Improspectives

Improv skills lead to success

Memory, Improv, and Business

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One of the great things about being an improvisational performer is that there are no lines to memorize. All you have to do is get on stage and start making up stuff with your friends. Of course it’s a lot harder than that — anyone can stand in front of a group and make things up, the question is whether what you’re creating is worth watching.

Improvisers often talk about offers, which are statements or actions that occurred earlier in the scene and can be used as a jumping off point for further work. It doesn’t make much sense to do a scene where names, locations, and motivations change without warning. It would be impossible for the audience to follow as a story, reducing their personal investment in the narrative. Sure, you could do a brief surrealistic scene as part of a replay or when it’s the known genre for a show, but in general humans are narrative creatures and prefer their stories to have a beginning, middle, and end.

You keep track of the offers in a scene or longform show by using your memory. There are different types of memory: short-term, long-term, episodic, semantic, and many other varieties that play various roles in the improv and business. There are few things more embarrassing then forgetting the name of another character in a scene, especially if you gave them their name in the first place.

Memory takes on even greater importance in business. You must have a sense of where you’ve been and the work that you’ve done to move forward and avoid repeating work. If you’re in advertising, and all of us are regardless of our actual job descriptions, you want ensure the public remembers what you’ve done and what you have to offer.

Over the next several posts I’ll explore the different types of memory, give you strategies for augmenting your memory, and show you how to avoid the traps that can befall business people and improvisers alike.

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