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.