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Special Guest Post: Yes! to Improv, By Terry Daves

I was onstage, in the moment, facing an invisible tiger, when I realized the words  “yes, and…” can change the way a person does business.
I ended up at the Peoples Improv Theater in my ongoing search for better ways to serve clients and motivate staff.  I run Medallion Retail; we develop shopper experiences and environments for big retail brands.  We’re all about creating a positive experience.  Turns out, so is improv theater.
Our workshop at PIT was inspiring, invigorating and insanely fun.  It was a safe space where non-actors like me got to play, mug and feel the thrill of really thinking on your feet.  Being in the moment – and outside of your own head — is empowering.
Through scenes, games and exercises (Crazy 8s was a favorite!), I learned that the cornerstone of good improv is an affirmative attitude.  Openness, flexibility and a willingness to extend yourself result in a good performance – on a stage or in a client meeting.  
Good improv, and good business, require 
·     Commitment

o   Truly believe in what you’re saying and who you’re saying it to.  

·     Collaboration

o   Share your vision and trust your team. Trust leads to empowerment, which leads to surprising and delightful performances.

·     Energy

o   Exude positive vibes.  Your audience – paying client or patron – can feel and feed on your excitement and passion.

I use my newfound improv skills everyday in my business to animate idea sessions, motivate staff and wow clients.  Would I take another workshop at PIT?

Terry Daves is the President of Medallion Retail, a full service retail strategy company, offering end-to-end research through implementation expertise specializing in custom branded selling environments.

Medallion Retail helps great businesses become great brands. Fortune 1000 companies, global brands and the nation’s largest retailers rely on them to enhance and shape the customer experience at retail.


Twitter: @MedallionRetail



We all had a great time. It exceeded our high expectations, and the instructor was ideal!

~Raymond Blum, Software Engineering, Google



The feedback from students was excellent! This was a great way to kick off the semester. Students felt that the ice was broken, they got to know one another better and learned a new way of communicating. I was very happy with the quality of teachers.

~Jennifer Baron, Cohort Leadership Project Coordinator, Stern Business School, New York University



We were very pleased with the workshop and thought our instructor was great. We really enjoyed the training, and I would definitely recommend it to my colleagues and other firms. Thanks for making it so simple and enjoyable.

~Nancy Keane, Capital Markets Technology, Royal Bank of Canada



We were pleasantly surprised to find normally shy members actively participating and shining on stage. The workshop is a nurturing experience that builds trust and respect and was an invaluable experience for our members.

~Maureen Brophy, Program Coordinator, The Mental Health Association of Westchester



It was a huge success!

~William McNulty, First Vice President, Morgan Stanley

Light Years Ahead of Any Ordinary Public Speaking Course

Speech classes in high school and college taught me the fundamentals of public speaking. Several years ago, Toastmasters helped me perfect the skill of organizing material, creating and sharing information, making eye contact, and fielding questions. But my recent experience in a public speaking course at the Peoples Improv Theater here in New York City went light years beyond that.

By way of introduction, I’m an independent marketing consultant and strategist, as well as a marketing writer. In addition to my day job, I spend a tremendous amount of time networking. I am fully committed to the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce. I serve on the Board of Directors and head a group called the Ambassadors. We’re the ones who meet and greet people at various MCC events and help people get connected.

At a Manhattan Chamber of Commerce event one morning, I met Tommy Galan of the Peoples Improv Theater. Tommy shared his background and talked about his work at The PIT.  I’d always been interested… well curious about improv. Not that I wanted to be a standup comedian, but for one reason or another, improv intrigued me.

I learned that Tommy was teaching an improv version of public speaking and that it was targeted to business people. I said, “Sign me up.” (Ultimately, I recruited four friends to join me.)

In three very fast hours Mike, Janet, Gary, Jack and I learned the fundamentals of improv. We had an opportunity to do a sketch or two and several exercises. Throughout the class, Tommy related these exercises to public speaking.

The amazing thing is that the impact was and is lasting. In fact, a week or so after the public speaking course, I spoke one by one with Mike, Janet, Gary, and Jack one-on-one. Each of us reported sharing the same experience. As a result of this course, our communication with others was totally energized. We were better listeners. (Yeah, that too.) We were, as they say, more comfortable in our own skin regardless of whom we were talking to, where, or when. Fear of public speaking dissolved. Whether we were networking, sitting in a meeting, giving our elevator pitch, talking to clients or prospects on the phone, we were bringing energy and enthusiasm to virtually every communication situation. 

By now, you’re probably realizing that I’m having more than a little difficultly explaining what improv really is. You are correct. I can talk about the outcome, but it’s difficult to describe an experience… and improv is one of those activities that everyone ought to experience at least once in a lifetime.

The above guest blog was written by Gil Effron, founder and CEO of Strategies for Growth, a New York City based marketing consultancy. You can learn more about Gil and his “day job,” including his Marketing Writing Workshop, at His book, How to Give Your Business an Extreme Marketing Makeover, is available online at,, and through his website. 



I have known and worked with Ali Farahnakian [owner/founder of The PIT] for eight years, most recently, here at Saturday Night Live. I find him to be a responsible and incredibly talented person.
Tina Fey, Head Writer-Saturday Night Live



I highly recommend this workshop. It not only helped our staff learn valuable lessons they can apply everyday, they felt great about the company for including them in such a fun experience. The passion the teacher exuded was contagious, the laughs endless, and the experience unforgettable. The class exceeded my expectations in every way.

~Tami Roadarmel, Advertising Director, New York Press



Gilder Gagnon Howe & Co. Testimonial

As a collective of stock market investors we’ve each spent years understanding the intricacies of our favorite industries.  We thought we would take an improv class to help us work together during meetings with companies. When participating in the class, however, we recognized it would help us work together. 

We had grown so focused on listening to others, we had forgotten how to listen to each other. While we no longer remember the specific games we played in class that day, we all remember the power of saying “Yes, and” instead of “No.”  Not only do we start pooling knowledge together when we say it, but our listening and memory seem to become heightened once we hear it.  

If you work in a group, there is no better investment than taking your co-workers to a workshop at The PIT.

Yaroslav Faybishenko

 Gilder Gagnon and Howe