Marketing results for ambitious businesses

Up Shit Creek without a paddle

How does it feel when you've just let go of the trapeze only to find there is no safety net?

Driving to a recent pitch meeting, I mentally rehearsed the key messages I wanted to get across. I had made a short video to illustrate some creative ideas; and I had three simple, trusty slides to demonstrate how to develop strategy and manage plans through to implementation. I was a bit nervous, not a bad thing, but I felt OK. I knew my stuff, I was well-prepared.

Trouble is, meetings don't always go as planned.

Shock1The future is unwritten

At the last moment my contact was called away from the meeting. Instead I met two unfamiliar senior managers. It dawned on me that my preparation was out the window.

My new hosts were welcoming and bright but—while they knew why I was in the room—they were deputising and not truly briefed. 

I suppose the rug was pulled from under all three of us.

Their questions were ‘left field’, unsettling and probing. My planned pitch was a distant memory. I was under intense pressure, with no road map, and it was crucial that I didn’t crumble. In short, I had to improvise.

Improvisation is about having no safety net, right?

Luckily my friend and neighbour John Nicholson has shared some business improvisation magic with me. He’s an award-winning producer, director and writer, and has brought improvisation skills from theatre practise and cleverly adapted them to the world of business.

I learnt from him that at the heart of successful improvisation lies the ability to listen, accept and make offers; and I have recently been developing those specific skills, just like you’d train a muscle. The benefits of such improvisation training are extensive but boil down to being agile when the pressure is on.   

That day in an unfamiliar office with people I’d not met I needed to:

  1. LISTEN: and distill the real meanings behind what I was being asked
  2. ACCEPT: that I was on an unknown journey with strangers; why shouldn’t it be interesting, challenging and exciting?
  3. MAKE OFFERS: to interpret what I was being asked, weigh up my options and present ideas that chimed with their aspirations.

I think all three of us in that meeting were ‘on the spot’ but we had good fun dealing with it!

I have been impressed with John Nicholson’s ability to re-tune his unique improvisation skills for a business audience. So much so that I have formed a new venture with him: Business Improvers. Business improvisation training gave me a lifeline, and now its learnable secrets—which are behind some exciting innovations in companies big and small—can be yours, too.

Watch 1-minute videos explaining how improvisation skills benefit business.

If you’d like to discuss marketing and your business please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Tags: Sales