Need Help with Cold Calls? Join the HBS Improv Club

Jill Langlas, Contributor

With at least one semester under our belts, most of us have dealt with the dreaded cold call. There was probably no one more prepared for their first cold call than improv enthusiast Adam Croft (RC Section F).

Adam moved to HBS from Los Angeles, where he worked for Dollar Shave Club, a direct-to-consumer brand that delivers razors and personal grooming products by mail. It was in L.A. that Adam signed up for his first improv class over six years ago. He quickly fell in love with his new hobby, saying, “Improv has an amazing way of grounding you and making you present in the moment and just letting go. You get out of your head and just are free—free to play, free to listen to other people, free to work with the team.” Within a couple years, he was performing monthly shows with friends to sold-out crowds of over 100 people (although he tried to convince me it was crowds of 15,000 to 20,000 people).

In Boston and missing his L.A. improv shows and community, Adam reached out on the HBS Facebook page to see if there were any improv enthusiasts in the class. After receiving interest from classmates who wanted to learn improv, Adam hosted an improv seminar class last semester. It was at this class that Adam and Jad Esber (RC Section I) saw the potential to start an official HBS club.

Although Jad had little improv experience prior to HBS, he had planned to take improvclasses in the Boston community. But, he preferred the opportunity to learn improv through his HBS community, so the duo decided to try to make an official improv club. They pitched the idea to the HBS administration the one way they knew how … with a mock improv class. The administration loved the idea, and the HBS Improv Club became official last November.

One of the first club members was Feifei Li (RC Section E). She attended her first improv show during the HBS Boston 101 activities. When she learned that her pal, Adam, had started the improv club, she decided to give it a try.

In just a couple meet-ups, Feifei feels she has already gained so much from the experience. She says she’s learned: “Don’t be afraid of embarrassing yourself. Put yourself out there. Have the courage and confidence. Be unapologetic.”

Her three goals with her HBS improv experience are to have fun, to learn something new, and to learn the best way to organize thoughts in a quick time frame (a skill she finds useful for case discussions).

Jad agrees improv has helped with HBS case classes. He says, “Improv allows me to get better at spontaneously saying and doing things, which is great with cold calls. It’s not an alternative to reading cases, but improv definitely helped me get better at jumping in after a cold call and spontaneously sharing my perspective.” He says, “It’s also just really fun and a great way to do something different here at HBS.”

If you are interested in joining the HBS improv club, reach out to co-presidents Adam Croft and Jad Esber.

While being on stage is not for everyone, it is still fun to enjoy the art of improv by attending a show in the local Boston community. Recommended shows are:

  • ImprovBoston (Central Square, Cambridge)
  • Improv Asylum (North End, Boston)
  • Sh!t-faced Shakespeare (shows at The Rockwell, Davis Square, Cambridge)

Jill Langlas (MBA ’20) is originally from Wheaton, IL, and studied engineering at the University of Kansas. Prior to HBS, she worked in petrochemical manufacturing. She enjoys fitness, Crossfit, podcasts, and perfecting the panini.