April Improv for Seacoast’s Visionary Business Leaders – First Letter Last Letter

Why Improv of the Month?

The thing about improv, when facilitated properly, is that you are always practicing communication-related skills. ‘Soft’ skills that require practice for pretty much everyone. It is like going to the gym for developing our listening and speaking up muscles that are crucial for customer service, frontline problem-solving, and staff morale. All things that affect your bottom line!

That’s why applied improv for businesses can be extremely helpful to leaders who are trying to create cultures where innovation and service are thriving. And although, there is definitely an expertise involved in dove-tailing improv education with organizational development, there are some fundamental activities that most anyone who is willing to try, can teach. This “Improv of the Month for Business Visionaries ” blogpost series is designed to provide leaders who are willing to dip their toes into improv teaching a place to start. It is completely free and no strings attached. I do suggest you read the intro to the series first and if you’d like more comprehensive support please check out train the trainer resources on my store page.

This activity is a fun way to bring focus onto listening skills!

April – First Letter Last Letter Word Association

How to play

It is pretty simple. One person says a word and another says a word that begins with the last letter of the word the previous person said. It can be played in pairs, which can feel safer to some, or in a circle.

Keep in mind, the learning is not about the words chosen, it is about listening to each other. And you will most likely note that people become engaged and focused while having fun. All things that hold value for individuals and teams especially in the high-stakes, high-stress work of healthcare!

Shana Merlin, improviser, teacher, and performer of Merlin Works demonstrates in this brief video!

Facilitation tips

  • Plant the seed for learning by telling your group that is a fun activity that will help them practice their listening skills.
  • If you think all individuals in your group will feel comfortable trying this out, go ahead and do it in a circle. If you think even one might feel shy or lacking of confidence either place them next to a friend or have people do this in pairs.
  • You can also give people a safety net by telling them they can make up words if they can’t think of anything. Part of what you might notice in this activity is your own or others hesitation and in some cases struggle to come up with a word. This speaks to how difficult assertiveness is at the roots and is worth noting!
  • For variations reverse the direction. This will insure that different patterns or relationships in listening and responding will occur. Also, note there is a subtlety of sharing power going on where people can make it easier or more difficult for the person next to them. Lots of layers going on!
  • Go around or back and forth a few times.
  • Debrief with questions like: What did you notice about listening? What other learning involving communication did anyone experience or observe? How can this activity help us at work?
  • Notice how much fun people have with this simple exercise and make a plan to do it again or with another group.

There is a lot more to applied improv than meets the eye!

Contact Beth to learn more about teaching improv in healthcare or other businesses. I’d love to help you improve communication and patient care and support your staff.


And check out the exciting new methodology offered in Be Crazy workshops co-created byLiz Korabek-Emerson and Beth Boynton!


Seacoast Authors – MAAT Publishing Hosting Literary Event – Dover, NH – June 1st

Maat Publishing would like to invite you to participate in the Second Annual Page Turner Literary Event at The Art Center, One Washington Street, Dover, NH, on Saturday, June 1st, from 1pm to 6pm.

The table fee is $40, payable to The Art Center.

The event will include:

  • readings
  • panel discussions
  • performances for children & YA
  • live music

The Art Center will provide a bag lunch for each participant, and you’ll leave with a custom framed poster of your book cover!

Please let us know by April 5th if you are interested in having a table at the 2019 Page Turner event. steve@maatpublishing.net

— Steve & Marilynn Carter Maat Publishing www.maatpublishing.net

Engage Staff with “I am” – March Improv of the Month for Visionary Leaders on the Seacoast!

As discussed in the introduction to this series, integrating improv activities into your day to day work can be part of an organizational development effort to boost to morale, improve communication skills, build positive relationships and cultures. This month we’ll explore an incredibly simple activity called “I am”. If you are willing to take 10 minutes out of a staff meeting, clinical inservice, orientation process or other, you will build positive relationships and promote assertiveness and listening skills!

Discovering “I am”

This exercise is simple and promotes trust, self-awareness, empathy, and communication skills. By making time for “I am” in your meeting, you will help staff practice assertiveness and listening while inviting people to get to know each other a little better.

How to Teach “I am”

On a piece of paper, have staff complete the sentence, “I am _____________” three times. Tell them they will be sharing with 2-3 others in the group. Give them examples:

“I am excited about this meeting.”

“I am stressed about our new phone system.”

“I am hungry.”

Give the group 5 minutes or so to complete and then instruct them to share with 2-3 others over the next few minutes.

Pen with "I am ____________" three times.

Facilitation Tips

  • Encourage participants to spent equal time sharing their “I ams” and listening to those of others.
  • Be patient with the initial quietness of this activity. People tend to be tentative at first, yet within a minute or two all sorts of conversations emerge.
  • If your group is large use a bell or other signal to wrap up their conversations.
  • If time allows or your priorities warrant debrief with questions:
  1. What do you think about this improv exercise?
  2. Can you describe any learning related to emotional intelligence or communication skills?
  3. Is and if so how is this activity helpful to the team?

In my book on Medical Improv I go into more details about skills, facilitation, and variations for this activity and 14 others.

Share your story!

What do you notice about this activity?  Was it easy to teach?  Did people seem to have fun? Even some who might groan a little?  

There is a lot more to applied improv than meets the eye!

If you want, take a picture and write a short story about it. Maybe we’ll publish on the Portsmouth Improv Learning Lab Blog. 🙂

Contact Beth to learn more about teaching improv for staff development businesses or submit your story. And check out the exciting new methodology combining improv with mindfulness offered in Be Crazy workshops co-created by Liz Korabek-Emerson and Beth Boynton! Beth@bethboynton.com


My Amazing Experience Teaching Improv: “Saying Yes” To A New Perspective!

By Mairead Carr

A New Tool in Improv

Teaching improv for communication skills was a new experience for me. As someone with a background in theater, I have a deep-rooted passion for acting and dramatic storytelling. However, until recently, it had never occurred to me how effective basic acting exercises can be to the world outside of the dramatic sphere. By participating in improvisational acting, I witnessed people step outside of their comfort-zones and embrace new communication skills.

I was a recent participant in a course with Work Ready NH at Great Bay Community College that was aimed at honing job seeking and career building skills. During the course I was given the opportunity to teach my classmates an improv exercise. Knowing that a public speaking assignment was scheduled for the end of the course and having observed some of my classmates nervousness, I wanted to teach an exercise that would help them overcome mental stalling and verbal hesitancy. I reached out to Beth Boynton for ideas and she suggested that I try the “5 Things” activity. I am glad I followed her advice and was very pleased with the results.

Basic summary of how to play “5 Things”

  • Person A asks Person B to “Give me 5 things…”
  • Person A completes this phrase with some sort of category (i.e. “Give me 5 things that are green.”)
  • Person B responds with 5 things that can be found in that category i.e. 5 Green Things: 1. Traffic lights, 2. Money, 3. String Beans, 4. Sally’s eyes, 5. A green car

The Experience

When I lead this activity in my class, I started by telling my classmates what I hoped to teach them through the activity: more confidence while communicating. After explaining the exercise I divided everyone into pairs and asked them to take turns giving each other just 3 Things (i.e. “Give me 3 types of shoes.”). I observed them and offered pointers to anyone who seemed to be struggling.

After everyone had gotten a chance to play out both roles I asked them to try and get more creative with the categories they were asking for (i.e. “Give me 3 mythical creatures.”). When everyone had tried that out, I had my classmates and myself form a circle and we went around, taking it in turns to ask for 5 Things (i.e. “Give me 5 aliens.”). I then had everyone in the circle try the activity one more time, but for them to really try and push the envelope (i.e. “Give me 5 joke book titles.”)

The Positive Results of Improv

The entire exercise was a delight to observe. I watched self-identified introverts become class comedians and was overjoyed by the level of understanding and support everyone offered each other throughout the activity. Having a safe-space in which to explore is a vital nurturing element of any acting exercise and my class definitely provided that after only having known each other a couple of weeks.

Observations and Developments

While desks and tables had been pushed back, the amount of space in the classroom was limited, so I was not able to walk in between the paired groups as much as I would have liked. Having a larger area to spread out in would definitely be a benefit. I tried to promote a fast-paced back and forth that could help my classmates overcome verbal pausing and nerves. It was interesting to note how some people instead placed the exercise in the setting of a personal conversation with drawn out explanations for why they chose to give each thing. They still displayed creativity and confidence, but they took the activity to a setting I was not expecting, since I was familiar with “5 Things” and similar improv games in a more traditional theater setting.

A New Lease on Improv

What I found especially fascinating about teaching the exercise, were the changes in my own style of playing the game. Having had previous training and experience with improv exercises, I was familiar with how I usually participate in them. When I had played improv games round-robin in a circle, I would watch everyone else, but at the same time, I would always be thinking ahead to what I would do and what my own “performance” would be like when it got to be my turn. Adversely, when I was teaching the exercise, my main focus was on everyone else’s performance and providing them with support, so that when it got to be my turn, I just thought up something random on the spot without even thinking it over. In essence by encouraging everyone else to get past hesitancy and doubts, I was accidentally giving myself more ability and confidence at the same time.

Teaching improv was an amazing experience as a observant who watched it transform the communication skills of other’s and as a participant experiencing new elements of an old game. It is definitely something I look forward to doing more of in the future.

Seacoast SCORE Mentors Develop their Listening Skills with a Little Improv!

Seacoast SCORE Mentors and guests who attended my recent workshop, Applied Improv – A Surprising Way to Promote Listening Skills took the plunge into improv with enthusiasm!

They jumped into “Yes and…” and “Same Time Story” activities with an openness to learning that isn’t always easy for folks who’ve never tried improv before.

Listening is one of those human interactive skills that is easier to talk about than it is to practice! AND you have to be willing to try something out-of-the-box in order to develop your skills with improv.

SCORE Volunteer, Brenda Richards provided assistance in the workshop. She has also been a very helpful Mentor to me over the last year in developing my own business; Boynton Improv Education, LLC!

And just so you know, Seacoast SCORE has some great and FREE resources to offer new and emerging business people. AND if you have business skills to share, you might want to explore options to become a SCORE Volunteer!

Brenda Richards, SCORE Mentor

Seacoast SCORE is continually recruiting new clients and new mentors. Because more than half of our clients are female, we’re making a concerted effort to recruit additional female mentors in 2019.” –Brenda Richards

Beth teaching improv with health risk managers

February Improv for Business Visionaries – “Radical Acceptance”!

Improv of the Month Series

As discussed in the introduction to this series, integrating improv activities into your day to day work can be part of an organizational development effort to boost to morale, improve communication skills, build positive relationships and cultures. This month we’ll explore an incredibly simple activity called “Radical Acceptance” which is also called “3 Things” (Not to be confused with “5 Things” which was January’s Improv of the Month).  Please take a few minutes to review the introduction to learn more about setting up your process.

“Radical Acceptance” or “3 Things”

You’ll see, the more you get into Medical Improv or  Applied Improv that instructors often tweak activities and names while trying our best to cite originators.  

I often teach “Radical Acceptance” as a first improv activity in my workshops as a way to create emotional safety and demonstrate how affirming and easy improv can be. As you read through the teaching steps, resist the urge to dismiss it because it is so simple.  I’ve had seen huge grins on people who don’t normally speak up and one young man shared that he brought it back to his bachelor’s party and his friends all loved it!  So if you want to engage staff, build a spirit of collaboration, and promote assertiveness, this activity will help.

How to teach”Radical Acceptance”

  1. Have up to 12 people get in a circle.
  2. Choose a category that all people can relate to. (Comfort foods, fruit, anything to do with weather, or something your business team might be familiar with.)
  3. Explain that each person will have a turn naming 3 things in the category and the group’s job is to shout “Yes” with more and more enthusiasm after each one.

It will look something like this!

Person A:  “Chocolate pudding!”

The Group: (shouts with some enthusiasm) “Yes!”

Person A: “Cheesecake”

The Group: (shouts with more enthusiasm) “Yes!”

Person A: “Blueberries”

The Group: (shouts with even more enthusiasm as if it is the most exciting thing anyone has ever said) “YES!”

Chocolate pudding, "Yes!"
Cheesecake, "Yes!!"
Blueberries, "YES!!!"

      4.  Go around the circle so everyone has a chance to name desserts and be accepted by the group.

      5.  Invite feedback about the experience!

Facilitation Tips

  • Explain to the group that their job is to be supportive.  If someone says says the same thing twice, something that has already been said, or something that others would not consider a dessert, it is still the job of the group to say “YES!”
  • Encourage building enthusiasm with verbal and nonverbal language.
  • Allow for people to hesitate a little as some people will.  In that moment of hesitation lies the  hidden reality of how hard speaking up can be! Try to be comfortable and get the group to be patient with the waiting. This too, can be hard.
  • Eventually people will come up with ideas and if they don’t you can encourage them to name things that have already been named, or help with a clue like asking for kinds of ice-cream, or give the option to ‘pass’ and circle back, or even eventually letting others help them.  (When people struggle with naming something like 3 desserts, imagine how hard speaking up might be as a new staff member to manager or manager to senior leader. Assertiveness is complicated and “Radical Acceptance” helps build it at the very roots. AND true collaboration and optimal creativity come from a place where all voices are spoken and heard.)
  • If you suspect that assertiveness  will be hard for some people in the group, have them do one category in pairs and then one in the full circle.  Pairs are safer and this will help build confidence and trust.
  • As you invite feedback it is always possible that someone will share that it isn’t good for a group to always agree with everything someone says.  This is true so validate their point and add that the activity can help to build confidence and allows for practicing speaking up.  As people learn to trust that they’ll be heard and honored in this activity, they will be more likely to share an idea, concern, or constructive feedback in the clinical environment. Strangely enough, the “Yes and…” principle of improv is quite helpful in developing the confidence to say “No”!
  • Assuming you are starting a rippling effect with your team and other leaders will try it with theirs, use it as a conversation starter to see kinds of categories others have come up with and/or what others think of the experience.   If nothing else, it is a shared, positive social experience.

Share your experience

Keep your eyes and ears open to how the experience is impacting the energy and morale in your workplace.

If you want, take a picture and write a short story about it. Maybe we’ll publish on the Portsmouth Improv Learning Lab (PILL) Blog. 🙂 Contact me for more info at beth@bethboynton.com!

There is a lot more to applied improv than meets the eye!

Contact Beth to learn more about teaching improv in healthcare or other businesses. And check out the exciting new methodology combining improv with mindfulness offered in Be Crazy workshops co-created by Liz Korabek-Emerson and Beth Boynton!

Cartoon of actor running with script pages flying out

Players’ Ring bursts with life – “Opening Night Mutiny”

One of the most exciting things about Opening Night Mutiny that plays through 2/10 was the high energy of the entire cast AND the audience. So much local talent!

The audience was so engaged, whole theater came to life. Live theater on the seacoast is very alive and very well. Reviews (Fosters -Seacoast Online and Caught in the Act -NH Theater Critics) are strong too so check them out and get the show on your calendar.


“It was truly humbling. At every turn we had people on the team elevating the script, throwing in ad libs or physical comedy, and I feel immensely grateful to the 14 people that worked every day for half a year on making our show the best it could be.” Alex Bikerstaff, Co-author, Opening Night Mutiny

Tickets and more info here!

“I just love how both reviews lauded the performances, because we assembled such a talented group of actors, and I couldn’t be more proud of them. Add to that mix brilliant direction, an indefatigable crew, and a dash of prop wizardry, and the end result has been truly magical to witness. Seeing it all come together is like nothing I’ve ever experienced before.” -Michael Freitag, Co-author, Opening Night Mutiny

Furloughed workers playing improv at Washington Improv Theater during government shutdown

Applied improv promotes joyful connections!

Free food and improv during the shutdown!

Over the last few weeks we’ve seen heartening evidence of Americans from coast to coast, step forward to help others during the government shutdown.

Locally, on the ME/NH seacoast, Gather, an organization dedicated to ending hunger distributed food to furloughed personnel with the United States Coast Guard.

Some might be surprised to think that offering improv sessions would be a way to support others during tough times. Which is just what the Washington Improv Theater did! And if you are willing to take a closer look you will see many layers of richness.

Improv activities are connecting!

Many improv activities, when expertly facilitated, help people to be present and playful, to share themselves a bit and to open up to others, to play together. From a communications standpoint, improv helps us practice speaking up and listening. And from a relationship standpoint it helps us find a safe fun way to celebrate our connections.

Watch this Washington Improv Theatre video from the 33-43 second mark. You’ll see how one person does a simple gesture and sound and then everyone else comes in and repeats it. Can you see, feel, and hear how the group supports the individual and how imagine how transformative this might be?

Local mindfulness & improv class!

If you are in the vicinity of Portsmouth, NH during February of 2019, please check out our class Stronger Together. Liz Korabek-Emerson and I will guide a small group in playful and meditative activities that will leave you, as this testimonial suggests, feeling uplifted!

Cartoon of actor running with script pages flying out

Psyched for “Opening Night Mutiny” – Players’ Ring

I’m really looking forward to seeing this new show and just got my ticket for opening night! Care to join me?

January 25 – February 10, 2019
An original play by Alex Bickerstaff & Michael Freitag
Presented by Outcast Productions

I didn’t say it was a GOOD plan, I said it was THE plan.

Welcome to the South Shore Playhouse! Where an exhausted cast and crew are trying to premiere their new season despite a few, small, tiny, miniscule setbacks, including but not limited to firing the lead actor in the middle of their dress rehearsal and replacing him with an understudy who’s been studying the wrong script; working with an inflexible, Beckettesque playwright; rewriting that script behind the playwright’s back, and being caught in the act mere hours before the show opens.

A series of escalating hi-jinks results in the outraged author pulling the rights to the show… right as the curtain rises. What follows next is the most daring attempt at “The show must go on” in theatrical history, as the group tries to fall back on a half-written script with the same name. Just one problem: nobody’s rehearsed it, it’s set in space, and the idiot who wrote it is in the front row…

Break some legs! ALL of them.

January 25 – February 10, 2019
Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00 p.m., Sundays at 3:00 p.m.