by Jules Munns

You might expect that people who do improv are very confident, but this is not always the case! Many people come to improv for confidence. They come because they are shy, quiet, or introverted. They come to improv not to get rid of this part of themselves, but to learn how to be confident when it matters. I started doing improv at drama school because we had improv classes and I hated them. They made me terrified, and panicky. I often couldn’t sleep the night before. So when another student started an improv group, I joined to see what I could learn about myself.

Improv confidence is about being in unstable situations where (and this is the important bit) there are no real stakes. If an improv scene goes well or badly, it has no long-term consequences on your life. You improve your confidence, with no real risk. Win-win! That doesn’t mean you will never feel pressure, but a lack of real consequences means you can practice how you respond to it. 

Because doing improv well is not about being loud, or funny, or taking control. It’s about being comfortable doing none of those things. Improv is about being quietly confident. It’s about being comfortable in your own skin, taking in and processing information, and standing by the choices that you make. Knowing your choices are never perfect, but curious to see what happens next. Embracing that leads to confidence. Indeed, that’s pretty much the title of our Level 1 class – ‘Let’s just see what happens’.

Here are five improv principles that will help your confidence:

  1. Concentrate on your partner. If you place your attention on your partner, you don’t even need to be confident. Make them look great, and add to what they are saying. Generosity makes good scenes. 
  2. Be obvious. It sounds counter-intuitive, but aiming for originality can make you nervous and stifle your creativity (check out this blog here). In improv classes, we teach people to just add the next tiny things and see where you end up. It’s often not where you expect.
  3. Let go of control. If you are playing a scene with another person, you only control half the scene, maybe even less. Recognising this can be very freeing. Just do what you can do and enjoy the ride.
  4. Discard your plans. Few things in improv (or in life) go exactly to plan. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t make a plan, just that we shouldn’t hold too tightly to it. It’s only a plan, after all.
  5.  Say yes. In unfamiliar situations, we often protect ourselves by saying ‘no’. We hold back and assess, criticising before we even know what is happening. In improv, we shift this suspicion to curiosity, saying ‘yes’ and seeing what happens.

Interested? Come try one of our budget-friendly regular drop-in classes, a free taster session, or take the plunge with our Level 1a, especially for those who have never done any performance before.