conversation is an engine

A lot can happen in a conversation

Can A Question Trump A Script?

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Don’t Prepare. Just Show Up. Improv Wisdom by Patricia Ryan Madson

A confession: it’s hard for me to break free from notes when speaking.

Maybe notes are a crutch. But I think there is more to it. I spend my days writing so I have an affection and affinity for words on pages. And this: there is specificity to writing that is not quite so available for speaking. It’s a specificity that allows me to work an idea and move the parts around even as I deliver that idea to my audience.

Speaking does not allow that.

Or so I thought.

Patricia Ryan Madson’s Improv Wisdom is helping me see things differently. This well-written, easily digestible book (NY: Bell Tower, 2005) is full of all manner of notes about how to move off the page. In particular I’m struck by how Ms. Madson deftly turned scripted notes into an opportunity for spontaneity. 02262014-Cover-burgundyCheck out the photo below, where she reformats scripted remarks into a series of prompts—questions—that result in something alive and conversational versus the usual bad voice-over quality that comes from reading a script.

The result of her work and approach is spot on with all we’re trying to do at Conversation is an Engine: live out loud with each other, mistakes and passions all available to each other as we show up. Day after day.

Here’s Ms. Madson speaking at Google (Authors@Google) on her notion of just showing up. I cannot help but notice that she put lots and lots of time preparing before she just showed up. Plus: I am completely taken with Ms. Madson’s willingness to make mistakes in public.

Patricia Ryan Madson may be my new aural hero.





Written by kirkistan

February 26, 2014 at 8:44 am

5 Responses

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  1. Woo hoo! This rocks my world. And I’m honored that you’ve posted all this. The one thing I AM good at is making mistakes in public. And just think, as an improv teacher I get brownie points for displaying my ineptitude. You are right I do prepare and prepare . . . But then I just show up and attempt to be there in the flesh. I’m a bit embarrassed that this Google talk is such a long shaggy dog story. It’s a long time before I get to any real point. Most folks tune out by the fifth minute, so I appreciate your hanging in. This blog is great. I think we are on the same page. Blessings on your work.


    February 26, 2014 at 11:58 am

    • I”m glad you stopped by. Your message is so vital: please, please keep sharing it.


      February 26, 2014 at 12:04 pm

  2. I needed this today. I think I have another book in me (actually I have LOTS of writing but it isn’t yet in the book proposal stage). Your encouragement is helpful. What’s needed? No cat videos, I guess.


    February 26, 2014 at 12:23 pm

    • Your 2005 book: still discussing nine years later. That’s kind of a big deal.


      February 26, 2014 at 12:32 pm

  3. […] been gushing over Improv Wisdom lately, this 2005 book by Patricia Ryan Madson. I’m thinking of buying a number of copies to give […]

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