What You Have In Common with Tina Fey
People who are good at improvisational comedy have learned to adhere to 9 basic maxims. Three of these are:
- Say Yes
- Don’t Prepare
- Just Show Up
At first glance these titles may seem to reinforce that you don’t need to practice to be a good improviser, but, in fact, improvisers do exercises (theater games) around all of these maxims and practice over and over to be able to be clear and think on their feet so that they can do their work well and make improv appear easy. They do exercises to be aware of what they are and are not doing. Practicing makes them stronger. And it will do the same for you.
Here are some examples of the benefits of practicing that also make you better at extemporaneous speaking:
- By practicing to eliminate filler words from your talk, you have to pay more attention to how you say what you say. Doing that makes you more aware in general.
- By practicing to bring in elements that engage others, you have to pay more attention to human connection and what makes others tick. You’ll know better how to listen and interact with others on the fly.
- And by practicing aloud what you are going to say in a presentation or conversation, you allow your brain to use the ear/brain feedback loop and do its job of helping you to build more logic or more persuasion or more motivation … whatever you set out to do so you can do it anywhere.
Here’s a great book on improv I recommend: Improv Wisdom by Patricia Ryan Madsen.
And for those of you who want to explore practicing further, here is a post that is just for you. How to Create a Strong Voice, Part 4: Practice.
And another on that ear/voice connection: Can You Hear Me Now: The Ear-Voice Connection.