Using Improv Techniques to Teach Managers Recognition Skills

Recently I co-facilitated a session at ASTD ICE 2008 (American Society for Training and Development’s International Conference and Exposition) on using improv techniques to teach managers recognition skills.

As a student of improv for nine years, I saw many correlations between the skills improvisers master and the skills managers need to learn.

For a number of years I have been incorporating a few improv games here and there into my training of managers. I have found that from CEO to team lead, from HR to IT, low risk improv games really help participants gauge their current skills in listening, verbal and non-verbal messages, encouraging open communication, etc. They go from conceptualizing good recognition skills to really internalizing and using those skills.

I decided the results from using these games was significant and worth sharing with the training community. I proposed Using Improv Techniques to Teach Managers Recognition Skills as a session for ASTD ICE 2008. I was thrilled when they said they were interested and terrified when they said I had to be prepared to run the session for 300 participants!

Improv for 300 people… I had adapted games before for groups of 300-600, but this wasn’t adapting games, it was running them pretty much the way they were intended for 2-20 people! But improv teaches us to say yes, so I said yes, and quickly contacted my troupe director, Alex Lamb, who also said yes!

The session was a smash hit. Everyone was laughing and learning, including our Japanese translator. We heard from people who said that “This was their conference wow session!” “Wish there were more sessions like this.” and “The best of the best.”

The session was so popular and there has been so much interest, that my only regret is that the session wasn’t taped.

So Alex and I have a offer.

If your organization wants to improve your managers’ ability to retain and engage employees and are willing to pay our travel and professionally record our session we will consider doing the session at no charge. We want this video for promotion purposes and will need unrestricted permission to use it from both the organization and participants. This is a one-time only offer, so if you are interested let me know as soon as possible!

Remember, life is one big improvisation!


By the way, here is a link to the handout:

And here is a conference brochure that lists the write up for our session under trends:

All the best,


3 Responses to “Using Improv Techniques to Teach Managers Recognition Skills”

  1. 1 Lynn Hunsaker June 18, 2008 at 3:49 pm

    I liked hearing about the rave reviews of the hands-on exercises. Involving recognition recipients in as many phases of the process as possible seems to have an exponential effect on their enthusiasm for the program. In my experience of designing and managing team recognition programs, we had great success by enabling teams to self-report their achievements and participate in the submittal and evaluation and awards processes. Now I’m glad to share my lessons learned with other companies as part of what does to enhance the momentum of all types of organizational initiatives. Hands-on involvement is really key.

  2. 2 sandrar September 10, 2009 at 2:27 pm

    Hi! I was surfing and found your blog post… nice! I love your blog. 🙂 Cheers! Sandra. R.

  1. 1 113 » Using Improv Techniques to Teach Managers Recognition Skills Trackback on June 18, 2008 at 12:12 pm
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My name is Cindy Ventrice. I am the author of the best-selling book Make Their Day! Employee Recognition That Works and the companion guide Recognition Strategies That Work.

My work has been quoted in The New York Times, Alaska Airlines Magazine, Workforce Magazine, and Tim Sanders' book The Likeability Factor.

Visit my website today!

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