20 Reasons to Embrace Role Play

Role Play

“Ok everyone, we’re going to shift gears now and move into an activity. It’s a role play…”

Before you can finish your sentence, 80% of the room groans, 12% roll their eyes, 5% just sit in silent judgment of you and 3% suddenly need to step out of the room to take an “important” call.

In my experience, people almost universally despise role play activities. This is an important point to acknowledge as you design your next training segment, but it doesn’t mean we should toss this instructional strategy out. Here are 20 reasons for L&D professionals to embrace role play:

  1. The training room is a “lab without consequences” and role play allows people to try out new things before they need to actually do those things in a work setting. “What kinds of things?” you ask…
  2. Coaching.
  3. Giving feedback.
  4. Receiving feedback.
  5. Interviewing.
  6. Customer service.
  7. Sales.
  8. Courageous conversations around difficult topics. The list could go on this way, but let’s look at some other reasons, too.
  9. Sometimes things sound so much better in your head than they do when they come out of your mouth. Role play allows you to better align the intent in your head to the delivery that comes out of your mouth.
  10. As my 3rd grade daughter says: “practice makes progress.”
  11. Sometimes it’s just a lot easier to have learners try your new content or way of doing things on for size (through role play) as opposed to continuing to talk in conceptual terms.
  12. If people don’t like “role play”, then this type of activity allows you to use cool words like “simulation” or “interactive case study” instead.
  13. It gets your learners involved, allowing them no other choice than to stay present and engage with your content.
  14. Which means that if it’s an activity scheduled immediately after lunch, there will be no temptation to doze off!
  15. For presenters who don’t like to be the center of attention, role play takes the attention completely off you… for a little while, anyway.
  16. Role play allows designers to unleash their creativity in the scenarios they outline for their learners to navigate.
  17. By adding their own spin, learners may take your content and concepts to a level you didn’t even know existed, which makes role play a learning opportunity for presenters as well.
  18. If your learners didn’t know each other before a role playing activity, they sure will know each other afterwards!
  19. The buzz and energy and conversations that permeate the room as learners are role playing can be infectious and carry over throughout the remainder of your presentation (seriously, compare the energy in the room between a lecture and a role play… which seems like an environment that is more alive?).
  20. The de-brief of a role play is fairly easy to set up (“What was easy about that? What proved to be most challenging?”) yet can lead to so many ah-ha moments, and isn’t that what training is all about?

Looking for something beyond role play? Here are 18 instructor-led training activities you could use to engage your learners in a variety of training situations.

What did I miss? Any other reasons to embrace role play? Let’s hear your thoughts in the comment section!

Know someone who’s reluctant to insert role playing activities into their presentations? Why not pass this along?

3 thoughts on “20 Reasons to Embrace Role Play

  1. Do you have participants wear funny hats during role plays? (photo above) You didn’t mention that in the post, but I love the idea. Does it go over well? Or is it met with the usual role play groans?

    • Ha! No. That photo was pulled from Google images (with permission to “use or share”). Hats and props would probably depend on the setting, audience and topic. Something a little lighter may work with the hats… it might backfire on something more serious or intense.

  2. Pingback: 20 Reasons to Embrace Role Play | Azellyn's Thoughts

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