Improv Expert Rita Ritvin Shares 3 Improv Exercises That Can Make You a Better Entrepreneur

You need a lot of skills in your arsenal to be a successful entrepreneur. And being able to hold a great conversation is one of them. That’s where improv skills can come in handy. Labs mentor Rita Ritvin, improv expert, held a Labs workshop all about using improv exercises to boost your essential entrepreneurial skills. Here are a few exercises to try with your team or fellow members, and how they can benefit you.

The exercise: Yes, and

How it works: This classic improv exercise involves “standing in a circle, and someone starts by turning to the person to their right or left and giving a statement,” Ritvin says. “You could say something like, ‘You wore those shoes today because you thought you were going to have an important meeting.’ And the person you said that to has to start their response with ‘Yes and.’ Like, ‘Yes and I also put this shirt on because I thought my boss would see me.’ And so on and so on around the circle.”

The benefit for entrepreneurs: First, it sharpens your listening skills. “You don’t know what the person next to you is going to say, so you have to pay attention,” Ritvin says. It also forces you to think on your feet, because you need to come up with a response that makes sense based on what the other person said. “The nature of the game also teaches you not to cut people off, which is important for entrepreneurs and for being in the business world in general,” Ritvin says. Lastly, you’re going to meet and need to build connections with many different people as an entrepreneur, and this game helps you learn how to communicate and form connections with people quickly, Ritvin says, because you’re creating some immediate common ground with the other people in the circle by agreeing with what they’ve said and elaborating on it.

The exercise: Half-life

How it works: Two people get up in front of the group (or on their own) and are given “a word of inspiration or a scene to act out,” Ritvin says. “When 60 seconds are up, the person giving them direction tells them to do the same thing, but in 30 seconds this time. Then 15 seconds.”

The benefit for entrepreneurs: This game hones your speaking skills because it “forces you to get rid of all of the ums and ahs and come up with better, more effective words,” Ritvin says. “It also helps you feel more comfortable letting your words flow,” because you only have so much time to get your point across. This is particularly useful when you’re crafting your elevator pitch, Ritvin says, which needs to be short, sweet, and to the point.

The exercise: First letter, last letter

How it works: Two people get up in front of the group and begin to act out a scene. After the first person says a sentence, “the other person has to start their reply using the last letter of the previous sentence,” Ritvin says. (If the first sentence ended with the word “home”, the next person needs to start their sentence with a word that begins with “e.”) And it continues until the caller calls it. You can also play this in larger groups, where every person in the group has to start their sentence with a word that begins with the last letter in the last word of the sentence that came before them.  

The benefit for entrepreneurs: This one is all about listening and avoiding the bad practice of waiting for your turn to talk rather than really listening. “Often when we start a conversation, we already know what we want to say or we have a joke we want to get in,” Ritvin says. “When you do that, you don’t really give that person a chance to talk. In this game, if you’re not listening, you won’t be able to continue the game.” Truly listening to the person you’re talking to and reacting to what they say isn’t just an important life skill—it’s key to having productive conversations with mentors, advisors, and investors, too.

Learn more about entrepreneurship.

This post is based on content from a WeWork Labs programming session.

Interested in connecting directly with this mentor? Ask your Labs Manager for help.

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