It’s every presenter’s worst nightmare: You have prepared and rehearsed your speech for weeks only to step on stage and feel overcome by stage fright. You blank out and forget your lines and you feel like you are drowning in fear and anxiety. You can avoid this disaster by building and improving your improv skills. Improv is not just for comics and actors. It’s actually a great tool for navigating tricky presentations so you can keep the conversation moving forward. Here are a few improv tips that could help save your next presentation.
Know Your Material
It might sound obvious but the most important tip for improv is to know your material backward and forwards. In order to improvise you must be fully versed in your presentation, enough that you could almost recite it in your sleep. You need to spend ample time rehearsing your presentation without a script so that you could ab-lib or pick it up easily from any point.
Advance or Expand
The foundation of improv is learning how to either expand or advance on everything you say. If you are telling a story, for example, you can expand on the point by adding a few extra lines that add humor or help the audience develop a better understanding of the point. Learning how to expand can teach you how to speak on the point in a completely different way and can lead to some really interesting or entertaining lines. Conversely, there will be times when you need to simply advance the presentation so that you can get to your point or reach the climax of the story faster. You can practice this skill by having a partner say “expand” or “advance” at different times as you rehearse your presentation.
Use your Mistakes
Things like technology and handouts can really enhance your presentation but they can also be a nightmare. There may be a time when you experience a faulty PowerPoint or you forget your brochures. If this happens, try not to panic. Instead, try using the mistakes to your advantage. Find a way to incorporate it into your presentation and allow the audience to laugh along with you. After all, blunders open opportunities to improve your presentation.
Say “Yes, and…”
This is a popular improv technique whereas the presenter must answer with “Yes, and…” no matter what they are told. By responding this way, you will keep the conversation moving forward in a positive way. This can be a great technique when you are answering questions or taking comments from the audience. Rather than disagreeing and causing people to get defensive, you are confidently responding in a positive way.
Slow Down and Stay in the Moment
All too often presenters begin to rush through a presentation the moment they begin feeling nervous. Try to avoid rushing and slow yourself down instead. When you stay in the moment, you will be more aware of the audience’s reactions and you will be able to shift your presentation accordingly. In addition, you will appear more confident and credible when you slow down and take a moment to recover.