“We made up all our lines,” Seth Rogen remembered of Apatow’s 2005 flick, “The 40-Year-Old-Virgin.” A lot of the stuff was just us talking to each other and trying to make each other laugh, knowing that we had the freedom to say whatever we wanted. It looks very natural, because we honestly didn’t know what we were saying until we were saying it,” per MTV.com.
I particularly admire Drew Carey for getting just the right mix of players together for his Improvaganza shows, because it’s not just professional comedians provoking each other.
The kind of improv I really like – in part because it’s so scary – is when the audience is asked to shout out topics and without any script or rehearsal, the players begin to act out the scene. You hear people yell out: “Men in top hats and tutus choosing apples in the grocery produce section.” “Family under attack by giant cans of Diet Coke while they eat Thanksgiving dinner.”
Of course, improvisation is more than just getting laughs or evoking strong feelings in an audience. You need to generate a coherent, compelling story line.
You’d think only really experienced actors or those naturally gifted to think on their feet, believe they possess the magical talent called for in improv. But, well, no. You probably attempt it much more frequently than the best improvisational actors do.
Really, I bet you Steve Carrell, Will Ferrell, Seth Rogen and of course, the late and great Robin Williams have a lot in common. You all do improv. You just do it much more often than the pros.
You do improv when there’s nothing funny on the line. You do improv when it concerns your career or business.
Did you know that’s what you do? Have you considered there’s one commonality among nearly every question you get asked in a job interview, in the workplace, at a networking event, by coworkers in so-called casual conversation, or by potential referral sources and investors?
Questions in a job interview or in business transactions, negotiations and conversation are all predictable.
The really interesting questions, that the biggest and most important bosses ask, are published each week in the New York Times. Just read its “Corner Office” column. There’s a treasure trove on nytimes.com. But really, the questions you can expect to get on the average day or the average interview? You just haven’t yet considered them to be the worthwhile opportunities they really are.
How are you? What did you do this weekend? Why did you choose this career? What would you consider to be the perfect job opportunity? How did you decide to leave your current job or occupation, and take a risk in a new industry? What are you looking for exactly?
All these predictable questions have crisp, clear, compelling and memorable answers. Those answers all transmit your personal brand. They say everything about your values, your traits, your qualities, your aspirations, your interests, and your level of preparation for the life you want.
Yes, even really simple answers to questions like, “How are you?” present an opportunity for you to communicate who you are, often to the most important people. Those are the real opportunities for elevator pitches you get – when you meet eyes with a stranger or your CEO, and get some air-time.
Here’s what shocks me. Until I meet and coach or teach them, 95% of my career coaching clients and 98% of the students I teach: do not have answers for even the most basic questions. There are one hundred once-in-a-lifetime encounters you have in any given time period – a massive association meeting, a month of job-seeking, a year of meeting people in the city you’ve just moved to, or a couple of years at work. And, you very likely have no really good answers – no clear, crisp, compelling and memorable answers to these potentially life-changing questions.
That’s why I train my personal branders on trigger talk. Have all your answers prepared and memorized, so they come out like you really are the brilliant, hard-working, inventive, attractive, interesting person you are. Not like you’ve been caught streaking across campus when the police show up. That’s typically the look in your eyes, when we ask you these questions.
Do this: Make a stack of frequently asked questions of you. You could make the list by writing down every question you get over a month – or you can just reflect on conversations you have. Then, get down your answers on paper. Yes, use a pen and paper – so you inscribe the right refrains in your brain. Handwriting or printing works much better to rewire your brain, than typing or thumbing on a device.