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Using role play in training

By JAMES COAKES Published 11th Sep 2014
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Role play games are a valuable training tool for several reasons. One is simply that for most people, “doing” is the most effective way to learn - much more so than passive reading or listening. As well as this, role playing is a great way to help people see situations from different points of view. The key to effective role play is developing games that are fun and engaging as well as instructive and, as well as this, encouraging participation in people who are often reluctant to take part.

Getting people to participate

It’s common to find that people are reluctant to participate in role play during training sessions. In the absence of scripted answers and the need for improvisation people are worried that they won’t know what to do and they’re afraid of looking silly in front of peers. There are lots of ways to help people get over these problems: one way is by having participants work together to generate a script; another is to have a team of people collaborate on playing each role. It’s also best to schedule role play games in the second half of a training session, to give people time to warm up and get comfortable.

Making role play engaging and interactive

One reason that people are reluctant to participate in role play is that many trainers don’t know how to make it a fun and engaging exercise. The ideal role play games are those that engage as many people as possible, and with this in mind, a great way to achieve a high level of engagement is to have the group collaborate on storyboards or script-writing, rather than providing pre-written scripts. When the group works together it means everyone has a chance to get involved and actively engaged, and the group can generate a situation and script that is highly relevant to the purpose of the training session.

Provide plenty of time for debriefing

From script-creation to debriefing, a role play session will typically last between two and three hours. At least an hour should be allotted for discussion after the role play event.

Sourcing role playing actors and support

It can be useful to work with a professional role playing specialist. They can help by providing actors and helping with scripts. One excellent source of such help are murder mystery companies. This particular format works around role play and improvisation and the method of delivery is fun and engaging. How about creating a mystery out of business issues, for example 'Who Killed Customer Service' with the suspects as concepts, for example Bad Telephone Response,acted out by people? What would BTR look like? Would he be a gangster, perhaps, or someone who just didn't care?

Role play offers significant opportunities in training and also discovering things about your business. It can also be great fun for the participants, and everything is more effective when it's delivered in an enjoyable way.


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