Top Ten Tips to Get the Most Out of Online Improv

Top Ten Tips to Get the Most Out of Online Improv

The Nursery and the Maydays are now offering online drop ins! We’ve done some experimenting and here are some tips to make sure you get the best experience! It’s all about immersion, communication and safety.

Use Zoom

It’s like Skype or hangouts, but allows you to turn off your self view (three dots top right of any participant’s image) and use gallery mode (top right of the screen), both of which make for a more immersive experience. Get there ten minutes before for the keen folks, and be ready with your water/tea/coffee so you can chat and make people feel at ease.

Here’s a link to Zoom so you can try it out and get comfortable.

Check in

You don’t get the pre-class chat and hang, so I feel it’s really important to hear from everyone before you start the class proper. These are trying times for mental health and checking in helps with that, as well as with getting people’s brains engaged. Oh, and this is probably the time to ban that edgey Corona scene.

Do the tech at the start

I recommend getting people to try out muting, turning the camera on and off and moving in and out of break out rooms right at the start. That way when you are teaching /leading, your participants are only working out the exercise, not the tech as well. Oh, and make sure people are either charged or plugged in to save that shenanigans later.

Have a vocabulary of gestures

Sound can clash when people speak or laugh at the same time, so establishing a vocabulary of on-screen gestures to direct the flow is very useful. Hands up to ask a question/make a suggestion, police-officer-stop hand to pause a scene/exercise, waving hands for applause (sign language style) and crossing arms to call the scene all work for me. Other suggestions welcome below.

Nurture focus

We are all very distractible in our own houses. Ask people to put other screens out of reach/eyeline, go to full screen and not have their self-view visible helps create and maintain the focus. Get anything that can distract out of there.

Allow for lag

This is a difficult one, cos it can be better than you think, but you can expect a little more silence when you ask questions to the class. Thinking time + lag time can make you paranoid. That silence is ok. Maybe nominate a little more than usual. Think how many thousands of miles that signal is travelling….

Use your body

When you are sitting down, make sure you are sitting upright and leaning in a little. Create a focussed body position and you will feel that way. Also, sitting isn’t everyone’s favourite improv position, so just don’t get stuck there. Stand up to play scenes. It works.

Use the camera

Camera off is offstage, camera on is onstage. It focuses you on the faces who are playing. Ask people to turn their cameras off and on to make scene starts clear. A scene in front of the group only needs two cameras on, and when you call scene, turn yours on and use your crossed hands ‘and scene’ gesture. Oh, and goof around with coming into shot and out of it. That is fun.

Know how to communicate

Putting people into break out rooms (a zoom feature) means you can’t monitor everything. Make sure people know how to use the chat to communicate with you solo if you have a public class. Something might happen that you didn’t see/hear and people need to feel safe. Check this in your tech briefing.

Encourage full stops

Sometimes in improv scenes, nervous improvisers just talk till the other person interrupts, and this whole online thing is new to us all. Interruptions don’t work that well because of lag. Call this out and get people to practise good improv hygiene. Stop at the end of your sentence and be delighted by what your partner says.

And one for luck: Try anything you would try in class, then adapt and react

Obvious to improvisers, but worth saying. Tell people you’re experimenting and ask for their feedback. I haven’t had an exercise fall on its ass yet, and I am not worried about when it happens.

To book and read more info about our online classes Click Here


If you’d like fully online, multiple week courses, fill out this form and let us know!

For more information on how our online drop ins are run, read up on our FAQs.

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