For many (this writer included), getting up on stage in front of an audience without even an inkling of a script (AKA improv) sounds like a total nightmare. But even though you may have no interest in pursuing a career in show biz, there are a few聽key improv techniques that can聽totally help you progress in the professional world. In fact, Zoe Galvez and Betsy Crouch have built an entire business based on exactly that.

Galvez and Crouch are the duo behind Improv HQ, an SF-based business that works with professionals and companies (like Twitter, Google and LinkedIn) to teach people how to have an improv-like approach in work-related situations. We sat down with this inspirational and hilarious duo to learn about a few improv tactics a total beginner can try out to give their professional life a total revamp.


1. Actually listen to what people are saying.聽In improv, this is known as 鈥渋ntentional listening.鈥 Basically, it means making extra effort to actually listen and not interrupt while someone else is talking. Betsey聽tells us, 鈥淎 lot of us are thinking about what we are going to say next while the other person is still talking, and as improvisors, if we do that we don鈥檛 hear what our partner on stage says, and in every scene we need to pay attention to all those details to create a narrative.鈥 She goes on to say, 鈥淚t forces an interaction and a conversation versus a dueling monologue.鈥

If you鈥檙e looking to put this into practice, they recommend an exercise called 鈥淟ast Letter First Letter鈥 where one partner says something聽and then the second person starts their sentence with the last letter of the first person鈥檚 sentence. For example, if one person said, 鈥淲hat time is that yoga class?鈥 You could respond with something like, 鈥淪ix o鈥檆lock, I think.鈥 To make this practical in the work world, play this game without your coworker, client or boss knowing. By making an extra effort to hear the last letter they speak, you鈥檒l end up listening more intentionally in the conversation.


2. Say Yes.聽Probably the most well-known improv tactic, the idea of saying 鈥測es鈥 is crucial to keeping a scene alive in the improv world. If someone on stage asks you a question and you respond 鈥渘o,鈥 you鈥檝e basically killed the scene. Same goes for conversation at work. Zoe says to take note of whether you鈥檙e saying 鈥測es and鈥 or 鈥測es but.鈥 If the latter, she advises, 鈥渟ee if you can replace the but with an and. You can still say the same thing and yet it鈥檚 easier for the listener to hear you.鈥

3. Celebrate your failures. Zoe says, 鈥淪o many of us are so hard on ourselves when we make mistakes 鈥 especially women, I would say. We鈥檙e perfectionists, of course we want to do our best, and yet sometimes, we鈥檙e going to make mistakes. It鈥檚 important to know that out of those mistakes there are learning opportunities. As an improviser, when that happens we quickly get back up on our feet and are resilient.鈥

To this Betsey adds, 鈥淲hen we talk about celebrating failure, we mean celebrating the willingness to take a risk, the willingness step out of our comfort zone, the willingness to make a bold choice鈥 We鈥檙e not necessarily celebrating the failure itself. Obviously, it鈥檚 hard to fail and it doesn鈥檛 feel good and we want to avoid it, yet we know that it鈥檚 going to happen sometimes, so how do we approach it? We say, great job taking a risk. What did I learn? And then move forward.鈥

What鈥檚 your secret to staying successful in the professional world? Share with us in the comments below.

(Photos via Getty)