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Passionate Engagement: Jazz and the Boardroom

by PowerSpeaking, Inc.     Jun 19, 2014 2:24:00 PM

Speaking to decision makers is a lot like jazz or stand-up comedy: improvisation is required! Things move fast. Change happens quickly. Stick to a rigid script and drone on with PowerPoint slides...you're guaranteed to lose.

You walk into the room and the set up is all wrong or the wrong people are there or they cut your time and change the topic. What do you do?


Listen to the advice from Grammy nominated tenor sax player Anton Schwartz. What is true in music, is also true in business as well:
  • Feel the moment and read the crowd both in what you say and how you say it
  • At every moment you are given the choice about what to do
  • You can't rehearse improv on the stage or in the boardroom
  • Be passionately engaged in your content to build confidence


Reflections on Improvisation
Other jazz musicians, CEOs, and the Harvard Business Review all agree:
  • Jazz player Eddie Harris: "Jazz is a business. I read the audience. If I'm playing far out and I see they want a ballad, I'll change in the middle of the tune."
  • CEO Steve Kirsch: "Eighty percent of your success is your ability to improvise, twenty percent is the content per se."
  • HBR: "The best team leaders are like jazz players, improvising as they go along."

See our interview with Anton Schwartz


Action Step

Take Anton's advice and live in the moment with passionate engagement. We'd love to hear from you! What are the similarities you see between improvising in music and improvising with decision makers?

Related Blog Posts: 6 Strategies For Surviving Executive Presentations, Free Yourself From The Ball And Chain, Impressing The Executive Suite

About the Author

PowerSpeaking, Inc.

Topics: Improvisation, Speaking to Executives, Presentation Skills, Listening, Anton Schwartz, Passionate Engagement

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