Rocket Steps. The art of communication.

An Improv Workshop at MeasureCamp Manchester Unconference

I had a great time this weekend at the second MeasureCamp Manchester Unconference. Aimed at the digital and analytics community, it’s a whole day of unplanned talks and workshops. There’s no planned schedule and everyone attending has the opportunity to deliver a talk or workshop.

How does that work? After an introductory talk there’s a big blank schedule of events board – waiting to be filled.

Those keen to give a talk complete a description card and stick it the board. As this event proved, very quickly there was a diverse and interesting amount of talks to attend across the day.

I’ve attended similar formatted events in the USA, at the annual ComedySportz improv championship. During a week of workshops and entertainment) there’s an ‘open space’ which is very similar in format. The idea of a full day of this locally piqued my curiosity.

It was easy to understand the ethos of the event, and MeasureCamp Manchester was well organised. It’s not only for those keen to get up and talk, but also to encourage those who’ve never given a talk. It’s an opportunity to to seize the chance to give their first ever bit of public speaking, workshop or discussion.

As I found out, a group of data analytics techy folks set up MeasureCamp in 2012. They  wanted to run a local community event and it took off. MeasureCamps are now held in over a dozen cities, all over Europe plus Hong Kong and Australia.

I think the ‘unconference’ format is a brilliant concept too. A speaking event with no traditional hierarchy or barrier to entry, providing encouragement to anyone who has an idea they are passionate about.  The presentations do not need to be polished, there’s no guarantee of full audience. Attendees will vote with their feet. However as this event proved, with this well curated day, the fear of ‘what if no one comes to my talk!’ doesn’t arise.

Improv for Creative Thinking

MeasureCamp is designed for the digital and analytics community though I thought it felt broader. There was much discussion here about modern work culture. I attended some great talks, including a discussion on freelancing and a talk on impostor syndrome. I also gave two talks on how improvisation skills is  used as a tool for creative thinking. A shortened version my Google Digital Garage in 2018 sessions, and they were well received.

Of course there’s a strong element of improvisation to the MeasureCamp Unconference format. When I deliver an improv workshop, I explain how improvisation is about being present and creative within set of constraints of a game.  One of the organiser, Paul  suggested I pinned my session on the board at the beginning of the day, which I did. Improv is great for learning, and it’s also a good motivator. By sticking my session at the beginning of the day it could provide a little confidence boost to anyone attending who had an idea for a but not yet committed to it.
It would have been an ideal place to promote my book,  but one of the stipulations is that there is no hard sell by speakers, and rightly so.

MeasureCamp Manchester was a fun learning experience and a great networking opportunity. I’ve even considered offering to volunteer for next year’s event (if I have the time and commitment it requires) I”ll certainly be getting in early for a ticket!

Useful Links

A Much Needed Break in the capital of comics

I finally got around to taking a short holiday.  I planned on taking a break in December, and as I write this it’s now June. This is a short personal blog about taking a break and work life balance.

I’d intended to have a holiday for months, and just kept putting t off.  I told myself I was too busy. I was at first too busy to take a break, but when I had the time there wasn’t anywhere I could think of I really wanted to  go.  After a couple of  long conversations with good friends to tease out some real excuses, I slowly admitted to myself that I didn’t want to travel alone.

A work trip would have been no problem. I can travel with friends just fine. Travel to gigs, even better -getting paid to go places! However as much as I wanted to travel solo, which I’ve done plenty of, mostly to the USA;  free-time and unplanned ‘nothing’ was proving a lot harder.

At some point quite recently doubts had crept into my mind  about travelling to another country where I didn’t know the language or culture, and the potential for loneliness. I’d instinctively try to pack as much into my  schedule as possible, for fear that if I ran out of things to do I’d be left to my own thoughts in a beautiful place with no one to share the experience.

Angloueme is a town in Southern France, about an hour East of Bordeaux by train. The self proclaimed ‘capital of comics’ with a dedicated museum. Streets and buildings pay homage to Herge (Tintin), Rene Goscinny (Asterix) and many other classic European comics characters. I’d wanted to go there since I was a student.

Getting Unstuck

Recalling this place during those conversations was key to getting unstuck. The desire to travel and visit outweighed the doubts that had crept in, and off I went to France. I had an amazing time. It was even fun getting lost in Bordeaux on the way back to the airport.

I don’t want a big moral to this experience, but there’s no harm in reminding myself and others to keep talking. It’s more work life balance than mental health, but the two are related. When writing my personal journal as I do from time to time, the two mainly questions I try to answer are ‘what are my goals?’ and ‘how do I feel about stuff?’ – and they are always changing and developing.

Keep Moving.

Manchester Road Runners
Manchester Road Runners ‘Run and Talk’ Mental Health Champions

I recently joined ‘run and talk‘ an incentive created by England Athletics and organised by one of the members of my local running club, Manchester Road Runners. Anyone attending the weekly run can speak to a ‘Mental Health Ambassador’. We’re not trained counsellors and we’ve can’t advise, but we can listen and point people in the right direction.  The shirts are nice too.

Rocket Steps. The art of communication.


Rocket Steps Ltd - The Art of Communication

The Art of Communication

Showcase portfolio of John Cooper. Media creative working in Comedy, Illustration, Improvisation and Public speaking.