One of the biggest goals for me at Kellogg was to improve my communication skills. I have undertaken two key activities at Kellogg towards this goal: Improv, and Public Speaking.
The Improv Club at Kellogg runs these classes. These classes have made Improv my new passion; Its amazing how so many funny scenes come out during these classes; most of which are done by people who have had just a few hours of improv experience during the life.
Improv classes always begin with a fun, warm-up exercise. Over the ten classes I have attended, these have taken many forms:
1. The Zip, Zap, Zop game - This is a game that teaches one to listen, see, and plan the next move. All participants stand in a circle. The first person says zip, and 'throws' the zip to any other participant, by motioning with his or her hands. The participant that received the zip, throws the zap, and so the game goes on.
2. The listening game - As the name suggests, this game helps the participants exercise their listening muscles. The participants stand in a circle, but close their eyes. One person starts the count from one. The other participants listen, anticipate when no one else is going to say a number, and then say the next number. The objective is to reach till twenty, with random participants speaking the next word, without having a clash i.e. two participants speaking at the same time. If there is a clash, the group takes a deep breath, and starts again from one.
3. What are you doing? - The objective of this game is to help play out different kinds of actions. The game starts with everyone standing in a line. The first person goes to the 'stage,' and starts doing some sort of motion. For example, I might be combing my hair. The next person would come up and ask me 'What are you doing?' I might say 'Playing Basketball.' The next person gets on stage, starts playing basketball, and I leave.
Once the warm up is done, the real fun begins! Typically, people come up to the stage area two at a time, and do – well, improv! While improv is an art, it is also a science. There are some standard rules that really help people do better at improv. Some of these are:
- Yes, and – The ‘Yes, and’ rule states that you will not say no to anything to your partner. For example, if my partner said ‘ It’s a great day,’ I will react with ‘Yes, and the birds are chirping.’ If instead, I say ‘No it isn’t,’ I just killed the scene. Everyone doesn’t need to always begin with ‘Yes, and,’ they just need to respond positively.
- Have an opinion – It always helps to have an opinion in improv; an opinion about yourself, the surroundings, and most importantly, the person in the scene with you, and your relationship with the person. Some of the best scenes I have seen are between people who pretended they were old pals, or husband and wife, or mother and son; they knew each other, had an opinion about each other, and had strong feelings for each other – positive or negative.
- Give Gifts – to your partner. This rule means that you always add to the scene by giving gifts, in terms of new information, to your partner. For example, if I say something that adds to scene like, ‘Tom, you are you wearing a giant orange hat today!’ I just gave Tom a chance to talk all about his orange hat.
- Don’t ask questions – for similar reasons as above, give gifts rather than ask questions
- Don’t try to be funny – This counterintuitive rule works wonders. I found that whenever I was listening to my partner and playing the scene naturally, it came out to be much funnier if I tried too hard. The audience can detect when you are trying too hard, to be funny, so just don’t do it.
I am also working on reviving the Kellogg Public Speaking Club. My team recently kicked off our practice series, which gives everyone a chance to practice public speaking skills through prepared and impromptu speeches, in our recently kicked-off public speaking practice series. We also plan to organize speech contests like humorous speech contest, prepared speech contest and impromptu speech contest. I will keep you updated on how that goes.