Hello! Tim once again with the key(board) to the blog!
It feels like so much has been going on lately that our feet have hardly touched the ground – what with conferences, training, external placements (more on that soon!), events, networking, flying to Scotland for another conference… you get the idea!
Throughout all of this though, there was something that I promised myself I would not forget to blog about: the wittily titled “Improv Your Museum” training at Essex Records Office in Chelmsford. So, albeit three weeks after I attended it, here we go…
I really have my fellow Trainee, Esme to thank for this. She and I were talking one day about how difficult performing an improvised stand-up set would be. The next thing I knew, she had emailed me a link to this training! ‘Improv Your Museum’ is a workshop run by two members of the comedy group Do Not Adjust Your Stage. It consisted of a series of exercises normally used by the group as warm-ups prior to going on stage, or at their regular sessions. With the help of Matt Stevens and Tim Grewcock, we were shown how these games, which utilised improvisation and quick thinking, could be used to improve our museum practice.
The training was organised by the Heritage Education Group, who were kind enough to let me sit in on their meeting before the workshop. I really appreciated this, as I learnt a lot about what was happening in the various museums in the area and met many interesting people.
I won’t bore you with specific details of every exercise, but suffice to say that they all revolved around certain rules/ideas. Two of the most important were “do not deny the other person” and “make the other person look as good as possible”. This can be applied to talking to visitors on the galleries. If they say something you know to be totally inaccurate, do not brutally shut them down and make them feel stupid in front of others. Instead, think on your feet and politely accept their suggestion/viewpoint, whilst tactfully explaining the correct facts.
Other games focused more on simply being aware of other people and anticipating actions/reactions, which is especially important in Visitor Services. Judging the mood/reactions of a visitor can mean the difference between enriching their visit and boring them or making them feel uncomfortable.
One of my favourite exercises illustrated the use of these skills well. The “gift giving game” (as I will call it) involved pairing up, with one person continually presenting imaginary gifts to their partner. The recipient must then accept the gift and say why/how it will be useful to them. After a time the roles are then reversed. As well as being fun, this was good practice for not denying others, thinking on your feet, improvising in potentially unusual circumstances (the gift could be anything!) and building confidence.
Overall, I found the workshop not only fun but also really useful. It made me think differently about interaction with others and gave me new ways to consider approaching situations. The representatives of Do Not Adjust Your Stage said that they love going round different museums and delivering this training, so if you get the chance I would highly recommend it.
Next time on Tim’s posts: West Stow Anglo Saxon Village…
See you then!