You’ve seen Improvisational Comedy, I know it.
In Improv, a couple of comedians stand on stage and make up a funny story on the fly. One person starts with a simple sentence, like: “Oh! Look at my watch!” and then another follows with something else: “Why is there water running out of it?”
The goal is to make the story funny, and it often works. But despite what the audience thinks, Improv doesn’t start from a blank canvas. There are RULES. And we can learn from them.
Just as in business, scripts can often sound fake. If you read a phone script to a client who’s inquiring about your rates, they’ll trust you less. That’s why we don’t use call centers.
But you also don’t want to have a 90-minute conversation with every client, either. You don’t want to vomit every single detail of your philosophy, practice and science; you want them to take action, because knowledge alone doesn’t make anyone fit.
Here’s how the lessons of Improv comedy can help you:
First rule of Improv: Don’t disagree.
When two performers are building a funny story, they agree to agree. Neither will ever say, “No.” or “You’re wrong,” because that ends a conversation before it goes anywhere. Instead, performers will say “Yes, and…” because they know it’s more important to keep the conversation alive than it is to “win”.
When I started as a Personal Trainer, I’d often argue with people who wanted to pay me money. I’d say, “You don’t need to run 10 miles every day to run a marathon! You need to do HIIT. And you don’t need all those carbs either!” I won lots of conversations and lost a lot of money.
Instead, I should have approached the conversation the way a train approaches a turn: slowly and incrementally. I should have said, “Yes, you can run and do CrossFit too.” Then, after a month, I could have said, “Have you noticed a difference in your running? You can probably cut back a bit now.”
Second rule of Improv: Add new information. Help your partner move the story along, instead of forcing them to do all the work.
In your business, add little things that reinforce the client’s story or desires. They’ll move faster along the same path to conversion.
For example, if a client says, “I want to run a marathon,” you can say, “This will sure help with those hills–you’re right about that!”
Third rule of Improv: Be funny. No one wants to hear why you’re the victim.
I’ve mentioned a few times that we don’t accept everyone into the TwoBrain family. But when we do invite an entrepreneur to join us, they’ll sometimes ask, “How did I make the cut?”
And the answer is sometimes, “We laughed on the phone.”
Laughter establishes intimacy. It’s the most obvious sign of rapport. If you’re laughing, the conversation is easy and natural instead of painful. On my side, if the business owner is laughing, then they’re mature enough to be open about their problems. On their side, if I’m laughing, they know I’m not reading a script or trying to push a sale.
Fourth rule of Improv: Make The Other Guy Look Good. On the stage, they’ll reciprocate. When you’re sitting across a desk from them, remind them that they’re already doing SOMETHING right; that they’ve already taken the first steps toward their goal; that they’re already a little bit successful.
Fifth rule of Improv: Do it a LOT.
Doing > Reading, says Scott Berkun, author of “Making Things Happen”, “The Myths of Innovation” and “A Year Without Pants.”
“Life is experience and reading about other people’s experiences, as powerful as it can be if the writer’s good, is a shell of having the experience yourself.” Berkun says.
We can learn a lot from those who fail faster than we do.
Comedians fail a LOT. They do it in public. And they use the experience to get better. That makes them very good at performing. And their failures can guide us.