Thursday, September 1, 2016

Musicians, Improv and Demos

What can we learn and apply to delivering demos from musical performance and improv comedy?  A lot!  Here’s a short set of ideas to get started…

Dynamics – louds and softs.  Musicians and comedians know that the interplay between loud and quiet sections of music and speech set up and release tension, as well as to help “refresh” the audience.  A mono-level delivery is boring…  Using the “B” key in PowerPoint followed by lowering your voice (loudness-wise) causes your audience to lean-in to hear what you are saying. 

The Power of the Pause.  Pauses are terrific – they give time for ideas to sink in, they give the audience an opportunity to ask a question or offer comments, and they help to break your delivery into “chunks”.  They can also be used theatrically to set up and release tension as well, and often well beyond what simple dynamics provide.

“Yes, and…”  One of the cardinal rules in comedic improvisation is to always say “yes” and agree, then extend or develop the idea further (no matter how silly it may be!).  It is also an excellent tool to use when working with customers in demos.  Note that, “Yes, but…” translates to mean “No”.  Conversely, “Yes, and…” enables you to redirect, extend, and drive the conversation as needed. 

Timing.  Comedians and musicians understand the importance of timing.  Timing goes far beyond simply starting, ending and staying in sync – the skilled practitioner in presenting demos uses timing to organize the overall delivery, help define chunks, manage (and park) questions and keep audiences fresh. 

Awareness of surroundings.  Great musicians and improv comedians feed off of their audiences – and we should be doing the same thing in demos.  (And especially when presenting over the web, where it is likely the audience may be tempted to check email, browse the web, leave the room, etc....)

Execution of the performance.  Of course, musicians need to play the music – and play it well.  Delivering a demo requires a similar performance – executing the pathways and specific steps (and following the Great Demo! process, of course!).

Listening carefully and responding thoughtfully.  Great musicians and improv comedians are particularly skilled in listening and responding, listening and responding, listening and responding…  And it is the listening portion that is (clearly!) the most important.  You cannot respond well to what you haven’t heard!

Other ideas to suggest?

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