre. Getting students to relax and realize they don't have to be "clever" is always the biggest hurdle. 

TNC: Any advice on how to start applying the principles of improv today?

Moore:  The next time someone asks you for something, don't say no. Don't say yes, either. With all the enthusiasm and joy you can muster, say "Yes, and..." and offer more than was asked of you. Live that way for a day, and see how that attitude infects those around you.

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Topics: Content Strategy, Professional Development

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