Hate watching yourself on video? Don’t worry, you are in good company.

One of the side effects of having so many online meetings is that we cannot avoid seeing ourselves on screen. Some people find it distracting and others even say it makes them feel anxious.

This short blog is written to assure you that you are not alone. Many actors refuse to watch their performances and go to great lengths to avoid it. Recently Adam Driver walked out of an interview to avoid seeing himself on screen.

This may seem particularly strange for an actor. It feels a bit like a chef refusing to eat their own food!

Whenever we use video in our sessions with clients we always give a health warning. Most of the video we see is on television and film. As the end credits show there is a small army of people ensuring the actors look good (or sometimes bad). This includes a lighting team, sound team and a number of make up artists. 

This can mean that even if we are doing a great job at our online meeting it might not look that way. If we judge ourselves by the standards of TV and video then we will always be disappointed.

More tips will follow on this blog to help us look as good as possible but in the meantime, a really good option is to get a desk light like the one we recommended in an earlier blog.

If all else fails, hopefully you can take some comfort from the fact that even the professionals with all their support teams often find it difficult as well.

Stay connected as a team with online video tools

During these uncertain times where the majority of us are now working from home, it’s so important to keep that sense of connection with our teams and colleagues. We share a quick video on how we can maintain that human contact using online video tools.

By | March 24th, 2020|Uncategorized|0 Comments

How to look and sound your best on video

By | March 23rd, 2020|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Worried how you look on video calls? Brighten your image.

People often feel they look washed out on video calls. Using a specialist light can transform how you look. This is a short demo of the difference it makes.

By | March 18th, 2020|Uncategorized|0 Comments

A simple guide to the best video conferencing software

In light of the rush to move communications online, we’ve been asked which video conferencing software we recommend. While we are not technology experts below is our humble opinion based on our experiences and feedback from clients.

Overall preference: Zoom

Pros – Most importantly, it has the most reliable performance. There are lots of additional features – even on the free package. We particularly liked the shared whiteboard feature. On the paid package there is the ability to create break-out groups and do group polls on calls. There is even the option to “Touch up my appearance”!

Cons – You can only do 40 minute sessions on the free package. Also something to be aware of is there is no toll-free dial-in numbers for the US or the UK. Participants need to download the app.

Go to meeting

Pros – you can personalise your meeting room although it’s not of huge benefit. It is easy to use and set up. You can add on additional packages ‘Go to Webinars’ and ‘Go to training’ if that is more what you need the software for.

Cons – we have had some problems with video quality particularly pixelating video images. While it “does what it says on the tin” there are fewer bonus features than you will find with Zoom.

Google Hangouts

Pros – we really loved the ability to turn on captions. It converts what you are saying directly into text. It wasn’t 100% accurate but is a nice accessibility feature. Very easy to set these calls up too – it embeds easily into Google calendar invites.

Cons – The quality is not always so good unless you have an excellent connection. In some ways it is simpler than other options as you do not have to download the app but given the range of Google products on offer it can be confusing to use.


Pros – great for internal teams sharing documents, messaging together constantly and the group call functionality is fine.

Cons – not so useful for calls outside the team so you wouldn’t use Slack to have calls with clients for example

MS Teams

Pro – similar to Slack it has rich functionality for sharing within teams. We really like the function of being able to blur your background even if it distracted us by playing with it for a good three minutes!

Cons -Quite arduous to get into and set up for the team. Like Slack it is designed for sharing within internal teams rather than external presentations and meetings.

Why we have not covered Facetime/Skype/Whatsapp

These are great tools for personal conversations. They are not our first choice for formal video conferencing because it means that your clients/colleagues/business associates would forever have access to your personal video conferencing and would be at liberty to call you any time. To maintain control and professionalism, one of the above would be our preferred options.

And finally…

Some online tools are blocked in different jurisdictions (Zoom is blocked in the UAE for example) so make sure in advance your audience can access the tool.


Let us know your experience of these tools. Which is your preferred option or are there any bugbears about any of these that we haven’t covered?

By | March 17th, 2020|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Part 2: how improv can boost creativity and collaboration in business

In part 1, we covered ‘let yourself fail’ and the ‘yes and’ principles.

This blog looks at how Improv can reframe the way you interact with others.

Make your partner look and feel like a genius

People often say to me ‘It must be terrifying to do improv, there’s so much pressure to be funny’. Yet, Improv is really about the collective contribution of the group – not you as an individual. There’s nothing more irritating than someone in an improv scene on their own agenda and taking the attention away from the group. This irritation might be familiar in the office too!

The focus instead lies on how to set your scene partners up for them to be in the best possible light. How you can make it easy for them to add something to whatever you’ve just said.This completely takes the pressure off you so you relax and just focus better on being present in the scene. What’s more, if everyone is trying to make each other look good, there’s a good chance everyone succeeds!

At work, we can so often be worried about our own performance – we tend to have individual appraisals and targets. However, no one ever really achieves anything alone. Our culture applauds the lone genius but Einstein, Edison and Jobs – they all had teams of people helping them! Ideas were honed through collaboration and discussions.

Improv encourages us back towards the creative power of the group. At work we can often feel that should never present an idea until it’s a fully formed and ‘perfect’. It’s a real creativity inhibitor. Instead, sharing and building ideas as a collective allows them to evolve into so much more than one mind could have created on their own.

Be fully present

There is no more important skill in improv than listening! When you’re in a performance, you have to be so fully present because new details are flying around you by the second – everyone suddenly has new names, are in new settings with new scenarios! If you miss the details, the audience is going to notice.

In real life however, we often listen only to respond. When someone is talking, we are busy formulating our reply rather than intently tuning in. We miss so much detail that way. There are many improv games and exercises, which challenges us to listen to every single word our partners say. It’s enlightening.

In business, imagine if everyone listened in an ‘improv’ way to colleagues, clients and stakeholders. It not only reduces the chance of creating products no-one wants or marketing campaigns that miss the point. It’s deeper than that. If you truly listen to someone, they feel heard – one of our basic human needs. It changes the way someone feels about you.

So not only do you give someone the gift of being heard, you also get access to a lot more accurate information to enable better decisions. It’s something you need to actively switch on though. Honing these skills in the improv classroom gives you a better chance of activating this ‘listening mode’ in any meeting or important conversation.

A final word

The real beauty of Improv is not in any one of these principles but in the alchemy when they are all in force together! Imagine – you are not afraid to share an idea because your team-mates have got your back. Ideas grow into something because everyone  ‘yes, ands’ what is offered. Solutions develop and evolve. Everyone is fully listening and responding to each other in an attentive way.

I grant you this may still seem like a distant fantasy for the office. Yet, what if you chose to just implement some of these for yourself? What would that do for your performance? How would it change how others viewed you?

What’s more, it’s a more joyful approach to work. Improv advocates permission to ‘play’ again. It’s an extremely fun way to refine the very best of human skills.

For more information on how to bring Improv into your office or team, get in touch with Nicola (nicola@msbexecutive.com).

Improv can boost creativity and collaboration in business

Why is it that companies such as Facebook, Uber, Apple and Pepsico are part of the growing trend in bringing improv into their employee training programmes? What can we learn from an art form that spontaneously creates a whole show out of nothing? Well, it turns out – a lot!

I’ve been a hugely avid student of Improv for years now. I’ve even created my own workshop to introduce the principles of improv into the companies I work with. I believe they might just be the antidote to revitalising creativity and collaboration in large organisations.

Improv is firstly the permission to play. A concept so lacking in our adult lives. When did being an adult become such a serious business? We place huge importance on fun and imagination for children – we see the value in how it builds confidence, learning and experimentation.

Yet, we ignore this need as adults. Not only is it a joy killer but also is inherently detrimental to innovation and originality.

The principles of Improv can not only regarded as sage wisdom for life but also sound rules for business. Let’s delve into two of these principles now (with more to follow in the next blog post).

LET yourself fail

Failing is actually the easy part. We’re human. We naturally learn best through experimenting which means trial and error. However, we’ve become so fearful of the ‘error’ part that we stop ourselves from the ‘trying’ part. What Improv re-invigorates in us is the spirit of giving ourselves permission to get it wrong.

In fact, when learning improv, you start with lots of games and whenever someone messes up – we actually all cheer and celebrate.

It’s easy to spot this fear of failure in the workplace. It’s where you hold yourself back from stating your point in a meeting. Or where you get tongue tied when the CEO asks you a question. Or when you don’t put yourself forward for promotion. That fear of looking stupid or getting it wrong is a real innovation killer in business. So improv starts to create a new mindset – to put the value on trying and learning rather than worrying about being perfect or ‘right’.

Yes and…

This is the real catalyst to making improv viable. ‘Yes and’ means that whatever your team mate offers, you have to accept it (the ‘yes’ part) and build on it (the ‘and’ part). That means – even if you thought this scene was about a ship – if your scene partner speaks first and says you’re on a spaceship – then you’re on a spaceship. To accept that is not enough though – you then have to add a new piece of information about the spaceship situation so your scene partner can build on that.

‘Yes and’ hones the skills of being totally adaptable and relinquishing control. You can’t go in with your own fixed idea and try and shoehorn it in. You can’t control your team or force them to do what you want, nor should you want to – it’s a creativity killer!

How can we bring these principles into the office?

Well firstly, think about how often we hear ‘no, but…’ in meetings. Someone offers an idea and gets ‘no, butted’– ‘it’s too risky’, ‘we’ve done it before and it didn’t work’, ‘it’s too expensive’. However, imagine you change the dynamic to creating a space for people to ‘yes, and…’ each other’s ideas. It is my belief that when leaders and teams create ‘safe spaces’ for bouncing ideas – the creativity of a team is brought to life. I’ve seen this in a bank that creates ‘innovation jams’ for people around the business to just come together and help solve a problem. The FCA sandbox would be another example where, even in the regulatory industry, space to trial new things is possible!

Disney famously had 3 separate rooms for his teams to do their thinking! One of which was the ‘dream’ room where the team were only allowed to think up new ideas. The ultimate ‘yes and’ room!

Whilst you may not be able to create your own ‘yes and’ rooms – I think individually we can all decide to put a ‘yes and’ hat on in meetings. Hold the space for people to share their ideas and ‘yes and’ them to see where they might go.

For more information on how to bring Improv into your office or team, get in touch with Nicola (nicola@msbexecutive.com).

By | November 29th, 2019|Uncategorized|0 Comments
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