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Megan Bedinghaus, VP Operations & Senior Strategist
April 25 2019

Improv With the Tribe

Last week, the O’Keeffe team nervously trudged over to Rebel Pilgrim for an improv workshop hosted by Joe Boyd himself. Most of the group went in blind save for our fearless leader, Dan O’Keeffe (who is both a PR mastermind and an actor), and myself (a former theater kid hailing from California, land of mime workshops and bad productions of Othello set in space). Lisa also professes some theater background, and we bonded over our introduction to the National Thespian Society back in high school. Which is to say that about half the team had some idea of what was about to happen and the other half was willing to trust me on all of this.

I say nervously because I actually hate improv. It’s a personal thing. It’s like jumping off a cliff, and the only way to not die is to shut off your brain and fervently ignore anything past the fourth wall. I also desperately seek approval which means that I was willing to volunteer as long as someone patted me on the head afterward (It me, amirite?).

Thanks to the kind tutelage of Joe, the tribe was soon off and running on a series of energy exercises and mind reading. We had a fantastic time, and Rebel Pilgrim is the kind of relaxed, nonchalant but utterly genius company that you can’t help but love.

Like the marketing nerd that I am, I begged the team for lessons learned for a blog. This blog. Because content. Here’s what we learned.

Lessons from Improv

– We learned how to think and step outside of our comfort zones, which of course fuels our creativity. Our clients depend on us to be more creative than they are or think they are.
– We learned how to spark creativity in others. Of course, that’s a benefit in collaborating amongst ourselves and within our client teams.
– We learned how to work as a team, especially when under pressure and without much or any direction. To work efficiently and effectively, we must know how to read each other’s actions and intentions.

– Dan O’Keeffe

I anticipated the improv session would involve comedy, and many interactions between teammates were hilarious. However, the exercises Joe guided had much deeper motives. We were guided to interact and work together in ways none had ever experienced before. Working together in very unfamiliar situations forced us to define individual roles quickly.
The exercises demanded collaboration. What I learned was that our objective performance (achieving the immediate goal) improved, but also our subjective performance (our view of our personal performance in helping to achieve the goal). As we gained empathy for one another, we gained self-confidence as individuals.
One particular exercise was to answer any opening interaction with the word ‘Yes,’ to be open to new experiences, dialogues, and situations. We were guided to build new interactions spontaneously. Rather than individuals focusing on their performance only, success demanded empathy, collaboration, spontaneity, and interaction with others. We built trust among ourselves and had a lot of fun in the process. I highly recommend Joe’s program.

– Dale Justice

The improv class taught me a lot about client relationships and teamwork.
It’s about entering into a situation, about which you have very little control or previous knowledge, and going with the flow. By surrendering to it and affirming external suggestions (“yes, and…”), you can steer the situation toward your desired conclusion.
Also, being thrown into an improvisational situation with my team members was a huge trust builder. Think boot camp for non-verbal and other communication skill nuances, giving your teammates permission to take a chance on things and helping them to succeed with your own creativity.

– Rob Dietrich

– We were encouraged to “play.” This perspective helped lighten the mood and encouraged us to keep the conversation or idea moving, even if we made a mistake.
– The random scenarios put us in situations where we had limited information or context. We had to think on our feet and rely on each other to tell a story that made sense.
– In PR we often work within our team and with clients to tell a story. Using the phrase “yes, and” to build on ideas with clients will help creative solution to fit their unique needs.

– Jocelyn Summers

– The space was open and bright and allowed for freedom in creativity.
– Joe was thoughtful and relaxed and encouraged a “safe space” to express.
Take Aways:
– Be mindful when listening and let the other person know that you hear what they’re saying and together you will find a solution. Take their thoughts and build on them.
– Slow down and focus on the goal – together.
– Three in a row of anything is funny, after that it’s overkill.

– Lisa Dyson

Love working with collaborative folks who can do a mean improv scene? Reach out so we can tell your story together.

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