Insider Exclusive: Grow Your Business Through the Playful World of Improv Comedy

Insider Exclusive: Grow Your Business Through the Playful World of Improv Comedy

How improvisation can provide personal, professional, and business growth

By Shana Merlin

Improvisational theater company Merlin Works will be teaching improv techniques for business at the 2018 ABA Marketplace. Founder and owner Shana Merlin’s message of play, group creativity, and spontaneity is used by businesses to develop communication skills, creative problem-solving, and teamwork. In this article, she shares with the motorcoach travel and tourism industry how being a good tourist takes some improvisation. Do you recognize these qualities in the tourists/travelers you deal with every day? Can you practice improv to be a better tourist—and manager—yourself?

People spend thousands of dollars on travel, but how much time or money do they spend on learning how to be a good tourist? Probably none. Well, the summer travel season is here, and as you provide transportation, tours, lodging, and entertainment to your customers, you can tell the “good” tourists (those who are willing to be spontaneous and try new things) from the “bad” tourists (those who choose to eat at a familiar chain restaurant in New York City!). A good tourist has the following qualities that are also improv skills—and can be applied to your leadership style as well:

Nonjudgmental. A good tourist doesn’t go to Spain and say, “Your dinners are too late.” You are in Spain to experience a different way of life. So, instead of judging you embrace the difference.

Action-oriented. Good tourists leave their hotel room. They try a zip line or visit a museum. Even if they are scared or unsure of the new activity, they make a move and figure things out as they go.

Curious. Good tourists see adventures around every corner. They ask questions, they do research, they open doors.

Humble. Since they aren’t local, tourists don’t assume to be the expert in a new world. They are open to asking for help and relying on local experts.

Adventurous. They might not be fluent in the language, but good tourists will give a few key words or phrases a try. They might not have used this transit system before, but they get a ticket, look at the map, and hop on board. They take risks, make mistakes, learn some things, and come home with some stories, just like any good improv show.

Aware. Tourists see the beauty in what might be mundane for the locals. Like improvisers on stage, they have a heightened awareness and perceive more than they do in their everyday lives.

Impersonators. For many people, the ultimate goal of tourism is to discover oneself anew. When in Spain, they might dress like a local, eat like a local, and even speak like a local. When visiting other place and cultures, improvise and be someone new!

And these attributes are excellent for leaders as well: being curious, humble, aware, action-oriented, and nonjudgmental. Exhibiting these qualities can make you a more innovative, effective, and (dare we say) fun leader in your organization.

Be sure and attend one of Merlin Works’ fun, laugh-out-loud sessions at the 2018 ABA Annual Meeting & Marketplace, Jan. 26–30, 2018!

Merlin Works is the brainchild of Shana Merlin: improviser, teacher, and performer. Shana’s classes stretch people’s imaginations, push them out of their comfort zones, and make them laugh out loud. You won’t want to miss Shana’s session at ABA’sAnnual Meeting & Marketplace in Charlotte! For more information, visit

About the American Bus Association

The American Bus Association (ABA) is the trade organization of the intercity bus industry, with more than 1,000 motorcoach and tour company members in the United States and Canada. Its members operate charter, tour, regular route, airport express, special operations and contract services. Another 2,800 members are travel and tourism organizations and suppliers of bus products and services who work in partnership with the North American motorcoach industry.


Melanie Hinton, Vice President, Communications & Marketing, ABA
Office: (202) 218-7220
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