How are you using improv skills to build credibility?

By Laura Bergells on

True story: I haven’t formally interviewed for a job since 1999.

So when a local university called to ask if I could conduct a training session about interviewing skills, I politely declined. I haven’t interviewed for a real job since 1999. I don’t feel qualified to speak to a modern audience about interviewing for a job. I can personally claim no first-hand expertise in successfully interviewing in this job market — in this century!

For me, it’s all about credibility. If I don’t have experience or knowledge about the topic — why would I agree to talk about it? I told the event coordinator that I’d be happy to talk about body language or confidence building — but not interviewing skills.

Interviewing skills

Image by bpsusf, on Flickr

It was one of those out-of-the-blue phone calls that lasted 5 minutes — but it stuck in my mind in a glib, offhand way. I often use this anecdote to offer an important lesson on developing credibility: don’t agree to speak on a topic if you don’t have knowledge or experience in said topic!

But I thought about it a little more last week. I fell to wondering: who did the university get to speak on the topic?

It strikes me that job seekers who have interviewed extensively throughout this decade may have experience with interviewing. However, their experience may not necessarily be successful! After all, they haven’t landed a job.

As it turns out, the university hired an HR person from a large company to speak. And he received rave reviews.

Apparently, the speaker ran an improv session. He asked students to come up and fake interview with him. Brilliant approach! The HR person offered critiques, and the audience chimed in with their comments, as well. It was a lively and interactive show, with lots of actual learning taking place.

I’m a huge fan of using improv skills in business presentations. Improvisation shows that you know the material well enough to think on your feet. You can adapt your content on the fly. Done well, improv demonstrates competence and confidence.

Improv skills

by gaelenh, on Flickr

Often closely associated with raucous comedy shows, improv is also a critical skill in a business context. After all, listening is at the heart of improv. Instead of sticking firmly to a script, you listen and react to the other performers on stage, as well as the audience. You put aside your ego, and engage in public conversations.

As we enter into the era of greater social media use, business improv skills are becoming increasingly important. Gone are the days of using a corporate voice and sticking to the company script.

Boring, pompous, one-way conversations are officially OVER. I’ve been discussing the need for developing more improv skills in business communications for the past few years. In corporate training sessions, I often lead sessions by inviting the audience to participate and react. As a result — we all learn.

I see the need for more improv training in business communication. You?

And how are you currently using improv techniques in your business presentations?