James Smart

Non-verbal improv

by .  
10 - 205 + 

An improv game where participants must use non-verbal communication and actions to communicate a phrase or an idea to other players. A fun game that's a great way to open a discussion on better communication!

2

Goal

Energize participants while encouraging them to think creatively when finding ways to communicate ideas without speaking. 

Attachments

Instructions

Step 1:
Split all participants into two groups - group A and group B - and ask them to pair up. 
Those in group A will have to communicate a phrase or idea to the person in group B without speaking - using mime, expression, and other non-verbal forms of communication.

For example, if the phrase was, "Would you like a drink?" the person in group A might mime pouring a drink into a glass and offer it to the person from group B. If the person from group B guesses it correctly, great stuff - everyone wins!

Step 2: 

Prepare a selection of phrases on the backs of pieces of paper and create a stack on a central table. Participants from group A will come to the central table, flip over the next phrase, and must then act it out to their partner.

You can create your own list or use the one below! Make sure you have enough phrases prepared for your group. Prepare 3 times the number of participants. 

Top tip: make sure each participant selects a different phrase from the pile when they return to the table. 


Step 3:

Start by asking participants from group A to come to the table and select a phrase. Once everyone has a phrase, start the clock and have everyone return to their partner at the same time. They must then communicate that phrase to their partner without speaking or making a noise. Use mime, props, and actions, but try to avoid mouthing the words of the phrase! 

Once their partner has guessed, the person miming returns to the table, looks at the next phrase then must rush back to perform the next phrase to their partner! Whichever team guesses three phrases in a row first, wins! 

Top tip: guessing the phrase exactly right is tough, so feel free to tell your group that very close is good enough. So long as the main points of the phrase are correct, that works!

Step 4:

Swap roles and conduct a second round. Feel free to mix up teams if you like, but try to ensure everyone gets a go at miming! 

For the second round, you can either shuffle the set of phrases or use new ones if you have them. 

Round robin online variant:

If you have a small group or are working in an online meeting or workshop, a round-robin variant is often a better bet! In this version, one person mimes a phrase while the rest of the group tries to guess what it is. 

Step 1:

Prepare a list of phrases in a notes app or Google Doc and explain the rules of the game. Participants must mime and non-verbally communicate the phrase they are given to the rest of the group, who must guess.

Step 2:

After a group has guessed a phrase correctly, the facilitator will ask for another volunteer or nominate the next participant and direct message the participant with the phrase they need to mime.

Tips

  • If you have a confident group who are familiar with improv, you can ask them to come up with a phrase on the spot. This is trickier, but can lead to unexpected and funny results! 
  • If you're using meeting software without direct messaging capability or don't have Slack, create a blank Google Document and insert each phrase between rounds, asking only the person who is miming to enter the document and see the phrase before deleting it.

Sample phrases:

You can use these phrases as the basis for you set of improv prompts, but feel free to add your own and tinker with them. It can be especially fun to add phrases specific to your team or that reference things people are familiar with.

  • Would you like a drink?
  • The rollercoaster made me feel sick.
  • I'll be right back. I have to walk the dog.
  • I scored a goal!
  • I was awake all night because of noisy neighbors
  • I got a parking ticket and it made me angry
  • That film was so boring it put me to sleep
  • Would you like a piece of birthday cake?
  • Do you want to go trick or treating? 
  • My favorite music is rock and roll.
  • I'm acting in a Shakespeare play
  • My mum is a lumberjack
  • Are you going to be in the big bike race?
  • Don't go swimming! There's a shark in the water! 
  • There's a zombie in my bedroom!
  • The clown got into a fight with a tiger!
  • I got shipwrecked on a tropical island.
  • I'm in love with a cat who doesn't love me back
  • I'm so hungry I could eat an elephant
  • I spent so long on the computer today my brain is fried!

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