This blog is the journey of Lorenc Consulting and Entertainment as we continue to encourage creativity and innovation by using the concepts of improv comedy in everyday life. Any kind of group or organization can benefit from our improv-based corporate training, focusing on team-building, hyper listening and communication skills, and thinking on your feet.

Improv Comedy versus Stand Up Comedy: Different Worlds of Funny

by Toby Lorenc

I can't tell you how many times I've told someone that I do improv comedy and their mind immediately snaps to images and assumptions of stand up comedy. The first response is amazement because very few people want to get up on a stage and have the pressure of entertaining an audience. But as we talk about it more, they make statements like:

"Maybe you can do your routine for us later"

"You should use that in your material"

"Tell us some of your jokes"

(HINT: All these statements would be more adequately directed at a stand up comic).

At first it annoyed me a bit that very few people knew about this art of improv comedy. But the more I've shared it with people over the 10+ years I've been doing it, the more satisfaction there is an educating an audience ready for entertainment of the world of improvisational comedy. So, here's a basic break down of the differences.

STAND UP COMEDY:

There's often a friendly banter between stand up comics and improv comics, often the comics arguing that the OTHERS art is harder to perform. For instance, I have never done stand up comedy and I can't imagine I would be that great at it. Although I can write, writing a humorous dialog that I later have to recite is not my idea of fun. I have decent timing (something that is crucial for a stand up comic), but mine tends to come naturally and practicing to place it in the right spot wouldn't be my forte. A stand up comics jokes, tone, character and even staging can often be an exact and careful process which requires hours of brainstorming, writing rehearsing, re-writing, performing, some victories and some failures on stage, which lead to starting the cycle over again. Stand up comedy is basically a small play they have written and performed - a one man show.

This also means that if you are in the regular comic track of your city, following the comedians from venue to venue as they perform, you're going to hear a lot of the same material and see a lot of the same comics. It's part of the process - they have to try new jokes, practice their current ones, and wrap it into a neat and fluid set. Certainly, some stand up comics will mix in some improv as well, heckling the audience, making up a song, or ranting on some bit the audience seems to enjoy but for the most part it's a brilliantly scripted play.

IMPROV COMEDY:

Some joke (myself included) that improv actors are the lazy ones - we didn't write anything, barely prepared anything, don't have to memorize anything, and if something goes wrong we don't have to do anything about it. It's true, and it's part of the reason improv found a place in my heart quickly. I had done theater in high school and college and it wore me out memorizing lines, repetitive rehearsals, and the same show every night. The first time I did improv, I knew I had found my niche in acting.

Improvisational comedy at its finest is taking a suggestion from the audience and then a team working together to create an amazing story, dealing with the unexpected and justifying their decisions. There are many variations and tweaks that change how this looks for instance one-man improv, long form (extended scenes) versus short form (typically more gimmicky games), but the roots are making it all up on the spot. If you're not sure what to do next, the audience is typically very forgiving (much more than if you're alone on the stage as a stand up comic), plus you have a team of people who can incorporate their ideas. 

Off stage, typically the only preparation is learning the structure of the various games and planning a basic schedule of which games will be played for a show. Personally, I think one of the most important ways an improv actor can prepare is spend time off stage with his other actors. Getting to know each other, how they'll react, what they'll provide, and how that blends with you is a crucial skill in an improv team. Improv can be a very personal view into the actors life and psyche, because we're taught there's truth in comedy. That means, the more real and the more experiences we can incorporate into a scene, the more potential enjoyment and connection there is with the audience.


Although some improv actors are also stand up comics, I would say there's a small percentage that do both and especially who do both well. The skill set is very different, although either can be taught and learned. We're all comedians, actors, performers, and entertainers. Most of us picked our craft for a reason and now you'll be able to distinguish which type of comedian you're talking to.



Learn stand up comedy from the pros

by Toby Lorenc

So you're funny, your friends laugh at your jokes and you think you might have a career in improv or comedy?!? Perfect, take the next step and get yourself some training in the areas that interest you.

You can take improv classes to learn how to think on your feet, create content on the spot, and be in the moment. Many of these skills are basic skills we use everyday, but it's not until you understand and are aware of how to hone these skills that you'll truly succeed.  Enroll yourself in an improv class, read some of the great books on improv comedy, and perhaps even join an improv group to get real life practice.

Likewise, if you want to hone you skills as a stand up comic, there are similarities but a different set of skills and learning must also come into play. With stand up comedy, you're on the stage alone.  You don't have a team of people helping you, so it's crucial that you know how to create and write content and jokes that will help you succeed by getting the big laughs quickly. In order to have a killer stand-up routine, you have to learn the pitfalls and the tricks to writing and performing great comedy. Here's a great resource to get you started. You can review 5 lessons for FREE: http://tinyurl.com/standuplessons


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Dear Cell Phone Please Remember This Moment

by Toby Lorenc
 

Our cell phones provide us with a quick connection to others, give us access to a world of information and bring conveniences to life we couldn't have even imagined just a decade ago. But what are we losing with this ever-changing technology? 

Are avid picture takers filtering their lives? 
Some good friends of mine are avid photo snappers no matter what we're doing: a lunch in the park, a concert at our favorite local venue, beers at a brewery...it doesn't matter. They love taking pictures with their cell phones. Lots of pictures. After they capture a multitude of random shots, it's now a project of doctoring up the photos with filters and color options, deciding the best social networks to post them on, figuring out the absolutely best captions to peak the interest of their friends and get the most "Likes". I often get frustrated and I finally figured out why it bothers me so much: I just want to experience the moment.   

Experience the moment, it's right in front of you
There is constantly a beautiful world in front of me and all around me! Why would i want to cram it into a small window when I have a 360 degree view to take it all in, tap into all my senses and form amazing memories that are strongly connected to emotions and feelings which I can carry with me as a life experience. Don't get me wrong, I do take pictures but I don't need to my phone to remember it for me. Rather I want to be in the moment and never miss a detail because I'm trying to decide on the best caption or tag my friends in a photo of the experience directly in front of me. I'll often take a few photos and post them later when I'm back home or not in the moment I want to enjoy. The same is true with improv comedy. Being in the moment is a crucial skill when you're on stage, and it's true for all of us in everyday life. If we are distracted by something that is directly pulling us away from the here and now, we're missing important details. These may be comments from others, changes in our environment, or subtleties that can easily and quickly be missed. Not to mention the barriers you're putting up by stubbornly doing your own thing and capitalizing the moment with your own agenda.  Sure, that may sound strong, but for my sake, take the opportunity to enjoy and engage in the moment in front of you. And I promise, you don't need your phone to do it.



Customer Service At Its Best

by Toby Lorenc

Customer service and client relations are key to any organization. But your team needs to be trained, prepared, and then trained again for what may come.

The truth is there will always be surprises and challenges in a customer service role. So equipping your frontliners is crucial in several areas:


LISTENING

Simply, you must take time to hyperlisten to customer needs and complaints. Let the customer talk, complain, and voice their opinions so you can collect crucial data on the elements that need to be resolved.


DEALING WITH OBSTACLES

As a former real estate agent, I became a pro at dealing with obstacles.  When a buyer walks into a home and comments, "I couldn't live with this carpet color, let's go" I was quick to say, "What if I paid to have the carpet replaced?" Now, you start hearing if there are other objections that can't be solved.


COMMON SENSE

I'm a firm believer that you need customer service reps that have common sense. It's a hard skill to train, but finding the right team with this gift and giving them the power to make decisions on the spot is key to a successful interaction.


EXECUTING A SOLUTION

Not only is it important to agree on and articulate a solution, the follow up is even more important.  Give your teams the tools and resources to create, manage, and execute a plan that will provide an optimal solution for the customer.


The company relies on this crucial department of customer service. Reward, train, encourage, and train again.  As the face and voice of your organization, your customer service team plays one of the most important roles in your success.


Creating Great Ideas - Part 1

by Toby Lorenc

We do it everyday: come up with ideas. Some of them we carry through with, some are merely daydreams and hopes, but regardless of how we implement these ideas there was a process to create them in the first place.


Many people feel like they hit a wall when they're forced to come up with ideas. The sudden pressure of having to contribute and provide something substantive that others won't ridicule can be daunting.


But never fear - there are ways to get past mental road blocks and challenges with idea generation. 


Creating Great Ideas Using Experiences 

Your mind and life are full of past things you've experienced. Let's use the beach as an example. Not all of us have been to the beach (personal experience) but you still know plenty about the beach. You've seen the beach in movies like JAWS and TV shows like Baywatch (some of you weren't paying attention to the beach because of other distractions). Your friends have told you about the beach, you've read books about the beach, seen commercials about the beach, played video games with beaches incorporated into the game (like that awesome driving game from the 1980's OutRun), and maybe you've even had dreams about beaches. 


So, if someone asked you, "How can we make beaches better?" you have a rich history of experiences to pull from and come up with solid ideas. You know enough to talk about beaches and find solutions to this problem, or at very least generate ideas.


Or, if you're planning your first vacation to the beach, you now have a pretty broad base of ideas for what  you'll want to do when you're there. But what if it's something you've never experienced in any way? What if the knowledge simply doesn't exist in your head? 


See Great Ideas Part 2 for tools and resources outside of your own knowledge.



Keeping customers from buying one obstacle at a time

by Toby Lorenc

Alright, here it is: I've been frustrated lately with companies putting obstacles in front of me to keep me from buying their products.  Why are they making it so hard for me to give them my money?

Can you think of examples: companies that are company-focused instead of customer-focused?  Let's ignite our thinking a bit in the corporate world and instead of considering "what's easiest for the company?" considering "what's easiest for the customer!"

Let me give you a few examples that have frustrated me lately.

1) Buying a watch.  I see these amazing, colorful watches at some of the major department stores and even independent retailers.  Wow! What a great accessory - I'm ready to buy!....but I want to try it on, just to make sure it fits on my wrist and to look at it in the mirror.  Right? Nope, sorry.  The watch is beautifully displayed in a box and tethered to the container like a captured criminal.  Good luck removing the security bands holding it tightly to the display box, and if you do, you'll probably go down for shoplifting.  Weren't they trying to sell this watch or is it just for me to look at as a branding effort for the watch company?

2) Buying Dress shirts (guys, you know what I mean): Go to any of the major department stores and the dress shirts are neatly packed into plastic wrap, needles, tissue paper, and cardboard supports to give them the appearance of ... I'm not sure, but I can't try them on.  Some stores even go as far to put up signs, "Please do not remove shirts from packaging."  Has anyone done studies on this?  How much more likely would consumers be to purchase dress shirts if they could actually see and feel how fitted, soft, long, luxurious, etc. these products are as boasted on the packaging?

3) Employee work day: Welcome to the retail world.  It's a necessity - stores have to set up displays, do visual merchandising, and create sales and specials that attract customers so they can sell the product.  But, if I'm standing in the store looking for someone to help me and you're so busy "creating things that will attract customers" that you lose sight of what's right in front of you, there's a problem.  I'm an interested customer who chose to walk into your store, and will walk right back out after 10 minutes of you being to busy to help me.

My point is not to complain - my point is to make you think how your company is creating obstacles for your customers.  Whether you're a non-profit collecting donations online, or a brick-and-mortar retailer, consider your customers perspective. Forget what you've been told about "how to do things." Stop asking "What is the easiest way to do it" and start asking "What makes it easiest for our customer" and ultimately results in revenue and value to your clients.


Generate your own fresh ideas on the spot

by Toby Lorenc

As improv actors, we're frequently having to come up with fresh ideas based on the suggestions given to us by the audience. So how do we quickly think of stories and scenes using these suggestions? There are really 3 simple categories from which you get information:


1) Experience - you've been through something personally. It could be a situation with an annoying neighbor, or a probing from an alien.  Either way, you know first hand what it feels like, tastes like, looks like, smells like, sounds like, etc. 


2) Knowledge - you heard it, read it, saw it, and know it for some reason. It's book knowledge over real-life experience.  Although it is possible to gain knowledge from an experience, the two don't always go hand-in-hand.


3) Creation - you have nothing to base it on and you're truly making it up on the spot


So, which do you think is the most powerful source to use when creating a story? And which is the quickest way to inspire a fresh idea?  


Our answer: whenever you can tap into your emotions and personal experiences, you're going to access much richer and long-lasting content.




The Benefits of Corporate Team Building Events

by Toby Lorenc

The Benefits of Corporate Team Building Events

Corporate team building events can bring staff closer together and can enhance employee engagement levels dramatically. They can encourage staff to interact and communicate even when they have barely liaised with one another before, and can heighten staff morale levels, making your staff happier and ultimately more productive. Corporate event entertainment can be excellent when it comes to team building, and by putting on an unforgettable, magical event for your staff you can show them that their efforts are appreciated and reward them for their hard work. Your event can incorporate games and other activities that can help staff work together in a fun and interactive way, and can underline the importance of teamwork at the same time.

Promoting Interaction

Whether you’re booking Christmas party entertainment or putting on an event at any other time of year, the acts that you book can nurture interaction and participation, making everyone feel like they are part of the occasion. In a more relaxed environment, staff can give feedback about how they feel about their workplace, what makes them happy and what can be improved. The slate is blank when it comes to business event planning, and you can be as creative as you like. A fun corporate event can nurture job satisfaction, allowing staff to feel wanted and part of a happy and productive team.

Better Team Building Activities

Your event can include a mix of team-building exercises, brainstorming sessions and role-play, and there’s surely no better way to round off an event than offering up great food, drink and entertainment. If people that rarely communicate with each other interact with each other at an event, they can take their new-found friendship back to the office afterwards.  A corporate event can make your team more closely knit, and enable them to focus better on common goals. Team building activities at corporate events can establish new groups and break down the barriers between existing ones.

Booking Christmas Party Entertainment?

Meanwhile, when it comes to corporate event entertainment, your options really are vast, but it can be an idea to ask your team about what does and doesn’t appeal to them to avoid alienating them. If your staff are bored at a corporate event, you may find that the results bear little resemblance to what you were targeting. Ask for suggestions and you’ll get a better idea of which kind of live entertainment might appeal, whether they’re interested in something conventional such as a live band or a comedian, or perhaps something more outlandish such as a stilt walker, fire eater or even a life like dinosaur – a surprisingly common sight at some of today’s corporate parties. You may find it easier to book entertainment through an agency rather than going alone, as the acts booked this way are typically vetted and of extremely high quality. This takes much of the risk away from booking event entertainment, ensuring that the performers themselves are of a higher calibre. 


Improv classes starting August 2013

by Toby Lorenc
Comedy Improvisational Classes in Colorado Springs

Ever wanted to learn how the world of improv comedy works?  Believe it or not, there are ways to learn and practice the art of comedy improvisation. As a Colorado improv native, Toby Lorenc will lead this 4-week workshop and help you understand that anyone can do improv comedy when you let go of your fears and trust others!

Purchase tickets today - classes start the first Tuesday in August!


SWOT some sense into it

by Toby Lorenc

Ever feel confused where to go next with potential opportunities?  Try the SWOT analysis: a quick and easy way to evaluate new programs, ideas, and strategies.


During a strategic meeting today, the leadership team was dropping the phrase, "We should do a SWOT on that" and our admin assistant finally asked me what the hell they were talking about. I'm glad she asked the question - and it made me realize there are some incredibly effective techniques for dealing with new opportunities that many people are not familiar with.


Do you know what SWOT stands for?  It's okay if you don't - you're here to learn.  SWOT is an acronym (that's a word where each letter represents a word - wow, you're learning all kinds of stuff today! including some terrible grammar and punctuation from this blog post!). Anyway, it stands for STRENGTHS, WEAKNESSES, OPPORTUNITIES, and THREATS (S.W.O.T.).  As you work with it, keep in mind that typically the 1st two (strengths and weaknesses) are typically internal to the team or organization, the 2nd two are usually external (outside of the company, team or organization).


Here's an example, which hits close to home and is totally transparent:


  • Lorenc Consulting and Entertainment wants to launch corporate training to companies worldwide, using the concepts of improv comedy:
  • (S) STRENGTHS:
  • * We've been doing it for 8 years
  • * Whenever we do it, we get rave reviews
  • * We can customize the training for groups and companies
  • * Our trainers are very knowledgeable on improv
  • * We have worked with large, worldwide clients already
  • * We have a niche market for team building using improv comedy
  • (W) WEAKNESSES:
  • * Schedules of trainers make it tough to schedule
  • * We don't currently have a worldwide reach other than previous clients
  • * Our costs are prohibitive for smaller companies or organizations
  • * Communicating the importance of our message
  • * Creating a sales pitch that encompasses what we do 
  • * Helping organization and teams find value before they see the results of the training
  • (O) OPPORTUNITIES: 
    • Using our connections through Center for Creative Leadership and other worldwide organizations to promote our training
    • * Finding non-profits to "donate" our training hours with hope of word-of-mouth advertising
  • * Making more connections to Organizational Development (OD) professionals
  • * Networking with individuals with whom we've done Confidence Coaching
  • (T) THREATS:
  • * Larger improv groups and training companies taking development money 
  • * Online training and low-cost solutions

Make use of this valuable analysis in your groups, teams and organizations to develop strategies and best use of resources. 

Don't let your confusion stall you from making important decisions. Now that you have this information, you are "in the know" and as GI Joe reminds us, "Knowing is half the battle" - you're welcome for that 80's flashback :)




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