Dare I say I feel like I am getting the hang of facilitating a Virtual Improv Jam? With three Jams now under the belt, we had our largest group yet – nearly ten of us socializing and playing games for an hour.
What is a Jam you ask? An improv jam is basically a musical jam session, but for improv. Players assemble and just have fun for an hour or two. No shows, no formula, just some activities and exercises. And NO PREVIOUS EXPERIENCE REQUIRED.
Wait, I keep missing these!
So the Jams are going to be held weekly on Thursdays at 8PM EDT. That being said, we will skip next Thursday, April 9 on account of Passover and our next session will be Thursday, April 16 at 8PM EDT.
So what did we do?
Building on the successes, and learning of the previous jams, we played the following games:
- Sentence Waterfall
- Red Ball, Thank You
- *Party Planning (Yes And)
- Work That Brain Out
- *Pocket Treasure (breakout rooms!)
- Knife, Baby, Cat
- Crazy Eight’s (not played but introduced as a stress reliever)
*Indicates a new activity
Lessons on Facilitation
These jams serve two purposes.
On one hand they offer me, and others a degree of social connection while we all do our part to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. From that perspective I find them a huge success.
“This is the most connected I’ve been able to feel (on remote meetings)– Jam Participant
On the professional side, I am scheduled to share a Collaborative Improv workshop with the IA Conference (now rescheduled to May). There is a lot to be considered when moving a workshop from the real, physical world, to the digital one. Some of my key considerations and lessons are below. As I move past the fundamentals of improv facilitation remotely, I plan to hone in on these in more detail.
Wow. These need to be detailed. But simple. Part of the reason I have the Games section is to make sure I know how to explain these exercises. But no matter how many times I do these in person, teaching remotely is a whole different lesson.
Takeaway: Leverage the chat feature. Drop instructions, or guidelines in the conversation for folks to anchor back to.
A lot of in-person improv is about spontaneity and jumping in. Between internet lag, and the general desire to respect other folks in the room, it is helpful in remote workshops to build an order. In improv jams, we use Soundball as a way to define the order. We first played Red Ball, Thank You to get used to passing and sharing focus. And by shifting to Soundball we repeated our order until we knew who came before, and after us. We started each exercise at a different part of the order, but we maintained that order for Work That Brain Out and Party Planning.
Takeaway: Define an order and write it in the group chat as a visual anchor, or reminder, of the speaking order for activities.
Breakout Rooms in Zoom are a great way to imitate the micro-conversations and brainstorming that happens in real-world workshops. Embrace these as a way to build and maintain engagement. Stephen Anderson has a nice twitter thread on remote workshops and highlights some more details about breakout rooms.
Takeaway: Plan for extra time to ensure breakout rooms are evenly distributed with skills, interests, and number of people. It will also take time for individuals to “go to” an “return from” breakout rooms.
Want to Jam?
I plan to host a virtual Jam at least once per week as long as this social distancing is happening. To be the first to know, follow @Collab_Improv or @Dafark8 to see the announcements when registration goes live!
Our next session will be Thursday, April 16 at 8PM EDT.
If you are part of a team working remote for the first time, contact me and we can discuss a 30-45 minute session for your team. I want to offer Improv Jams for free (as much as that is feasible).
Be safe. Practice self care. We are in this together. Reach out to friends and colleagues if you are struggling.
And please, wash your hands.
Virtual Jam 1, March 19, 2020
Virtual Jam 2, March 26, 2020