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A Very Quick Note on Improv

As I wrote about Improv here the other day, I just wanted to write a quick note about tonight.

Tonight was only the third time I have performed Improv. Firstly, it was such a rush as always. Performing is something I loved to do when I was younger and was possibly more willing back then, but I force myself to get in front of a crowd and it leaves me with a natural high afterwards, which is difficult to replicate artificially.

Secondly, the part of my performance this evening that I was most proud of was not a gag for once, but was eliciting a sympathetic “aww” from the audience. I’m not that funny, but it’s usually funny I’m aiming for. To be rewarded with something more emotional gave me a different sense of achievement, so I wanted to capture that I don’t always have to play for laughs. It totally helped that I had an awesome supporting cast though.

I practice improv with Birmingham’s Box of Frogs improv group, who meet every Tuesday in Moseley and perform on 3rd Monday of each month at the Blue Orange in the Jewellery Quarter.

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I’ve been going through my draft blog posts, trying to delete them or complete them. I stumbled upon this one. I’ve actually been in a relationship for over a year now with someone I met during my online dating adventures. Things are good, but I really miss how much material online dating gave me to write about, so I thought I’d finish the posts I’d started.

 Started 11/05/2013

Another week, another set of messages for me to attempt to respond to. This week I decided I would attempt to be less sarcastic and scathing in my messages. It didn’t last long.

Last week someone pointed out that I had been on Plenty Of Fish for 18 months now, so was I really qualified to be giving dating advice? Mmm, what does qualify someone to dish out advice? This is the internet and I think you’ll find there are a lot of people that don’t let lack of experience, qualifications or evidence stop them from chucking in their opinion. This is my website, named after my childhood nickname, set up by me on the hosting I pay for. Oh dear, I appear to be feeding the trolls. Anyway, the point of this rant was to segway in to another person that has been disappointed by me this week…

The Man I Disappoint

Remember, my headline is ‘smart, funny, great boobs.’ Inviting trouble, I know – it get’s a mixed response.

Him: How great are these boobies? X
Me: You may never know.
Him: That’s a shame. So are you a real red head? X
Me: Nope. Seems like I’m disappointing all round. I dye my hair this colour, have done for years. Anything else you want to ask me that I’ll probably come up short on? Oh, you should know that I am currently unemployed and living with my mum. We have a cat. He’s nearly dead though.

And that was the end of that conversation.

Written 19/07/2014

The Man I Didn’t Disappoint

So, he may not be disappointed, but he might be angered by this, however one particular chap responded to my headline like no other. He wrote something along the lines of

I like you’re headline, because what I’m looking for is a big sexy brain.

Jackpot! I had to meet this guy. Now, about 14 months on, I’m sitting in his garage (he’s a mechanic), completing this post as he fixes cars.

I’ve had a great time writing about Online Dating and I have a few more vicarious posts up my sleeve, but my foray in to Digital Courting is over. Thanks for being part of it.

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Faith

I’m not a religious person, but I get faith. I understand the idea of needing something to believe in and while I don’t have a god or deity, I believe, I believe in something greater.

  • I believe that nothing worth having comes easily
  • I believe that good things happen to good people
  • I believe with faith in yourself and the belief of others, you can accomplish incredible things
  • Whether you know your family and friends believe in you or your God believes in you I believe it’s all going to be OK

I wouldn’t be writing these words for you now without some self-belief and a little faith from others. I don’t have a problem with what anyone believes as long as it gets them through the day and doesn’t hurt others. No one should be going around killing others in the name of their faith.

Life’s hard enough without having a little something to pin your hopes on.

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Now I’ve taken up improvised comedy, I wanted to share some of the things I learned with you as I think you might find them helpful in your professional and personal life. Who knows, you might like to take up improv yourself.

1. Make offers

This means offering people something they can react to, jump on or develop. It usually gives them the option to add their own ideas.

2. Collaboration is about ‘yes and,’ not ‘yes but’

Collaboration is spoken about a lot in the work place, but more often than not it’s about putting road blocks in front of and shooting down other people’s ideas. This is not collaboration. In improv, the idea is to build upon ideas, offering ways in which they can be elaborated on and delivered in a supportive manner, not finding issues with them and reasons to scrap them or bringing in your own idea instead.

3. It’s always your turn

In any improv situation, you are always ‘on,’ always playing, it is always your turn. Even if you are doing nothing you might be expected to do something at any moment, so pay attention and keep your wits about you.

4. Be Present!

Leading on from the above point, you have to be very much in the moment. I’ve been applying this to both work and the gym. If I’m at a meeting at work, I no longer day dream, but pay attention and try to contribute. If I’m in an exercise class at the gym I go as hard as possible. I figure if I’m there, I might as well do my best, I might as well go for it.

5. Everyone else is a genius and you’re there to make them look good

I love this one, as it takes the pressure off somewhat and it’s the converse of the stand-up comedian mind set from what I’m told. You don’t have to have the best idea, the smartest quip, lead the revolution; supporting is a crucial role. I think the following explains this best. (FYI This was shown at a Leadership event at work).

[Sigh] There is so much I love about this video.

6. The person most aware of your mistakes is you

You might think you’ve made a mistake, every now and again the people you improv with might spot a mistake, 9 times out of 10 the audience won’t notice you’ve made a mistake and almost every other time they’ll find it funny.

They will, however, always notice if you stop mid scene because you think you’ve made a mistake. Style it out, gloss over it, take a bow, whatever, but don’t apologise. At least you’re having a go.

7. Comedy: Your reality is someone else’s hilarious fiction

When it comes to improvised comedy, draw from your own experiences. You don’t have time to craft some intelligent gag, your reality may be completely bizarre, yet entertaining to everyone else.

So there you have it. I’m learning more stuff all the time, so I may well add to this list.

I practice improv with Birmingham’s Box of Frogs improv group, who meet every Tuesday in Moseley and perform on 3rd Monday of each month at the Blue Orange in the Jewellery Quarter.

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I changed my Twitter handle to JoDtw

It’s been a busy day for me on the blog today. I have over 140 unfinished blog posts that I’ve been trying to complete, plus loads more ideas and I’ve also been tinkering with the design a bit (again).

But I just wanted to let you know, in case you follow me on Twitter, that my handle has changed from @Pose to @JoDtw. If you are already a follower, this won’t affect you as the account is still the same, but if you tweet me you just need to make sure you get the right name. So if you’re thinking about changing your @[name] on Twitter, which you can do in your account settings, you will retain all your followers and people you are following.

Why did I change my Twitter handle?

I changed my Twitter handle for a few reasons:

  1. I wanted people to be able to find my name easily when tweeting me. If you use Hootsuite, there is an auto-complete function whereby you start typing the first few letters of a handle and it shows you the potential usernames. As my name is Jo, it seemed more natural to me that people might start typing ‘Jo’ when starting to tweet me, rather than having to remember ‘Pose83.’
  2. I thought it was more professional. I actually don’t think Pose83 is unprofessional as such, but to most people it really doesn’t mean anything. I’ve been to a lot of conferences lately and done a lot of tweeting, so I wanted people to be able to associate my Twitter name with me.
  3. It’s shorter. This wasn’t actually intentional and I was amazed I managed to get a 5 letter handle as I thought 6 letters was pretty good going. I’m always surprised when I see Social Media professionals with long Twitter names. The fewer characters, the more content people can add when messaging or retweeting you.

What happens to @Pose83?

Well, before anyone tries to snap up my Twitter name, I actually still have registered to another email account. I didn’t want anyone attempting to try and become me on Twitter, in case anyone has such as desire, unlikely as that may be.

I would advise anyone switching their handle after a prolonged period of time to do the same thing. There is no period of time between relinquishing a Twitter name and someone else taking it, so if you’re going to switch, make sure you grab your old one on another email address/account ASAP.

How you changed your Twitter name and if so, why?

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Sales Messaging

This is a bit of a ranty post, for which I make no apologies. Bounce off the page now if you want to avoid.

Professionally, I get a lot of people trying to sell me stuff. It doesn’t seem to matter that I have very little responsibility for purchasing decisions, they’re looking for an ‘in.’

I don’t object to sales messaging completely, but there are some techniques that need some improvement.

Adding me on LinkedIn

People keep trying to LinkIn with me with the blatant intention of selling me their services. If you send me a generic invite, with out so much as a sentence providing me with a reason to connect with you, yet I can see on your profile that you own some SEO agency or are business development for some buzzword entitled software provider, I am highly disinclined to accept your invite. At least try and personalise the message.

LinkedIn Group Spammer

Worse than the above, but still on LinkedIn, you’ve found me in a group that you claim to be a part of and use this to strike up a conversation. If I’m not active in that group, I won’t care that we have this in common, and if I am active in the group, I’ll know whether or not you are. If you’re not active, I’ll call you out in the group as a spammer and you’ll most likely be banned. (This happened in the Marketing Over Coffee group).

You know me because you tried to sell me something previously

Now you work at another company and assure me your new company has a better product than the old one. I’m not sure I trust you any more. Unless we built up some kind of rapport previously, please don’t bother. It feels like you’re clutching at straws rather than truly considering my needs as a customer.

You jump into my Twitter conversation with someone else and go straight in to the sales pitch without adding any value

As soon I have any conversation about Social Media providers, there’s Salescloud, Meltwater Buzz, Pulsar and some other random provider telling me to contact them directly. How about showing me your expertise in Social and actually getting involved in my conversation. I get that your monitoring tool has picked me up on your social radar (keyword group), but that is the least I’d expect of a Social Media monitoring tool. I want you to prove yourself as an expert too.

I know it’s not easy selling something cold, so why try. Shouldn’t your company be offering trials, speaking at conferences and networking in person to build some interest?

Contact the businesses you genuinely believe you can help and demonstrate this through having a two way conversation with them and showing your expertise. Listening, personalising communications and offering trials are all good options.

Do you have any pet hates about sales messaging? Drop me a comment below.

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I heard it said today that if you aren’t putting the customer in the centre of your activities, you shouldn’t be in Marketing. I agree.

But do you always remember to employ customer centric marketing?

I also heard today a clever idea for keeping that sentiment present in everyone’s minds in your Marketing team and beyond.

A woman from a company I spoke to today at eConsultancy‘s Digital Cream event works for a company that had a variety of ‘customer muppets.’ These were different character puppets, which people carried around the organisation and took in to meetings.

Whenever a disagreement occurred and conversations became heated, someone would put their hand up a muppet to animate it and ask ‘what would the customer say?’ This had the effect of immediately lightening the mood, but also focusing conversations back on to what the customer wanted and needed. Simple, yet effective.

I thought this was a great idea and I wanted to share it. It made everyone at my table smile, so I doubt I’ll be the only one telling others about it.

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Improvisation: I’ve Started To Make Things Up

If you’re a regular around these parts, you might have noticed a new category in the navigation bar called ‘Improv.’ Gone are the days when I’d frivolously create a new category and proceed to put one solitary post in it, these new categories require commitment.

So, why add it? I’ve been involved in improvisation since around May 2013 and this year I’ve made the conscious decision to make it a bigger part of my life because I enjoy it, it makes me happy, it focuses me and I feel like I’m learning from it. I’ve also met a load of wonderfully talented new people and attended a lot more small and local theatrical productions, comedy nights, musical performances, etc. off the back of it.

Why did I get into Improv?

Last year when I was setting up websites left, right and centre and I was unemployed for about 10 weeks, YouTube held Comedy Week. I was already spending a lot of time in front of my computer at this point, mainly writing, so moving over to spending a little longer on YouTube wasn’t a massive leap for me.

I watched a lot of Comedy Week and during that time discovered Daily Grace (I also discovered Sorted Food, but that’s another story). I wanted to be just like Daily Grace and figured I was funny enough for that. It turns out I wasn’t, so I did a bit of research and found out that Grace had done loads of stuff that helped with her creativity and humour, such as drama and screen-writing at college (I wasn’t about to go back to full time education) and IMPROV! You can find out about her path to YouTube stardom on her Draw My Life video.

I’d seen improvised comedy shows at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and had a friend that was previously involved in a group, so I thought I’d try and find some people that would let me join in their fun.

How did I get into Improv?

Well, Google is a wonderful thing, isn’t it? And Birmingham has a lot going on it in, what with being the UK’s second city (deal with it, Manchester*). The first group I found were called Box of Frogs and they met in one of my favourite parts of the city, Moseley, which is now also my home. I emailed the contact on the website and received a very warm and friendly encouragement to come along in response.

Having made the realisation that I was not as funny as I thought, I was incredibly nervous about walking into a room with a group of people who had probably been meeting for weeks, months, years. My experience of most sorts of arts clubs at university was that they were all a little cliquey and ‘lovey’ for me. I’d struggled to break into the crowd and settled on trampolining. However, straight away at Box of Frogs everyone made me feel welcome and while I still felt awkward with some of the exercises, watching the scene work was hilarious and my face hurt from laughing at the end of the 2 hours session.

Why blog about it?

I want to write about improv, because like everything else I write about, I’m passionate about it and I hope that by noting it all down, I can refer back to it and perhaps, just perhaps it will be of interest to someone else and teach them something, encourage them to get involved in improv themselves or just entertain them (all of the above would be great though).

I’m not an expert and would never claim to be, but I’ve learned a lot from watching and practicing improv and I’d like to share that.

 

*I actually do like Manchester. I learnt to snowboard there and have a cluster of lovely Northern friends there too. Plus, it’s a pretty good night out.

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The Twitter Full Stop / Period – who knew?

twittergrey

Have you heard about the Twitter full stop or period (dependent on where you live) that can alter who sees your reply tweets? Well if you haven’t, you’re not alone. I claim to have an interest in Social Media and I only found out about it last week. What am I on about? There appear to be a piece of functionality in Twitter that is triggered by a simple ‘.’ before the @ at the start of a message.

How the Twitter Full Stop Works

Say I wanted to send a message to my mum (@MissDigwell) from my Twitter account (@Pose83):

@MissDigwell Can you make stirfry for dinner again? But get chicken and not prawns.

Well, you would only see this message in your feed if you follow both me and my mum, not just me (and this applies to Hootsuite too). You could go on my Twitter page and see it, but otherwise it wouldn’t show up.

However, if I put a little ‘.’ in front of it, it will show up for the whole world to see (well, all my followers) e.g.

.@MissDigwell Can you make stirfry for dinner again? But get chicken and not prawns.

Neat, huh?

You can just about make out InStyle using the full stop on Twitter in this tweet below.

InStyle Twitter Full Stop Period

Apparently this has been around for about a year now. Who knew? I can see how this functionality would be useful, especially when you want your conversations to be broadcast as well as being, well, conversations.

 

Replies or No Replies? You Decide

Another little feature I’ve noticed, though I did pick this up a while, is that on the Twitter pages that tend to do a lot of @ replying, probably for Customer Service purposes, you can choose whether or not to see their replies on their Twitter page. It’s turned off by default. I like this function. I makes sense to me. Check out O2′s below (they are dynamite with the good Social Media examples, btw).

O2 Customer Service Replies

Any other Twitter functionality you think I might have missed? Let me know if the comments below.

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The Social Salem Media Witch Trials

Witch House, Salem, Massechusetts

Well, I’m not going to get many SEO points for that title but let’s get going.Witch House, Salem, Massechusetts

Recently (November) I visited Salem, MA (Massachusetts) as part of my epic American tour for my 30th birthday (Note to self, I really need to change the photo on this site as that is definitely not 30 year old me on the right there). We probably all know that in the 17th century Salem was hardly a safe haven for the broomstick toting, cauldron cooking sorcerers and their familiars. Why am I banging on about Salem? Well, the trials of 1692-3 actually struck me as having some similarities to modern day Social Media, especially for celebrities and companies/brands, though individuals get caught in the cross fire too.

If you don’t know much about the Salem Witch trials, I’ll give you a brief synopsis:

  • In 1692, Reverend Parris came to work in Salem Village as it sought to distance it’s self from Salem Town, which is now just Salem, bringing with him his family and slaves, one of which being Tituba from the Caribbean.
  • Tituba would tell Parris’ daughter, niece and local girls in the village stories of witch-craft, sorcery and the afflictions that could affect such people.
  • The girls began to start suffering with these afflictions, fainting, convulsing, talking in tongues, etc.
  • The doctor was called, but no physiological complaint could be found in any of the girls, so the natural conclusion was that they were under the spell of witchcraft.
  • This bizarre conclusion provided the girls with much attention, which they played up to, even re-enacting their convulsions in the local tavern for patrons’ entertainment, which gives us our first Social Media similarity.

1)  Ordinary Social Media users get the most attention when they are doing something extraordinary. This varies from being something emotive, hilarious or useful to something extremely offensive or extremely defamatory to another party, whether warranted or not. – Act up in Social Media and you may get the kind of attention you’ve never received before, so continue with the bad behaviour to continue receiving the attention.

  • Questions began to be asked about who had cast spells on the girls. They began to accuse townsfolk, who were then arrested and put in prison, deemed to be witches, even though no other evidence supported these claims.

2) You don’t have to be guilty of anything for people to make an accusation against you in Social Media and for that to have a negative impact on your personal, brand or company reputation.

I actually have a few examples of this. Someone I know, who will remain nameless, has been making complaints about companies on Twitter to try and free stuff from them and it’s working.

I also know of similar accusations where people have lied about their position in a company in order to appear like they have more authority or influence than they actually do. In this case they were offered a gift voucher by customer services, but it transpires that their complaint was completely unjustified.

My advice? Make sure that whoever you have responding in Social Media is connected enough to investigate complaints to understand whether or not they should actually be upheld. There are several ‘holding’ responses you can use while investigating an issue and before admitting liability.

Anyway, Salem is now super pro-witch, possibly because of the tourism opportunities if I’m being cynical, however this goes to show that…

3) No matter how bad your Social Media complaint or crisis you can handle it so it has a positive outcome. Don’t believe me? Then you don’t know about O2′s customer service during a network outage or Buffer’s response to getting hacked (FYI this article was posted on a really good blog). There are some other examples such as Oreo, Red Cross and Burger King here.

So, there you go. Human behaviour hasn’t necessary progressed since the 17th century.

Can you spot any other similarities between historical events and Social Media? Let me know in the comments below.

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