Matt Newman has always lived at the intersection of creativity and commerce. And he knows that a little conflict between the two is a good thing.

Matt made his professional live comedy debut when he was 14 years old, in a sketch group run by a local theater. It was his job to host two evening shows—and then clean the popcorn machine. He recognized then the necessity of balancing creative work with the business aspects of a company. It was an insight that made a lasting impression.

Now, as a consultant at The Frontier Project, Matt’s approach continues his long-running quest to link art and commerce. The secret isn’t choosing one value over another—instead, he focuses on how the friction between creative design and business reality can actually make both stronger.

Balancing a distinct creative vision with the needs of the market come naturally to Matt. He’s always continued to pursue live comedy, teaching classes and performing with future SNL cast members in groups like Chicago’s iO Theatre. He’s also worked as an account executive at the Schafer Condon Carter advertising agency (favorite client: the Chicago Cubs), and as the director of content development for a top 20 national accounting firm.

Matt is a cofounder of Richmond’s Coalition Theater, a hub for live comedy, classes and workshops. As the Executive Director, Matt harnessed the natural tension between business and art to make a vibrant creative product and a profitable company—one that had an impact far beyond the stage, like training police officers in improv to help them defuse tense situations.

Most weekends, you can still catch Matt performing live comedy, or serving as the “sidekick” on the live late-night talk show RVA Tonight. Backstage, he’s probably checking his phone for the Cubs score, or relaxing with a classic Super Nintendo game (ask him about EarthBound). But no matter if it’s a sold-out show or intimate executive boardroom, Matt’s on a mission: Keep the lights on and the laughs coming.

 

 

— Keynote —

Curiosity: How improvisers stay calm amid uncertainty

Initiate honestly. Respond without judgement. Build together without an end in sight.

These mindsets can get you back on track when new information arises to totally negate all your plans and assumptions. They can help you project presence and confidence in an uncertain situation. And they all come straight from the long tradition of improvisational performers—better known as improv comics.

The rate of change in today’s workforce is increasing exponentially. Research indicates that modern companies go through substantial organizational changes every three years. The average workforce undergoes a complete turnover every eight years. The life-cycle of products and US patent filings is getting shorter. And all this increased speed is making itself felt in our everyday experience.

Matt will show you how using an improviser’s iterative mindset can increase your tolerance for change, lead to more productive conversations, foster creative teams, and generally make you more comfortable and confident when you have no idea what will happen next. 

Using lessons learned from nearly two decades performing in front of crowds without a script, Matt will share stories and inspiration from unusual places to awaken your own sense of curiosity about the changing world around you.

He’s also going to ask someone from the audience to get on stage. You’ve been warned.