Have your work projects been stalled? How to have effective meetings with this one key from improv

You’re hosting your team meeting and you’ve got everything prepared. You need your team’s input to move a project forward. 

But when you start to present, you feel like everyone is just trying to find problems with what you’re saying. 

Ideas deviate in all different directions. None of them offer any steps or solutions your project needs to meet its deadline.

You wish you could get your team on the same page fast. You want to keep the meeting and this project on track…

If this is you, then let me tell you, I have been there. 

At a previous job, many of my colleagues were nervous about criticism when presenting at team meetings. As a result, projects sometimes felt like they moved at a snail’s pace. 

However, I learned to present in a way that got people to lean in rather than tune out. We went from exasperated to engaged. Post-meeting, team members would congratulate me.

Do you want to know my secret to success?

I achieved effective meetings using the fundamental improv concept of yes, and.

What is yes, and?

At its core, yes, and is about acknowledging an idea offered by another person, and then building on that idea. 

For example, imagine me and another improviser stepping out onto the stage during a show. I turn to my partner and say:

“OK Susie, it’s time for your bath and then off to bed.”

If my partner responds with the following:

“I don’t know any Susie. I’m a vampire and I’m hungry! I’m going to suck your blood!”

Well, the audience and I might be a bit confused, wondering what this scene is about.

This scene might not work because my partner seemingly derailed it by disregarding the idea I offered up about the responsible adult and a child named Susie.

How to get your meeting back on track

During the team meetings I lead at my former workplace, people would still criticize what I was saying. But instead of taking it as an attack, I used my yes, and skills to acknowledge it.

The core concept of “yes, and” is about acknowledging what another person has offered. In improv, you practice acknowledging and building on different ideas. You can then choose to do this when it makes sense in your work and life, like moving projects forward.

At one team meeting, I was presenting a pilot project we had been working on at one of our locations. It was a group program for our clients. 

At that time, we wanted clients to register for the group in advance to attend. Upon sharing this at the meeting, one of my colleagues completely disagreed. They offered the opposite idea of having the group be a drop-in as this may decrease barriers to client participation.

Their rationale was valid! It just didn’t align with what we were trying to measure in the pilot project at that time.

So instead of letting that completely derail the track I was on, I acknowledged the idea and built upon it:

Yes, that is a great point. And a drop-in group is something we can run as a trial. If you want to run a drop-in group as a trial at your location, then we can compare both methods and decide what works best for us and our clients.”

Let’s go back to the onstage example from before with the idea of a mom and a girl named Susie. If the scene is derailed by the “vampire” idea, I can still yes, and by acknowledging this offer:

Yes Susie, I know you’d rather play vampire horror film right now. And you can do that in the bathtub… where the water has turned to blooooooood!!”

This honestly makes for a more interesting scene just like building on my past colleague’s criticism made for better considerations in our pilot program.

Move toward effective meetings

In improv, there’s this idea that if my job is to make everyone else on my team look good, and that’s also the job of everyone else on the team, then we will all always look good 🙂 

Yes, and is one way you and your team can all look good together.

I know you value your team. And here at the Improv Embassy, we do more than just make you look good. 

We elevate your team, build confidence, and create space for those valuable ideas and offers.

Do you want this for your team? 

The Improv Embassy offers workplace workshops to reignite, reconnect and reenergize your team:

  • Bring together team members who work remotely or who have not met in person.
  • Move forward a project, inspire creative problem-solving.
  • Celebrate a win, a colleague, or the end of a big project!

All you have to do is say “yes,” to this idea “andsend us a message! We will get this project moving forward for you ASAP.

Krystal Merrells

Corporate Liaison

The Improv Embassy