DisruptHR Chicago: Interview with Erin Diehl

Erin is a graduate of The Second City Chicago Training Center, i.O. Theater, and The Annoyance Theatre. You may have seen her performing improv as an ensemble member at Under the Gun Theater, especially improvising as host “Christina Harrison” in the long-running show “Will You Accept This Rose, An Improvised Parody of The Bachelor” – a show she created and co-directs.  You can also find her hosting the online video series “Erin on the Street” for The RedEye Chicago, and hosting this year’s RedEye Big Idea Awards.

Erin Diehl has been performing since she was three years old. Whether it was in a community theater production, dance competition, or impromptu performance in her family’s living room. Erin graduated from Clemson University where she spent three years on the varsity dance team “The Rally Cats” performing and competing.

Erin’s love of the arts took her to Chicago where she landed a role in the Off-Broadway play, “The Awesome 80’s Prom.” This was her first improv experience, and she was hooked from then on.

With just over a week until DisruptHR Chicago, we caught up with Erin to ask about her upcoming speaking spot at this great event.

Editor: Tell us about yourself – your career history and how to came to be in your current role

Erin: To start from the very beginning… I would say my performing career started as early as three years old. Whether it was in a community theater production, dance competition, or impromptu performance in my family’s living room – if there was a stage, I was on it. My passion for performance continued through my college years at Clemson University where I spent three years on the varsity dance team “The Rally Cats” performing and competing.

But my journey didn’t stop there! My love of the arts took me to Chicago where I landed a role in the Off (Off, Off, Off) Broadway play, “The Awesome 80’s Prom.” This production offered me my first taste of improvisation, and I never looked back.

To get my improv fix, I’ve trained and graduated from The Second City Chicago Training Center, the i.O. Theater, and The Annoyance Theatre. You may have seen me performing improv as an ensemble member at Under the Gun Theater. I’ve most notably performed as host “Christina Harrison” in the long-running show “Will You Accept This Rose, An Improvised Parody of The Bachelor” – a show I created and co-direct. You can also find me hosting the online video series “Erin on the Street” for The RedEye Chicago, and hosting this year’s RedEye Big Idea Awards.

My decade plus of corporate experience in casting, experiential marketing and recruiting, led me to believe that improv could be a useful tool to any company’s culture. In 2012, I created a workshop to explore the impact of using improv techniques in business and presented it to teams at United Airlines. The workshop was a success and also the start of my company, improve it!

Editor: What does your company do?

Erin: improve it! LLC, winner of the 2014 Chicago RedEye Big Idea Awards—Art & Design category, and nominee for the 2015 and 2016 Chicago Innovation Awards, is on a mission to provide high-energy, laughter-filled, corporate performances and team-building workshops that feature professionally-trained improvisers. improve it!’s corporate performances have teams roaring with laughter and our highly-interactive workshops will enhance team’s cohesion and communication skills. improve it! offers customized corporate performances and workshops to clients such as United Airlines, PepsiCo, Groupon, American Marketing Association, and Illinois CPA Society.

improve it! is all about improving the lives of others, and gladly donates a portion of earnings to Funny Bones Improv, a registered 501c3 charitable organization whose mission is to share the gifts and benefits of laughter with sick children and their families in multiple hospitals across Chicago and New Orleans through volunteer comedy improvisation performances.

Editor: Any upcoming product launches or initiatives you’d like to highlight to our audience?

Erin: We have six core workshops that train on specific soft skills. Those six workshops are Team Building / Collaboration, Effective Communication, Networking, Presentation Skills, Thinking Quickly on Your Feet and Taking Initiative / Creative Risks. \

We have recently developed what we are calling 2.0 Tune Up’s to each of these workshops. This is in the same style as the core six offerings, but is more customized and specific to the participant’s day to day tasks.

Additionally, we are in the process of partnering with a large catering company in Chicago with our newest offering called “Brain Food.” We provide an hour-long, power-packed, improvisational warm-up for companies and teams looking to create a group mind before a big meeting or strategy session. These mini-workshops will feature activities meant to create an energetic and collaborative atmosphere, motivating employees to go into their day/meeting with optimism and excitement. In conjunction with these workshops, the client will have breakfast or lunch catered by one of the lead catering companies in Chicago.

Editor: What does an average work week look like for you?

Erin: What I love most about my job is that every day is completely different. One day is set aside each week to strategize with Allie Keller (my Director of Operations) on marketing, resources, and overall offerings. The other four days are spent in on-site in a client’s office providing our high energy laughter filled workshops or keynotes, having coffee or lunch to connect with a client, or preparing for the week’s workshops. I truly love what I do, and I truly care our about clients. What is great about improve it! is that the people we work with care about their employees and their professional development. We are lucky that we get to work with some of the kindest, most compassionate and caring employers who want the very best for their teams. So interacting with awesome people is a huge perk!

Editor: What made you decide to be a speaker at DisruptHR Chicago?

Erin: I met Charlie Judy and loved everything he had to say about company culture. Quite frankly, I find him to be thebomb.com. But seriously, I was intrigued by the name itself, and the fact that it takes the typical HR conference and turns it upside down. It is outside of the box thinking when it comes to HR practices and professional development and that’s what I / improve it! are all about!

Editor: What will you be speaking about at DisruptHR Chicago?

Erin: The title of my topic is “I’m Starting with the Woman in the Mirror” – A Michael Jackson Tribute to Making Changes in HR.” I will help you take an in-depth look at the woman (or man) in the mirror, and use improvisation techniques to ask yourself the following questions: Are you a “Remember the Time(r)” or a “PYT, Pretty Young Thing,” helping to create a safe and positive space in your corporate culture? Do you “wanna be startin’ something” when it comes to taking creative risks or do you “beat it” when it you are asked to think outside of the box? If so, “you are not alone.” Erin will help find the “thriller” inside you and to realize if you want to make work a better place, “you gotta take a look at yourself and make that change!”

Editor: What are the major learnings that attendees will take from your session?

Erin: It’s all about looking intrinsically to see if you are creating a safe space for employees to feel like they can contribute and that their ideas are heard, and taking initiative and creative risks to facilitate change within your organization. I use Michael Jackson’s lyrics to emphasize key points and drive home take key take away’s.

Editor: You only have 5 minutes to present at DisruptHR Chicago. What unique challenges and opportunities does this format offer?

Erin: Oh so many! I have the tendency to talk a lot, so the 20 slides changing every 15 seconds allows me only to focus on my main points and not over speak. I also use audience participation in all of my keynotes and workshops, and this format does NOT allow much time for that to happen. It’s forcing me outside of my comfort zone in that way (believe it or not) and I’m excited about the challenge!

Editor: Why does Chicago need an event like DisruptHR?

Erin: Having a husband who works in Human Resources / Learning and Development and being a part of organizations that focus on human capital in Chicago, I have sat through my fair share of snooze fests. (Love you, John)! All are educational, but I learn by being mentally stimulated in an environment that is exciting, challenging and uplifting. DisruptHR is everything I could dream of in an event. It’s innovative, creative, inspirational and most importantly; FUN. Now that’s how I want to spend my Wednesday night!

Editor: Are you attending/speaking at any other HR-related events in the next 6-12 months? If so which ones and why?

Erin: Yes, I do attend most events for SHRM Chicago, HRMAC, and Workforce Live. I’m not speaking at any of these yet (wink, wink) but really do enjoy networking with like-minded individuals and learning what other companies are doing to move their HR practices forward.


Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not of The HR Gazette or its team members.
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Author: Editor

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