Improv and Public Speaking- A Beautiful Pair

Your palms are sweaty, knees weak, arms are heavy, there’s vomit on your sweater already, mom’s spaghetti, you’re nervous but on the surface you look calm and ready


The intern anthem before a presentation right? Not anymore! Essentially, this internship is one giant group project -- except it’s the kind where you can’t pick your partners. Luckily, HLK did a fantastic job, and we’re all working together like a well-oiled machine. Over the course of the session , we give four presentations: two practice pitches, in front of eight (or so) mentors, and two final pitches in front of approximately 25 HLK employees. Needless to say, this was a bit intimidating at first.  

However, we realized that a little practice , and an embrace of the mantra “they’re just people, too” we could totally handle it. At the end of the day, you’re presenting your own ideas that you worked tirelessly to perfect, so there’s no need to be nervous.

Last week, we got to spend a lunch doing something an average internship would never do. We did improv with a HLK employee who has mastered the art. Similar to Whose Line Is It Anyway, (if you didn’t watch this in the early ‘00s you have some serious catching up to do) 

we played some simple games to get used to improvisation. He explained that improv can actually help a lot with public speaking and group work, because it’s all about feeding off each other and going with the flow. At first, we looked like awkward goofballs. But with encouragement and a positive attitude, we morphed into slightly less awkward goofs (and learned some lessons along the way).

Some of his tips:

  • For brainstorms: say yes. Go along with an idea, and build off of it. No one in improv just stops the flow and goes “Eh no that’s all wrong.” The same should go for brainstorming. To further ideas, say the boldest thought on your mind and your team can help take that and tweak it by saying “yes, but what about this…” in order to expand the thought.

  • For presentations: body language is key. Sometimes you need a little backup during presentations. Avoid the awkwardness by practicing simple changes in body language, so your team members know you need some help. And hey, eye contact goes a long way.

    • Also, exude confidence!  Retire the words “like” and “uh,” because you know this stuff! Ever heard of “fake it til’ you make it?” It works. If you just act like you’ve got it going on, you’ll probably be a poised speaker.

Those are just a few tips that we learned from a great day doing improv. Hopefully we’ll use these to present a fantastic final pitch Thursday! Who knew we’d be playing improv games and getting Jimmy Johns catered in on a random lunch break...again guys, internship goals.