A Weekend With The Improv Effect: “Yes, and…”

Although it’s a well known fact that life is unpredictable and unexpected, knowing this never seems to keep me from being surprised.

Lately, I’ve been in a little bit of a creative funk. I was off my groove and felt like my changing process was on unsteady foundation.

Turns out all I needed was a Saturday laughing so hard I couldn’t breathe.

Last weekend, I joined my AIGA Jacksonville kin folk for a Hands-On Workshop unlike any other. Led by the gregarious and outgoing Jessie Shternshus of The Improv Effect, sixteen of us embarked on an adventure that would open our minds, heighten our social awareness, and seriously injure our abdomens from laughter.

The beauty of Jessie’s workshop is that it isn’t just improv in a sense most people might associate it, such as comedy performance. It’s using improv as a social learning experience to better yourself as a professional. She opens with establishing that this is a safe place to be expressive. There’s no such thing as messing up, but if you feel you do, just pump your fists into the air and shout, “I MESSED UP!” – and by extension, (“that’s okay”).

Don’t you wish you could shout that in the office sometimes?

We participated in exercises like inventing made up words and assigning them with ridiculous definitions. Going down a line of people, each saying one word to create a sentence or story. We played giant games of telephone to experiment with listening. And held conversations with each other, starting every sentence with “Yes, and…” or “No, but…”

The take-aways were not just that I live in a community of exceptionally goofy people.

But other lessons like…

The power of positivity. How we speak to our bosses, colleagues, and clients is important. Positivity and constructivism moves projects forward. Negativity and criticism makes those around you feel that they’re not heard. “Yes, and we could do this.” creates a better environment than, “No, but we should do this.”

Listening is as important as speaking. We all come into meetings and presentations with an agenda. But taking the time to absorb your client’s key talking points will better your work as a creative.

When communicating, know your talking points. We learned that small details get lost in storytelling, while the more visual elements we describe are absorbed. “Something small and jagged” isn’t as memorable as, “It’s like an inch-long zipper”.

I had a great time hanging out, freaking out, and breaking out with my AIGA friends last weekend. And almost instinctively started my Monday workday with an inspired, can-do attitude. Thank you so much to Jessie Shternshus and The Improv Effect.

We had a great time!

—stephanie, membership director

By aigajacksonville
Published June 27, 2011