Every student has that one thing that defines their university experience. Be it the place, the people or the parties. For me? I found my calling in my improv troupe. For those who aren’t aware, improv is an abbreviation of ‘improvisation’, a style of performance that is often skewed towards comedy. It can be presented in a number of styles including games, a series of scenes or even a musical (I know, they are amazing).
Personally, improv was like a haven for me each week. No matter the pressure that I was facing, I knew that every Thursday I could retreat to Room 4 in the union and muck around with The Leeds Improfessionals. They were like my little comedic family, and we did some phenomenal shows during my time at university that will stick with me forever.
However, it’s not just your social life that improv can affect; there are a plethora of career-based skills that you can gain from practising this unique and quirky hobby. So come and take a look how being funny on the fly can improve your employability.
Thinking on the spot
Well duh, right? Improv is the art of spontaneity. Performers have to be able to cope with unusual and challenging suggestions from audience members. The first rule of improv is to always say “yes”, embrace whatever direction the scene is taking and support your fellow comedians.
This is a skill that you can absolutely apply in the workplace in a number of different scenarios, perhaps in a meeting, a presentation or a conference call. Improv will give you the confidence to react quickly and calmly, no matter how challenging the issue.
After all, if you can deal with a rude or racy suggestion from an audience member tastefully in a performance (whilst your mother is watching, nonetheless), then you can cope with anything my friend.
Being a creative mind
Rehearsing with other performers is a naturally creative environment. It’s not just about creating scenes; sessions in improv often include spit-balling new game and scene ideas amongst the team and analysing what works for audiences. It’s an experimentation process.
This in turn refreshes those creative juices, demonstrating how performers are thinking from a consumer’s point of view. Improv troupes are constantly trying to better their work and ensure that their content is of a higher standard than the last time it was performed.
Again, this is applicable in the corporate world. Companies often ask for fresh approaches to working strategies, particularly in the worlds of advertising, marketing and communications. You may have the chance to attend brainstorming sessions, and this is a chance to showcase your ‘blue-sky thinking’ (excuse the buzzword terminology).
Events management and marketing
This point is especially pertinent if you are on the committee for an improv group, but it can be relevant for any other members as well. To put on shows, you have to get bums on seats. Therefore, members will get involved in a number of different methods to bring audiences in.
These include creating and promoting the events on social media, or getting artistic and editing photos and graphics for posters. Performers are also often asked to assist in the logical parts of a production, including setting up equipment or running the ticketing booth on the doors.
These are unique skills that are hard to experience in university, and especially valuable in demonstrating your organisational and promotional abilities. Just be sure to muck in for all the shows, and you can check this off on your CV. All those hours of flyering can pay off after all!
Confidence and communication
I’ve seen both extroverts and introverts take part in improv, and both perform to an extremely high standard. I’ve also seen people grow personally through the group, as throwing yourself into scenarios on the stage can make day-to-day occurrences suddenly feel much less pressurised.
Building relationships and connections in the workplace is vital, and an improv background can be used as a support in all conversations. If you can draw on the energy that you have in a scene in a working environment, you’ll be sure to make a lasting impression.
Plus, you can always pull out that one joke you always relied on in shows to make the audience die with laughter (if it’s appropriate, of course).
Maybe you’re reading this and thinking, “This all sounds fab, but my university doesn’t have an improv troupe.” Well, why not create one? That’s what I did. I’d always been a massive fan of the art form (born from my obsession with Whose Line Is It Anyway?) and I saw a gap in the Comedy Society for a new group.
This was of course a lot of responsibility, but it was probably one of the most valuable takeaways from my time as a student. I was in charge of teaching the classes, scheduling the practice rooms, producing the shows and leading the marketing campaigns for productions. These are experiences that I have repeatedly drawn on in my career, and are gold dust on a CV.
So if you’re ready to take on a new challenge, I’d say go for it. Equally, if your university already has an improv troupe (get in!), then why not run for a committee role? The power is there, go out and seize it!