PRSA Storytellers: What the Pandemic Proves About Leadership: Why Skilled Improvisation and Inclusion Are the Key to Our Futures

April 30, 2021 03:00 p.m. – 04:00 p.m.

Student Members

While upsetting the balance of our lives all over the world, COVID-19 has also focused enduring themes and emerging trends for leadership practice. This big-picture webinar details why and how improvisation and inclusion must be at the center of every leader’s philosophy and behaviors in a post-pandemic world. In essence, no organization can be successful without their leaders cultivating these twin skills moving forward. Detailing what has changed in our organizational environments, while drawing from a wealth of research and surprising insights from the field of improvisational theater, the webinar will provide participants with a framework that can be immediately put into practice by both rising and established leaders. Using findings from the author’s new book, Improv for Democracy: How to Bridge Differences and Develop the Communication and Leadership Skills Our World Needs, the webinar will further provide an opportunity for participants to re-set their thoughts and actions as they launch into new and uncertain post-pandemic futures.


Don Waisanen (photo)Don Waisanen is a professor in the Marxe School of Public and International Affairs at Baruch College, where he received the Presidential Awards for Distinguished Teaching and Distinguished Scholarship. He teaches courses and workshops in public communication—including executive speech training, communication strategy, and seminars on storytelling, conflict and negotiation, and leadership and improvisation.

All of Waisanen’s research seeks to understand how communication works to promote or hinder the force of citizens’ voices. Since “every human advancement or reversal can be understood through communication” (Walter Annenberg), he has written over 45 scholarly publications on the subject, covering topics from strategies in public speaking to the ways that organizations and governments can better communicate with different stakeholders. He is the author of Improv for Democracy: How to Bridge Differences and Develop the Communication and Leadership Skills Our World Needs, and forthcoming books on the intersections of strategic communication and voter suppression, participatory budgeting, and nonprofit leadership.

Previously, Waisanen worked in broadcast journalism, as a speechwriter, and continues to develop and run communication campaigns for organizations across the private and public sectors. He is the founder of Communication Upward and an adjunct lecturer at Columbia University and New York University. For the last two decades, he's also been a comedy writer and improvisational comedian at theaters in Los Angeles and New York.