http://nfpa.typepad.com/.a/6a00d8351b9f3453ef01676955aee6970b-piLast week I walked into a classroom full of strangers, joined them in a circle, pointed my folded hands toward the ceiling in my best James Bond impersonation and waited for my signal to begin. “Wah!” I shouted on cue, aiming my extended arms at the forehead of a guy on the other side of the circle. “Wah!” he shouted back. “Wah! Wah!” I squawked at another participant when it was my turn again. She gleefully accepted my exclamation and flung it at someone else. I am shy, reluctant to leave my comfort zone, but shrieking like a crow, saying funny words, and slicing the air with wild gestures was delightful. I had not only survived but thrived in my first warm-up exercise in Improv 101. When the six-week course is over I don’t expect to be headlining shows at the local comedy club but I hope to improve my presentation skills. Improv teaches you how to be more comfortable in front of an audience, speak with a purpose, improve listening techniques, and become more spontaneous–all important skills to have whether you’re giving a talk for Fire Prevention Week, or presenting one of NFPA’s education programs, or safety tips and fact sheets. Best of all laughing is required in Improv. It happens at least every five minutes, a reminder to us who make presentations to lighten up, put away the self-consciousness, and make learning fun.