Applied improvisation a term that refers to learning the skills to think on your feet, and then applying them to a particular industry, situation or relationship.
Along with the troupe I perform with regularly CSz UK, I've been a passionate advocator of improv and improving my own listening and communication skills for many years now. Particularly in the digital space where there are oh so many ways to communicate. Technology, software, apps and their developers work in a space where change is the only constant.
This week I delivered a workshop for a team of web developers. A great forward-thinking gang who'd heard enough about improv training to know it was a tool to get in their collective belt. Here's their testimonial;
"Collaboration and creative thinking are crucial to our day to day business, and we're always looking to improve and develop these skills. John taught us various improv techniques and concepts that we could use to work better together.Tom Parson, Manchester Technology Centre.
John was a great teacher, and created a space where everybody felt comfortable to come out of their shell. The improv games we played were fun and engaging, and John encouraged everyone to put themselves out there and get involved. After learning about what our business did in advance, John made sure to explain the relevance of each game to our specific work, which went a long way to get buy-in from the team and senior management. Overall we found the workshop enjoyable, eye opening and motivating - our team were already discussing how we could incorporate the learnings into our day to day work. "
How does that work? After an introductory talk there's a big blank schedule of events board - waiting to be filled.
Those keen to give a talk complete a description card and stick it the board. As this event proved, very quickly there was a diverse and interesting amount of talks to attend across the day.
I've attended similar formatted events in the USA, at the annual ComedySportz improv championship. During a week of workshops and entertainment) there's an 'open space' which is very similar in format. The idea of a full day of this locally piqued my curiosity.
It was easy to understand the ethos of the event, and MeasureCamp Manchester was well organised. It's not only for those keen to get up and talk, but also to encourage those who've never given a talk. It's an opportunity to to seize the chance to give their first ever bit of public speaking, workshop or discussion.
As I found out, a group of data analytics techy folks set up MeasureCamp in 2012. They wanted to run a local community event and it took off. MeasureCamps are now held in over a dozen cities, all over Europe plus Hong Kong and Australia.
I think the 'unconference' format is a brilliant concept too. A speaking event with no traditional hierarchy or barrier to entry, encouraging anyone who has an idea they are passionate about. The presentations do not need to be polished, there's no guarantee of full audience. Attendees will vote with their feet. However as this event proved, with this well curated day, the fear of 'what if no one comes to my talk!' doesn't arise.
MeasureCamp is designed for the digital and analytics community though I thought it felt broader. There was much discussion here about modern work culture. I attended some great talks, including a discussion on freelancing and a talk on impostor syndrome. I also gave two talks on how improvisation skills is used as a tool for creative thinking. A shortened version my Google Digital Garage in 2018 sessions, and they were well received.
Of course there's a strong element of improvisation to the MeasureCamp Unconference format. When I deliver an improv workshop, I explain how improvisation is about being present and creative within set of constraints of a game. One of the organiser, Paul suggested I pinned my session on the board at the beginning of the day, which I did. Improv is great for learning, and it's also a good motivator. By sticking my session at the beginning of the day it could provide a little confidence boost to anyone attending who had an idea for a but not yet committed to it.
It would have been an ideal place to promote my book, but one of the stipulations is that there is no hard sell by speakers, and rightly so.
MeasureCamp Manchester was a fun learning experience and a great networking opportunity. I've even considered offering to volunteer for next year's event (if I have the time and commitment it requires) I''ll certainly be getting in early for a ticket!