Belly laughs, giggles and guffaws poured from the Hyatt Regency Jacksonville Riverfront ballroom. What sounded like a comedy club was a bunch of meeting planners and hospitality industry professionals, trying their hand at improv.
Instead of standing at a microphone, telling funny stories about family and friends, they were seated side by side, spouting phrases like “Me too!” “Yes and,” and “If this, then what?” at the direction of Jessie Shternshus, owner of the Improv Effect, Jacksonville, Fla.
The thought of a session about improvisation was enough to make the shy squirm, yet a few minutes into Shternshus’ talk, even the most reticient attendees were in the thick of things, immersed in the unintimidating and engaging exercises that Shternshus led.
Her session proved that improv is not just for stand-up comics; it’s a tool we use every day without even realizing it.
Her exercises were simple?but effective. For example, during “Me too,” attendees learned to connect with others by sharing tidbits about themselves. Pairs of attendees talked about their hobbies, family and other aspects of life. When one person shared the same interest or experience as their partner, they shouted, “Me too!”
‘It is about relationship building, where we are not just pushing information but are finding something more to talk about than business, business, business.”
Another exercise required one team member to start a sentence with the last letter of the last word their partner said. The point? To improve listening skills.
During an exercise called “If this, then what” small groups tackled a problem by having each person provide an answer or solution to the “then what?” part of the question. The question went around each group three times. The reason? Shternshus said, “It makes you dig deeper and helps you find better ideas. It helps you think on the spot, make connection and push creativity.”