(Lesson 1) : ‘Improvise’
13:30. I find communication fascinating, whereas it concerns writing a speech or press release, or me talking to you as a human being. We humans, have this incredible capacity of communicating and influencing one another but also this risk of being misheard or misunderstood by the other. This is where I feel improv. can help : it teaches you how to be a good communicator, how to captivate your audience with a good story also how to collaborate with your partners on stage. Basically, it teaches you how to convey a message in all confidence and efficacy within a short amount of time – skill that is crucial in the field of EU affairs. I mean, I have worked in the institutions for years and I have seen experts who could not see the forest for the trees when it comes to communication. This is where I feel improv could teach EU employees and experts, an artistic way of communicating better; and by better I mean cutting through the fluff and speaking with heart and honesty.
How did I start doing this? Oh, I never believed acting was a viable career option, probably because I come from a family of Greek immigrants who believe becoming a lawyer or an engineer is the only one path to success (She laughs) For years I did it as a hobby, on the side of working for the EU, until I turned thirty and realised: hey, this is the one thing in my life that I have never ever quit! So I committed to it. I was quite self-involved before; I thought I was brave but I was actually afraid of failure and did not take enough risks. Improv helped me overcome this, since it is also about embracing mistakes and taking inspiration from others; it’s a collaborative process. There is no room for ego.
Kelly worked at the European Commission, the European Parliament and an NGO based in Brussels and is now the founder of Improvbubble, an improv company offering communication trainings, improv. classes and shows.
(Lesson 2): ‘Have a strategy’
18:30 . What is it like doing communication in the EU bubble? (She sighs) Well, the main approach in Brussels consists of placing communication as a mere addition to the ‘core work’: government relations and public affairs. Obviously, I strongly oppose this approach; my belief is that communication is a job in itself. Surely many people are able to update a website, but I doubt many people could come up with a proper communication strategy, unless knowing how. Whilst everybody thinks they can do communication, not everybody actually can. – Who cannot apply a proper communication strategy? Hmm… lawyers? I mean, they are fantastic at doing law; but have you ever read a press release written by a lawyer? (She laughs)
So, I’d say the EU bubble needs to expand its reach and will to perform communication, and people need to understand the intricacies of this field. I do not try to teach people what to do, as this is my own approach and perspective on things. Inversely, I do not like people teaching me what to do. I know how to do my job and communication is not a given, or something easy.
Many initiatives here – trade associations, small and bigger organisations – don’t have a communication strategy and this is a gap also present in European institutions. This creates an issue, since the lack of communication from a ‘pro-European’ perspective allows member states to play things their way : when a certain decision is in their favour they manage to claim good negotiations with the EU, but when a decision goes wrong they like to blame it on Brussels.
Florence is a communications expert and the founder of a communications agency dealing with EU affairs in Brussels