Improv with Jennine Profeta

My first blog interview is with Jennine Profeta, actor, improviser, writer, MC/host and improv instructor. I know Jennine personally; she is a joy to be around and will uplift any group! Jennine's work offers even more than what is outlined below. Laughter, vulnerability and peer connection help teams become raw and real. This type of event definitely brings out the best in its attendees!

Improv Workshops Background

Jennine has over ten years experience teaching adult improv acting classes as well as facilitating and designing custom corporate workshops that use improv to hone team-building, leadership and communication skills. Jennine has taught for The Second City, The Social Capital Theatre as well as a number of events organizations; past clients have included Meridian, Google, Shopify, the TVA Group and CIBC. Most recently, Jennine has been leading women's "im-powerment" workshops for the annual Women in Leadership and Business Conference and Rustic Mama Retreats.

What exactly is improv?

Improv is, essentially, working without a script. It follows a few codes of conduct, otherwise it's about filling in the empty spaces with your own authenticity and two cents.

Why should our company hold an improv workshop?

You should hold an improv workshop cuz they're AWESOME!!! and life-changing. I used to think of improv as an acting technique, but it was when I was teaching beginner classes @ The Second City Training Centre (Toronto) I'd ask students on the first day why they were taking improv (as part of our introductory, get-to-know-each-other-while-trying-to-allay-fear) - I was always surprised by the number that said they were taking it (or told to take it) for work purposes. Some were told they needed to work on presentation skills, others confidence. And often they were the best students to teach - they were terrified because this was so often out of their comfort zone, yet they had the best insights into why the exercises were working for them.

Fast forward to my teaching for The Second City corporate division (known as Second City Works) where standard, introductory exercises were taught to teach team-building, leadership and communication skills. I can't tell you how many people I saw go from sheer terror to blossoming flowers within seconds just by putting themselves out there, trusting the exercises (and us) and being given permission to play.

Can you suggest appropriate types of events where it makes sense to hold an improv workshop?

To date I've taught Lunch & Learns (one hour sessions where we focus on a particular topic such as sales technique). I'm also brought in a lot to do off-sites - I recently led a workshop for a leadership team from Meridian to kick off their day, while Questrade has twice had me wrap up/shake off their day with a fun session that included cocktails. The annual Women in Leadership & Business Conference in the Niagara region has me do their meet & greets to help attendees get to know one another and shift into conference mode. Basically that's the beauty of improv - it can be adapted to a business' need while providing value and a memorable experience (especially when wine is involved ;) )

Have you received feedback from former clients, noting any improvements with their employees?

Absolutely! Most often attendees, as well as clients, post-workshop, talk about their new found ability to break patterns and think in a new way. One of the tenets of improv is the principle of Yes And, a concept most workshops are built around. Many people's fallbacks are "no" or "yes but" thinking - that we shoot down an idea rather than give it a chance to breathe and see where it leads. But when we say "Yes And" we open up a whole new realm of possibilities ("Yes" opens us up to agreement, to finding a way to work together, while "and..." provides an opportunity to add our two cents so that we're not just being doormats or robots in a conversation). Yes And thinking opens the door to creativity and abundant thinking as well as more open, risk-taking relationships with our colleagues. It's a technique we practice in the workshop, discuss the value of and look for ways they can take it back into their day-to-day work world.

How do we sell this idea to our employees and ensure all embrace the experience?

Offer wine - kidding!!!! Most people have heard of The Second City or Whose Line Is It Anyway? on TV so it's easy to give them a visual of what to expect, although the idea of doing it can be terrifying. The beauty of corporate improv workshops today is that so many of the business schools are now including improv in their masters programs (Stanford is one I heard of when Branksome Hall all-girls private school brought us in to do a workshop with their staff prior to the school year after the principal did a workshop there as part of a summer learning program; also led a workshop for the summer interns at Kraft Heinz in July 2018 - many were masters students who'd done the exercises as part of their masters programs in California, etc.) At the moment I also work with The Social Capital Theatre who's corporate division, Yes Unlimited, has an ongoing relationship leading workshops for business students at the University of Toronto.

You can contact Jennine directly for bookings, or we can incorporate Jennine's services into a larger event, booked with Ashbee Events.