On top of the excitement of having the entire Army of Awesome in one place for some quality team-bonding time, our mid-year retreat was all about reflecting on 1H 2019 and brainstorming on how we can take everything to the next level in the second half of the year. It was also our time to learn new skills and insights that we can apply to our daily work and grow as a leading technology public relations agency.
If you’ve followed our agency over the years, you know that we have a rockstar team that continuously drums out killer performances for our clients, but during our retreat, we took the stage in a different way.
We challenged ourselves to go beyond our comfort zones and try our hand at the art of improv. Despite all of the laughs, singing and silliness, there were three key takeaways that can help anyone become a better team player and even stronger public relations professionals.
1. The concept of ‘yes, and…’
‘Yes, and’ is a fundamental practice of improv. The basis of the concept is accepting a statement as truth then building out the concept further. For example:
Actor 1: It’s an absolutely beautiful day here in Atlanta.
Actor 2: Yes and it’s great weather to work outdoors.
Actor 1: Yes and maybe during lunch, we can take a brain break and walk along the Atlanta BeltLine!
As you can see, this practice is not only about making an improv scene flourish but applies to all aspects of our lives, especially when it comes to collaborating with team members on-the-job. For instance, if a teammate begins brainstorming on the latest client campaign, the ‘yes, and’ approach can help build out the concept as our actors did above with the brainstorm leader feeling totally empowered, supported and encouraged
2. Listen and learn
Within all of the laughs and panicked fumblings, our improv experience helped us build and explore what I believe is the most important skill in communication, the ability to listen. In the fast-paced world of technology public relations, our passion for what we do sometimes inhibits our listening skills. Let’s be real, who doesn’t get a kick out of being the first one to come up with that awesome creative idea?! 🙂 But as we all know, listening is fundamental in any relationship – whether it’s with a client, a coworker or your friend.
During improv, you have to listen to what the people around you are saying in order to spark creativity and respond in a stronger fashion. For example:
During the ARPR improv class, we were tasked to create a story by feeding off of our previous teammate’s narrative addition. If you weren’t listening to what was said before, the details could get lost and the storytelling would become incongruent.
In order for a public relations team to succeed, we have to openly communicate and listen to one another. So, the next time you’re in a meeting and discussing your team’s creative client venture, I challenge you all to listen for the first 10-15 minutes to what is being said and grow your ideas from there. Collaboration is always more powerful, and listening is a cornerstone to collaborating effectively.
3. Have the confidence to improvise
It’s human nature to want to stick to a plan and power through, but in life, whether in the office or at home, change is inevitable. The final lesson learned from improv class is how to positively respond to change.
In improvisation, there are always twists and turns and scenarios that unexpectedly come about but as public relations professionals, this is where we must shine. Whether it’s a new regulation that affects your client or a piece of news that breaks unexpectedly, we as tech PR pros have to be able to think on our feet and have the confidence to improvise when it matters. For example:
As the ARPR team was building from one another’s story additions during the exercise, we would start with a solid but broad topic, like “there was an old woman who lived in a shoe.” The moment the topic was said, it was only natural to formalize a piece of the story that you thought would help the topic along (i.e. she thought she could use some air freshener). But, as the story continued and unexpected twists were made, (the woman’s car broke down so she was unable to get to the store to buy it) your planned thought had to change. When it was your turn to finally speak, you could either panic and say what you had planned, even if it was irrelevant to the story, or you could adapt and continue the story with ease.
Change happens all of the time and we can either shy away from it and miss opportunities by being too calculated, OR we can improvise a scenario and work from a new plan based on our training, previous experience and a little help from colleagues. In order to continue to PRopel what’s possible, we must embrace change enthusiastically, but more importantly, we must encourage and drive it.
Whether it’s building on ideas from your teammates or having the courage to improvise when it counts, we believe that if we all strive to be our best and grow from the lessons we learn, collectively we’ll be unstoppable. Want to be part of a technology PR agency where everyone is greeted with support, encouragement and opportunity? Visit our careers page to see if our openings are a fit for you.