Improv comedy is a huge cultural phenomenon and its principles are increasingly being used by companies to build teamwork, enhance creativity and teach associates how to respond more effectively to change. Those principles can easily be adapted to selling travel.
Recently, The Mayflower Hotel in Washington DC, a member of Marriott’s Autograph Collection, added an improv workshop as a meeting breakout option. The workshop is being done in cooperation with DC Improv, a comedy club located directly across the street from the hotel. TMR spoke with Allyson Jaffe, manager and principal owner of the comedy school at DC Improv and came up with eight ways that improv principles might apply to a travel professional’s business.
The Mayflower Hotel became a member of Marriott’s Autograph Collection of independent hotels last year and, according to director of sales Sara Molloy, “being part of Autograph means doing things that differentiate us from our competitors. We decided that offering improv was one way to do that.” Workshops are fully customizable to a group’s size and needs, and can be done at the hotel or at DC Improv’s theater. DC Improv has been working with corporate groups for a long time and has done training sessions with companies like Hilton, Deloitte and PBS. “It’s all about designing meetings in a less traditional way,” said Malloy.
The eight principles are:
1. Encourage active listening. In improv, communication is key. “Listening to your teammates is the only way to continue a conversation. Participants react to their partners’ needs and ideas rather than focusing on a preset agenda.”
2. React positively. “Yes, And” is the two-word core concept in improv. It means reacting positively to a colleague or customer before adding your own ideas. “Being positive is central to improv and you need to get over the moment when you’re dealing with a negative interaction, like when a customer is upset. You can learn to channel negativity into positive interactions.”
3. Take risks. “Change is essential for success. Improv exercises help participants realize their built-in resistance and learn to accept and build on changes introduced by others.”
4. Emphasize teamwork. “The main focus of improv is collaboration, to find opportunities you might have overlooked.”
5. Respond quickly. Improv demands rapid reactions, “especially when it means deflating a situation with a customer when you are in a hospitable role.”
6. Maintain learned skills. “Sometimes people are surprised because they use the skills they learned back in their offices. People are always saying they had no idea that doing this workshop would open all these doors for them. It may be they found they can be more comfortable in their own skins and become an effective public speaker.”
7. Tap into the power of humor. “Recently we had two ER physicians in a class and they learned they can do a better job by embracing any situation with humor, no matter how difficult it might be. It is important to find humor in anything because it is so empowering. Life is so stressful and improv can help you be the person who eases the tension in the room.”
8. Make it fun. “It’s not about being lectured, It’s not someone coming in and giving a PowerPoint demonstration. It’s about letting go and not doing all the usual things.”
Bottom line: We all are already improvising. “Nobody wakes up in the morning with a script,” Jaffe said. “Improv is about learning to adapt everyday behaviors involving changes in the environment to make better decisions in business.”