Sunday, February 23, 2014

Improv at Camp

I had a great weekend at South Florida ProductCamp.  I led a session: the 7 Lessons of Improv and how it helped me as a product manager.  Unexpectedly I was able to utilize some of my improv skills in other ways during the course of the day.

One of the lessons from my session is “Don’t Prepare”.  Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth – Mike Tyson.  When I started to hook up my computer to the overhead connector thingy – I noticed my slides were not displaying on the screen in the room.  It was showing the slides of the person in the next room over.  After 5-10 minutes of the product camp team trying to get the overhead to work correctly – I elected to go ahead without my slides on the overhead and with someone else’s slides displaying.  Had this happened in the past, I might have freaked out a little (ok – more than a little) because things weren’t going to plan. Not only was my supporting material not showing – but I was already 10 minutes behind.  It ended up being a great session.  Rather then rush my speaking, I skipped a little of my content to keep everything on track. The participants still had fun (we played story story die), and it was kind of neat when the other person’s slides supported what I was talking about in my session.  It turns out the slides do not matter that much if you know your topic and can keep the audience engaged in other ways. Which leads me to PowerPoint Karaoke...

The last session of the day was PowerPoint Karaoke.  A 300+ slide deck with random pictures and words on them.  Session participants volunteer to present for 90 seconds using those random slides to the audience. I learned the hard way – don’t be the last person to enter the session.  Due to my tardiness, the session leader (Jennifer Doctor) had me be the first one up and present.  During this session I was able to leverage another lesson from improv - to say “yes and”.  In improv not only should you not negate your partner but you need to justify whatever they just said (as random as it may be). This is a perfect skill for PowerPoint Karaoke.  I was able to deliver a presentation to the slides that appeared because I was able to relate whatever appeared to my topic. I’ve become used to thinking quickly and connecting seemingly unrelated ideas to each other.  My slides included: a burning car, a graph, a dinosaur, a light bulb, a globe and a bunch of smilie faces.

Both things supported how relevant the lessons learned in improv can help your skills both professionally and personally.

Overall a great day at camp.  I was able to meet some new people in the S FL product community, reconnect with old friends and learn from other sessions. Looking forward to ProductCamp Atlanta this summer!


  1. You rock, Kellie. Can I just say, "told you so!"

  2. you made the slide mishap part of the worked great! i think this was the best i've seen you - a crisp clean message that was relevant, delivered in a fun way that was engaging. yep, you absolutely rocked it!