You always have to fear for captains of academic improv teams.

With little or no leadership experience, they have to learn how to guide a group of
A) peers
B) students
C) improvisers.

That kind of person 
A) does not automatically accept their leader
B) questions everything
C) intentionally accelerates their wits.

That personality profile would unnerve most seasoned leaders of 40+ years of age, but that's the job description for a relative rookie to handle. But hey, it's an awesome opportunity for young leaders to really test themselves. So let's make lessons out of our lumps and build some great teams.

May I help? Here's a series of tips for captains of improv teams

Tip #1: Focus on the Goal

Context: You, the captain, are watching a performance or a rehearsal. The lights are dim so you barely see the page you are writing on. The scene or game moves fast, and every time you drop your head to write a note, something new happens. You may not be conscious how long the scene or game will last. It might end any moment. People around you are laughing and other things are going on around you. You cannot hear. You cannot get a good view. You want to join in the fun too, but you feel responsible for improving the team... In short, you feel pressure.

Okay, so that might be overly dramatic, but it gives you a sense how difficult it might be to fill this role. Improv is supposed to be fun, but the captain regularly "takes one for the team" and sits on the sideline, scribbling. Not much fun, but there is great satisfaction in a job well done.

Let's consider the goal. I think we can make life easier with it in mind.

Your goal is, following the rehearsal or performance, to deliver information your team can use to get better. That's it. What that means is you want to preserve information that is clear and actionable.

Here's how you can be clear:
  • If you have to spend more than 10 seconds figuring out how to write the perfect note, rub it out. Chances are, if you cannot find the right words, it's not going to be clear. Besides, a lot of things happen in 10 seconds. You are missing the show!
  • Focus on themes your team has already been discussing. When you give the note, it should strike a familiar chord with your team. What helps even more is when you and your team agree beforehand on the theme for the day/week/month/etc.
  • Come up with a shorthand format that is useful and cuts down on time. I always liked my "who, when, don't" method. EXAMPLE "Ben, after chair fell, hesitation." This allowed me to picture the moment later, which is something important for visual people such as myself.
Here's how to be actionable:
  • Get involvement. Make eye contact with the ones involved and ask them to recount the event. Ask them how they would do it differently.This helps them to develop their skills by giving them a second chance - even if only in their head. "Gary, I wrote down in the Say What scene that, something happened that muddled the scene and affected Karen. Do you remember that? Okay, so if you over-talked her, what is something you could have done differently, next time you both start talking on opposite sides of the stage?"
  • Give alternatives. Sometimes people get stumped and they cannot come up with a better scenario. If they can't, you better. They want to learn, so here is a simple format: describe how you saw their choices negatively affecting the scene. Follow up by describing alternatives and paint a SHORT picture of what could have been. Don't go too far because you don't want to kill creativity. Then invite them back into the process. Example: "Okay, Harry, I can see we're having trouble coming up with high-road alternatives to the rude kid bit. When you started yelling about needing to pee, I felt it made the audience laugh, but made it difficult for the scene to top that. I could imagine your character working in the background instead, a silent imp, messing around with other people's stuff. What would you have done?"
  • Don't overdo the notes. Even if the worst scene ever is taking place before your eyes and you feel like a a million notes need to be given, bite your tongue. Sometimes only one or two notes need to be said. Scenes like that are their own lesson. No need to force the issue. The team will feel bad enough. Please don't rub it in. It's better to have them beg you for notes than to give too many.