My wife likes to tell a story of how she came downstairs one morning after fixing up her hair a little different—“teasing it” as she calls it. I saw her walk into the office and noticed something was different—which, incidentally, should earn me some points. As she tells it, I looked up, pointed at her hair and muttered: “Hair…Big…Nice.”
I’m not sure I returned to a pre-historic era of communication like she describes it, but I’m guessing I wasn’t much more energetic. I do have a tendency to be straight-faced with my reactions. Sometimes that works in my favor, and sometimes, like in the (embellished) story above, it works against me.
And that’s why I’m taking improv classes tonight.
I’ve always loved the art of improv comedy. A few years ago, I had an opportunity to go to Second City in Chicago—the comedy club where such geniuses as Mike Myers, Tina Fey, Stephen Colbert and (my personal favorite) Chris Farley cut their comic teeth. Obviously, they weren’t there the night I went, but it was still amazing to watch firsthand the quick-witted art of improv.
So why am I writing about improv here on a marketing blog? Well, because it’s my blog and I can write about anything I want! Aaaand, because marketing—at its core—is all about interpersonal communications. You know, the sending and receiving of messages intended to evoke a response. Improv’s the same.
Going in, I don’t know exactly what to expect at the classes. (All I was told was to wear comfortable clothes and shoes.) But here are some things I’m hoping to get out of it:
Everyone’s had nearly the same reaction after I told them I’m taking improve classes: “That sounds terrifying.” And they’re right. It’s terrifying and intimidating. But there’s also something thrilling to me about stepping outside the proverbial comfort zone and challenging myself to try things I’ve never done before or things that scare me. I’ve never seen myself as a great public speaker, for instance, and I doubt these classes will inspire me to go on the speaking circuit. But, I do hope I learn some things that can make me feel more comfortable and less self-conscious in that space. Maybe I’ll still suck…or maybe I’ll just suck less.
Good communications flows both way—back and forth, to and from the sender and recipient. I’m hoping I can get better at reading the verbal and non-verbal cues being sent to me, and then returning the same cues with commanding actions, emotions, inflections, etc.
With all the life-change this past year (starting Keyhole Marketing being just one), I’ve been learning so much about myself. I’m hoping that taking improv classes can continue that inner journey. I’m guessing I’ll be asked to portray a variety of characters. How I choose to play those roles will probably indicate more about myself and who I am at the core. Through it all, I’m guessing it will inspire greater authenticity in “real life”—with myself and with others.
I love running Keyhole Marketing and get so much satisfaction from it everyday! I do miss one thing, though, from my previous gigs: the brainstorming sessions. I loved exercising creative muscles in those meetings, feeding off other people’s brilliance and adding my own. When you’re a one-man show, though, these sessions aren’t stimulating. I’m hopeful that these improv classes can add those missing elements again. If things are atrophied, I hope they can be flexed again. If things are dormant, I hope they wake up!
The classes run for two months. I’m sure I’ll check in again and share my experiences. Stay tuned!