Testers, how you develop your improvsation skills?

Hi all,

Not sure how relevent is my question in this place. It’s related to speaking without being prepared.
Here’s my context:
when I speak at conferences I use to prepare all what I’ll say and spend a lot of time before the conference day so that I know what I’ll avoid any kind of stress.

It happens that I’m invited to a live round table where I don’t know any of the things that will be discussed depending on the real time chat. It’s of course related to testing and agile testing to be more precise but at the same time a lot of topic could be linked

  • Want to know what are your tips to manage improvisation ?
  • How to make the best of your story telling when you don’t have a direct answer to the asked question ? or not having a real story from your context
  • How to manage imposter syndrom as well when you feel like what you can share is already answered by the person before you :smiley:

Many Thanks in advance !


We sometimes play Games of Improv at our meetups.


  • A man fires a bullet from his gun, aiming at a car windows glass.
  • The glass remains undamaged
  • List all possibilities for the glass to remain undamaged.

Every time a person cannot answer or make up a scenario, they lose and are out of the game.
This way you have to improvise fast and come up with some creative ways for the glass to remain undamaged.

Some examples of answers but feel free to try it yourself (in a spoiler, click to reveal some answers):

  • Bulletproof glass.
  • Bullet hits the car, not the glass.
  • Bullet flies over the car.
  • Bullet is made of soft material so it cannot break the glass.
  • Blank bullets were used.
  • Somebody came between the glass & the gun, he got hit.
  • The wind blew away the bullet.
  • The gun blocks whens firing.
  • The car drove off.
  • The man who shot at the glass got distracted and missed the glass.
  • The window was open so there was no glass to be hit.
  • The bullet hits the glass but the glass just doesn’t break.
  • The bullet was shot under water.
  • Distance between gun and the glass window was too far.
  • The bullet breaks/falls apart.
  • The car is an illusion.
  • The bullet was sucked into a dark hole.
  • Another bullet hits the bullet which makes it miss the car.
  • The bullet was sucked in by a wormhole.
  • The bullet was attracted by a huge magnet next to the car.
  • The glass healed itself by advanced nano tech.
  • The world spins faster then the bullet and the bullet misses the glass.
  • The car is in the matrix.
  • The bullet has its own life and chooses not to fly into the glass

Here’s a list of some improv games:

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That’s fantastic, already though of some of the options and there are even more creative ones in your list of answers! Thank you for sharing :bulb:
This reminds me of the black stories. Isnt the same concept ?

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Well, Inspector Harry Callaghan (Clint Eastwood) justified his choice of the .357 Magnum as his weapon of choice by saying he’d “…seen a .45 round glance off a car windshield” (Magnum Force)…

I’ve spoken without being prepared before now, mainly in response to scripted presentations that I’ve formulated objections to; but this was in a context where I was wholly engaged with the subjects under discussion, and not just at that conference but for weeks or months before.

Equally, I’ve had prepared presentations that have fallen apart seconds before delivery because the person introducing me as speaker has inadvertently stolen all my best bits and used them themselves in the introduction!


As for story telling here a tip I learned during a management course. Collect your stories. Something interesting happened? Write it done, rework it to a story and practise that story. If you have a little bank of these stories it will be easier in the moment to bring one out and since you have practised it you already know what to say.
To address the imposter syndrome, from the same course, is the concept of owning the right to say what you say. If you speak about a personal experience, no person in the world knows that thing better than you, so you always 100% own that topic. Where if you want to make a general statement on testing you better have a solid foundation, like researched the topic for 15 years to own the right to that statement. The main advantages of this idea is that if you only claim things that you have the right to claim no one is better qualified to answer any questions that arise than you.
Having both done the represent something to which I do not own the right to vs. something I do it makes a huge difference for my confidence if I know no one is better qualified than I am to speak about it and answer any question that can come. As a bonus game you can also apply this to the other speakers and see that there are a lot of people who makes statements that they do not own the right to make. :slight_smile:


I have never been a member of a panel discussion. During the last years I collected some information which might be useful.

If I ever would be asked, then I would ensure that the conference let me shine.

These are my steps I would take:

  • check for a Code of Conduct. This would give me more room to speak.
  • check how the Code of Conduct is enforced.
  • check the gender and colour of the other panel mebers. If I am the only person, who is not a white man, then I might be a token. I want to be asked because of my experience and knowledge. Not because of the way I look.
  • look at the past of the moderator and other panel members. There are certain people I would avoid.
  • ask around about the panel discussion in your network. Some minorities might have some clues.
  • ask the moderator how she or he or they would lead the discussion.
  • ask the moderator how I would be able to contribute in the presence of very experienced speakers.
  • ask high level subjects in advance from the moderator.“Would things like test automation be discussed? Or other things?” This will give you some time to find stories or collect stories from other people.
  • get an ally in the panel.
  • if I have a bad feeling about it, then I would reject the invitation for the panel discussion.

My career has massively benefitted from improvisation and clowning out of work and just for fun. It wasn’t an intended outcome but I pretty much never have a block on my thoughts around testing and being in that space helps others towards freer thinking.
For instance if you run a meeting along the lines of Tina Fey’s four rules of improvisation it can make it an amazingly supportive and creative space.
The four rules being:

  1. Agree never dismiss an idea it kills flow.
  2. Yes and . . . - Build on what has been said
  3. Make statements, don’t keep raising questions and pointing out obstacles
  4. There are no mistakes only opportunities

And in using the improve and creating supportive and safe spaces to discuss you will find that most people’s negative inner voice reduces because there are no failures and everyone else builds on what you say.

The other idea often mentioned in improvisation circles is you can look good if you make your partner look good. Which is also a great way to approach collaboration in almost any context.


This is a great advice ! And really helpfull anlso in time for my next Tuesday session :blush::blush:
Highly appreciated :ok_hand:

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