AIN Open Space


Welcome to the AIN conference, we have no idea what this conference will be about - let's make it up.

There is a little more too it than that, but that is what this conference is. It is an improvised conference. The participants create deliver and participate in the program but it is made up each day. We all knew ahead of time and people still prepared material to present, but there was no official program schedule created.

The concept is structured and has rules and is called Open Space. It is based on the idea that the best part of many conferences is the coffee breaks where great conversations take place and tries to make the conference all coffee breaks.

It is particularly intriguing for improvisers who love to life in the moment and create on the fly. There can be a slight downside in that it can tend to have a lack of flow in some sessions because the prep work is not there, but it can also be inspirational and capture what is current and interesting to many people.

And, if it's not good - the law of two feet requires that you get up and leave if you feel like you don't want to be there anymore. So the social contract of not being rude by leaving the middle is changed. It can be a big relief when it's just nor for you.

So, would you come to a conference if you knew there was no program?

Sh*t Improv Trainers Say...


Sh*t that Impro Trainers say!

  • “Everybody up and in a circle please”
  • “What do you think the value of that activity is?”
  • “I’m going to invite you to step outside of your comfort zone.”
  • “Before we start...”
  • “I’d like to surface something I heard earlier...”
  • “Hmmm...yes...and how do you recognize this in your work?”
  • “Let’s notice how...”
  • “Allow yourself to be surprised...”
  • “Research suggests (is telling us...)”
  • “Ah, I’m sorry, I did not explain that very well...”
  • “What I want you to do is..”
  • “Let’s be playful together!?

This list was started by a group of Applied Improvisation Network members after the 2012 conference.  [Paul Z Jackson, Rich Cox, Simo Routarinne, Janine Waldman, Liane Fredericks, Lief Hansen, Raymond van Driel and William Hall]

Please add your "Sh*t Improv Trainers Say" below.  Thanks.

Bringing improv into one to one coaching


cubicleOne minute you are sitting in your cube, checking your email. The next you hear a knock and all of sudden you are on a theater stage with a spot light glaring in your eyes and expected to perform. Now you wish you had taken at least one art or theater class in high school! This is what some clients might feel when you bring up improv games in a one on one coaching session. What I learned from the AIN conference session by Drew Tarvin was that there are the four main things to watch for:


It's easier to be part of or hide in a group. The experience of a one-on-one session is much more intimate and you need a higher level of trust for the client to be comfortable performing when all eyes (yours) are on them.  Take the time to build trust and always be prepared to keep the trust equal by playing along and contributing in the games as much as the client.


The way you approach building trust and what games you play will depend on if you have a single session or multiple sessions. Keeping games simple, light, and introducing the concept of celebrating risk or failure will help right off the bat. Taking the time to let trust build and not pushing too hard will pay off every time.


As the coach you have to operate on two levels - the improviser and the facilitator. You need to develop your split brain and maintain observation without interrupting your game. When it does happen, it's a great time to own that and model the celebration of taking risks.


Regardless of the exercise or coaching, be sure to clearly define the goals and understand how the activity is moving toward the goal. Many games are fun to play, and sometimes that is a goal for unblocking or building trust. Games can be used in different ways, make sure you know what you are trying to achieve.

What do you think?

Leave your thoughts in a comment below:

This is your brain on improv

brain and people

I partnered with Janet Crawford ( to present on the neuroscience that underlies improv! Some details can be found on the AIN website There is also discussion, chat, and other social network features on the website that allows you to connect with other coaches, facilitators, and improvisers.

Some of the highlights of the presentation are:

  • Improv addresses the natural tendencies of the brain that get in the way of innovation, collaboration and learning.
  • Improv and good health (sleep, diet, exercise, sunlight, social connection, altruistic gestures) can help you better cope with reactions to Fairness, Lack of choice, Uncertainty, Difference, and Status (FLUDS).
  • Improv helps our brain get used to dealing with FLUDS and we have fewer and less extreme reactions when confronted with them.
  • Neural rings are associate connections our brains make to any concept we are thinking. They can inhibit innovation and collaboration unless we warm our brains up to enable new connections of existing neural rings.
  • Making new neural ring connections is innovation!

Interested to find out more? Comment below or tell us by email.

AIN09 - 2 Improv Jam


Each year at the AIN conference there is an imrov jam where anyone from performers to people who have never done improv can get up and give it a try.  The opening reception on the first night (day of the pre-conference) was the evening for the jam. As a member of the programming committee, I volunteered to coordinate the improv Jam!

I wanted to find a way to include as many people as possible and at the same time give the performers a venue to play as well.

We started with some all-group activities led by Matt Weinstein (Playfair). Everyone was engaged and had fun, so much so that we were asked to quiet a bit to not disturb the diners in the restaurant. (Woo Hoo!)

We then moved on to some large group improv scenes.

  • String of Pearls
  • Speaking in one voice
  • Category Die

After the group scenes, we moved into scenework and games for anyone that wanted to try something.

The audience at this conference is amazingly supportive and wonderful and helped make the evening a great success as much as the 30-40 performers who got up and improvised.