A new outlet for those with a fear of public speaking

improv1THUMBPatti Stiles and Colin Mochrie perform at the 2013 Calgary Improv Festival.
Photo courtesy of Tim Nguyen, Citrus Photography

Public speaking has often been regarded as one of the most common fears among people.

So, to get up in front of people and joke around seems like a strange way of helping those with stage fright – but that's exactly what Tom Smith, an improv veteran, recommends.

"In improv you celebrate failure because that's the quickest way you learn. Stage fright is the constant fear of failing. Improv is the training you get to get rid of that fear," Smith says.

Smith has been performing improv for three years and just recently joined a professional troupe called The 404s.

Before Smith joined the troupe, he was the president of Mount Royal University's improv club.

He says before he started doing improv he was "very stiff, wouldn't connect with my audience in any way... I would rush things really, really fast."

Now, Smith believes improv has both improved his public speaking techniques and eased his fear of getting in front of a crowd.

Patti Stiles, a veteran in theatre who has been performing professionally since 1983, agrees that improv can be good for public speaking.

"One of the great things about improvisation is that it helps people deal with a couple things," Stiles says. "One, fear and every public speaker will have either learned to go through that or to deal with it."improv2Tom Smith (left) performs with the improv troupe, The 404s Photo courtesy of Mark Nguyen

Stiles also believes that improv can help with other skills, such as how to connect with an audience.

"Because it's a theatre art form, you also start learning how to work an audience, listen to an audience, perceive an audience," Stiles says. "And all of those skills help to remove the fear because they actually help address the things you're worried about."


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