Izzy Gesell

P.O. Box 962
Northampton, MA 01061

413.586.2634 [Voice]
413.585.0407 [Fax]


Instructional Moments
"Insights and Practical Applications
about Life and Learning
Distilled from Improv Theater Techniques"

Instructional Moment 3

This free e-zine highlights the ways that Improv Theater techniques have relevance to our daily professional and personal lives. Whether you are a teacher, coach, corporate executive, sales representative, stay-at-home mom, blue-collar worker or professional speaker, you will find these ideas to be intuitive, fascinating and immediately applicable to what you face on a day-to-day basis. Instructional Moments is directed toward individuals who desire to become more confident, playful, spontaneous, and effective.

Your quality of Presence is revealed through the power of Focus

When working with a large group, it is often desirable to have the participants form duos, triads, quartets or quintets in order to enable everyone to participate in a particular game. As the different teams are absorbed into their tasks, a substantial racket is normally generated, frequently punctuated by gusts of laughter. During the subsequent debrief, I ask for a show of hands by those who had been distracted by the cacophony. Usually, it’s only a few hands that go up.  “How can this be in a room that is so noisy?” I ask. The answer comes quickly, clearly and from many parts of the room. “We were focused on what we were doing,” is the explanation. That “focus” is so strong it actually serves as a “mute” button or “white noise” box.

Having established the power of focus, my interest shifts to what, if anything, does throw the players off track. Here, the answers are more varied. “Surprise at my partner’s answer,” “I kept expecting the story to go in a particular direction and it wouldn’t,” and  “I had a better story in mind and my partner wouldn’t go along” are three of the most common replies.

An individual’s inner dialogue turns out to be much more distracting than the external commotion. Our self-talk is disruptive because it takes us away from the present, where our task is, and whisks us to either the past or the future.  Refocusing brings us back to the present while the ongoing self-talk keeps us somewhere other than the here-and-now.

IMPROV TECHNIQUE TO PRACTICE: Since so much is going on for the players during an Improv structure, they must know how to focus on the essence of each game. It is essential that they concentrate on what is important while staying away from the unimportant. Improvisors understand that every activity has a focal point. Improv pioneer Viola Spolin named this fundamental detail the Point of Concentration (PoC). For example, if a volleyball game were an improv structure, the PoC would be the ball.

HERE’S WHY IT WORKS: With so many stimuli flooding our senses, it’s difficult to pay attention to any one thing at any one time. Many of us feel like we “are all over the place,” perhaps because in our minds, we ARE all over the place. Multi-tasking may seem like a solution to overlapping priorities yet even that approach requires us to be present moment to moment.

Finding the PoC for any desired outcome forces us to be more focused, and less distractible.  Call it focused awareness, mindfulness, or presence.  Once revealed, the PoC becomes home base for any wandering thoughts, feelings or behaviors.  You can't be lost if you know how to find your way back home.

IMPROV GAME TO PLAY:   "One Word At A Time"
Instructions can be found on  p.62 of my book, "Playing Along: 37 Group Learning Activities Borrowed From Improvisational Theatre." ( Variation #2 works well with large groups). For free print-friendly instructions of "One Word At A Time" visit the appropriate link:
Adobe PDF Reader:  Click Here
Microsoft WORD:   Click Here

Thanks for playing along! Stay well and mirthful.   Happy Holidays!!    Izzy

Feel free to forward this e-zine to friends and colleagues who would be interested.


About the Author...

Whether presenting a keynote speech, a half or full day training, coaching for enhanced presentation skills or facilitating a discussion, Izzy is entertaining, informative and blatantly practical.  He was one of the first to bring the practical concepts of Improv Theater into use as a tool for improving teamwork, communication, leadership, and self development.

Check out Izzy's numerous free articles on improv, humor, and communication, as well as program information: www.izzyg.com

Izzy Gesell, CSP, helps organizations and the people within them transform their thinking to become more confident, competent, and creative.

Helpful Websites!

Viola Spolin - Internationally recognized originator of Theater Games - the basis of Improv Theater


The Improv Information Resource
 That Cannot Be Denied!


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