Improvisers will always ‘warm-up’ before they go on stage together, and I know that online meetings can quickly become pretty life-less experiences as you simply don’t get the physical energy from being in the same room as other human beings.
So these are my five favourite improv games I have used in my training and coaching to add a little spark to my online meetings, and I certainly think they will heighten your listening and observation skills in readiness for the online meeting you next take part in!
All of these games are tailored to using a few basic features that ZOOM provides: firstly, switch to GALLERY view in the top hand corner. This allows you to see everyone in your meeting at the same time – you might need to expand your window too to get the full effect. Also, we will be utilising the camera on/off function and the microphone on/off function (those are bottom left). I thought the games would be easier to explain from video too, so sit back and enjoy!!
The game instructions in full…
This game works well if your attendees have never met or worked together before. The game involves introducing yourself, and then finishing by asking the question “where in the world is … ?” and then the name of another attendee. When the next attendee has been named, attendees must point to that person, as they see them on the gallery view. This adds a more visual cue to the intros and also encourages attendees to look for their colleagues at the start of the meeting.
It’s a classic from my childhood, but actually works very well online. One attendees is chosen as Grandma, and all other players stand as far away from their cameras as possible. When the game starts, Grandma looks away from the camera, and the other “children” have to creep toward their keyboard. Grandma will be checking back to try and catch those naughty children by spotting movement on camera – if she sees someone moving, that person has to go back to the start point. The game ends with the first player to reach their keyboard and type the word ‘BOO’ in the zoom chat window!!
Sounds simple right? But in this version, the attendees must count to twenty without interrupting or talking over each other. If they do, they start back at number one! This really gets the eyes and ears tuned in from the very start, and don’t allow any up front planning here – just dive straight in! Watch the drama unfold as the attendees approach the late teens – no-one will want to make a mistake! A good game for playing and maybe failing together as the group need a little trial and error to reach their goal! If you really want to level up this game – try the same game with cameras off to focus solely on listening skills!
This is a silent game, so much based on observation and body language. One attendee will imagine their camera is in fact their bathroom mirror, and imitate their morning routine. It’s up to the other players to try to mimic the actions and posturing from the lead player. It’s possible to pair up for this game – try to share around the leading and following roles within the group. This game can be used to wake up the senses both figuratively and literally in this case!!
It’s an oldie but a goldie. Telling a story one word at a time is a great way to increase listening and storytelling skills simultaneously. We can use our voices to illustrate the story better with tone and volume at the right time, and it’s great fun to see where this truly unplanned narrative will end up. This is a good prelude to any collaborative meeting as we need to “let go” of our own agenda and hook onto the words others provide for us. If teams need a little more direction at the start, I would suggest you introduce a fictional name/object or location at the outset to help get things going. If the story is going nowhere – just call it quits and start again!!
So there we have it – my five favourite improv warm-up games to for online meetings on zoom. If you would like to get involved in some more of my online improv training for agile teams then check out this link for details on my course schedule!