Improv skills lead to success

Improv and Business for Introverts

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One of the best-known yet still strangely prevalent misconceptions about comedians is that we’re all extroverts, energized by more or less showing off in front of an audience. Many of us are, but many others are introverts searching for connections from the safety of the stage.

Wait…the safety of the stage? Performing for a crowd is somehow less intimidating and awkward than going to a party? For many people, myself included, it’s true. A show, even a solo act, is a team effort. You have the house staff, the technical crew, and perhaps other performers on your side of the curtain to share the experience with. You are a team of individuals with a stake in making the show successful. Even though they’re not in front of the audience, the crew and house staff benefit from good shows. No one wants audience members to remember they saw a horrible show at the XYZ Theatre – there’s a very real possibility they’d never go back.

Rehearsals, workshops, and pre-show technical checks are all ways for the team to bond and make the performance space their home, at least for a bit. And as anyone who has been on stage can tell you, the “fourth wall” between the audience and performers is real. There is a tangible separation between the stage and the seats. Improv groups and other performers often break the fourth wall and permit direct interaction with the audience, but the distinction between performer and audience member remains. When the performers turn their attention from the audience and to the action on the stage, audience members understand they should return to the role of observors.

Well-functioning business teams provide a similar environment for introverts to work in comfortably, but both improv groups and business teams can be dominated by individuals with forceful, extroverted personalities. The growing cultural emphasis on in-person teamwork and outward expression puts introverts at a severe disadvantage. In-person meetings and brainstorming sessions emphasize immediate participation, not the quiet reflection and careful communication introverts prefer.

I’ll devote the next few posts to introverts and how we interact with the world, starting with a review of a book I hope you find the time to read.

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