Improving communication with Improv

Standing in a circle passing an imaginary ball of energy around between each other is not, perhaps, the type of activity you would expect at an ASC event. It was however, a warm up game for the recent Improve your communication with improv workshop held in Adelaide in June. Hosted by Jarrad and Dane from On The Fly Impro, the session aimed to give us a taster of some tips and tricks from improvisational theatre to help us all become better presenters. The group was mostly made of PhD students and researchers looking to improve their presenting skills.

Improv workshop in Adelaide, June 2017

Alan Alda has been championing the idea of improv training for scientists for years, with the focus not on being funny but on really paying attention to your audience, making contact and keeping it personal.

The most memorable moment for me during the workshop was during a game where we were rhyming and matching words around the circle. Jarrad made the point that if you have to choose between being right or saying something…SAY SOMETHING. This probably goes against all the training that scientists have in placing value on making sure what is said is technically correct. Getting past the hesitation and self-censorship of your own head to just play the game and keep it moving was a huge challenge. But we have to be able to forgive ourselves mistakes when we’re speaking.

Some additional take-home tips included:
• Using the first 30 seconds of any presentation to humanise yourself to the audience
• Picking out people beforehand to make eye contact with during your presentation (and that realising that making eye contact can feel uncomfortable, but to do it anyway!)
• Make things obvious, and keep it simple. If you can say it with fewer words, do.

We could have kept going for hours, this really was just a taster, but if you’re interested in developing your skills and having a go at Improv there are groups all around that run classes so try out:
On the Fly Impro (Adelaide) –
Impro Melbourne –
Impro ACT –
Impro Australia (Sydney) –
Impro Mafia (Brisbane) –
Just Improvise (Perth) –

This workshop was possible with support from an event grant from the National office.

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