As more and more people are doing improv over Zoom, we are all starting to adapt to this new medium and find ways to make it work for improvisers.
In the past few months, I’ve published a few blogs about how to make your improv pop on Zoom and how to host an improv show over Zoom. But today, I wanted to talk about some things that can help you be a better teacher over Zoom.
Although I miss being in-person with my students, I have found that Zoom has actually made me a better improv teacher in some ways because it has forced me to be more present and positive than I usually am.
Here are 7 things you can do to be a better improv teacher over Zoom:
- Lower Your Expectations
One of the biggest lessons I’ve had to learn about teaching improv over Zoom has been to lower my expectations about what it’s going to be like. No, teaching on Zoom is not the same as teaching in person, and it never will be. But is it a good substitution? Yes.There certainly are limits to teaching improv over Zoom. You will not be able to do some of the same exercises you did in class, your editing can be clunky, you don’t have the same emotional connection you have when you are all in the same room. I could go on and on. But once I stopped comparing the two and accepted that this is what we have to work with right now, I could go forward. If you can’t get past this one, the other tips will be worthless.Even with the limits of teaching improv over Zoom, I have seen powerful work in my online classes. I did a workshop recently where the improvisers did one of the most powerful and profound pieces of improv that I’ve ever seen. It was about racism and it nearly brought me to tears. It was handled so intelligently and acted so skillfully, it was a work of art.
- Stand Up While You Are Teaching
When I first started teaching online, Marcus Sams of Moment Improv in San Francisco gave me some advice to stand up while I am teaching. He said it helps with your energy and will help you be more presents, and he was right. It only took me about four months to start doing it on a regular basis, but it has made such a big difference that now I sometimes get the same buzz that I did when I taught in person.
- Have Your Students Stand Up
If it works for you, why wouldn’t it work for them? In improv, it’s so important to get your students out of their heads and into their bodies, and the only way to do that is through physicality. Encouraging your students to stand up for part of the class and doing even the smallest physical movement makes a huge difference. Also, for certain scenes, I will ask them to stand.
- Improv Games and Exercises Will Take Longer
When I first started teaching on Zoom, I realized that I was only getting through half of the games and exercises that I normally teach in an in-person class. As I taught more, I realized that things just move slower on Zoom. Again, just accept that this is part of the deal and try to adjust to it, rather than getting frustrated.
- It’s Exhausting
If you’re going to teach improv over Zoom, be prepared that when it’s over your brain is going to feel fried. Why? It takes a lot more concentration to teach online so your brain is going to be on overdrive, and when class is over, you are going to crash. That may mean that you won’t have as much energy to teach as many classes as you did before, or it could mean that you just need to schedule in a break for yourself after class.
- You Have to Supply More Energy to the Class
Another reason that you may feel a bit drained by teaching on Zoom is that, unlike in an in-person class, you as the teach are more responsible for the energy of the class. In an in-person class, there is usually a point where the energy of the group takes over. But since the students are not in the same place, creating that group energy can be harder over Zoom. To keep the energy up, I’ve found it helpful to occasionally do bits, and I’ve also become more aware of the pace of the class and more of a cheerleader at times.
- Encourage Students to Keep Their Cameras Off, But Sound On
When doing two-person scenes, I have the improvisers in the scene keep their cameras on while everyone else turns their cameras off. However, I encourage everyone to keep their mics on so we can hear some laughter. My classes usually have about 10 students, and I’ve found that if even one person laughs, it can make a big difference, just like real audience feedback.
If you have tips on teaching improv over Zoom, please included them in the comments below!