From establishing a supportive company culture to utilizing the right technology, there are many effective ways to boost collaboration in the workplace. However, one of the best is also one of the most unexpected:
Playing fun improv games.
Short for “improvisation”, these unique activities involve working in a group, making things up on the spot, and reacting on impulse to given scenarios.
They’re most commonly associated with the world of theatrics. But, just like communication games, trust-building games, and team-building activities, they can also be invaluable in professional settings. Today, we’re going to run through a long list of the 25 best improv games we’ve come across. Let’s get started!
Fun improv games – Top 5 activities
Not got time to read this entire article? Don’t worry. We’re kicking it off with 5 killer improv games that always go down a treat.
1. The Ad game
Effective collaboration is all about working together to achieve a common goal. It involves putting your ego to one side for the good of the team, listening to what others have to say, and responding positively instead of dismissing their ideas.
We love the Ad game because it hones in on each of these aspects of collaboration – as well as many others! Here’s how it works:
After dividing your team into groups of at least 3 people, you give each group a particular item, such as a chair, plant pot, or cup. Feel free to tell them what they have, rather than literally giving something to them!
Each group then takes turns to provide extra information about their item, adding more and more details until they’ve turned it into a revolutionary new product.
Let’s say you gave a coffee cup to someone in Group 1. Someone in the group will start by making a statement about it, such as, “This mug has a giant handle”. Everyone in the room then yells “YES!” as if it’s the best idea they’ve ever heard.
Someone else in Group 1 then says “and”, before adding another detail (“And it has a special lid on it that functions as a coffee plunger”).
This process continues, with each group member adding further details and the entire team agreeing with their idea, until they’ve fleshed out their product and decided on a name for it. You can even take it a step further by getting them to create a tagline and identify a celebrity to endorse it.
Do this for each group until everyone’s had a turn. By the end of the game, you’ll have giggled, groaned, exercised your creative sides, and worked together in a wholly positive fashion.
2. What are you doing?
Here’s a fast-paced improv game that encourages creative thinking and imbues energy into the room. It’s ideal for those Monday morning meetings when everyone’s feeling sluggish, or as a warm-up exercise on a team-building retreat!
What Are You Doing revolves around miming – i.e. using gestures, body movements, and facial expressions to act something out. That’s one reason it’s so fun! It’s light-hearted, silly, and gets people moving.
To play, you get everyone to stand in a circle, then ask one person to imagine a certain action and start miming it. The action itself can be anything they want! Washing the dishes, taking the kids to school, throwing a baseball, brushing their hair, cleaning their teeth…the world is their oyster.
After a short while, someone else steps forward and asks, “What are you doing?”
The twist is that whoever’s miming must say a completely different action to the one they’re doing! Instead of cleaning their teeth, for example, they could say they’re putting their shoes on or amputating someone’s leg. Whoever stepped forward to ask what they were doing must then perform that action.
This process continues until everyone has had a turn miming. Try to keep the game moving and encourage people to be creative with the actions/responses.
Oh, and feel free to add another element to the game, whereby you decide who goes next. Rather than going around the circle or jumping in whenever they want, you could point at the next mime – or make eye contact with them.
Heads up, this game is best for smaller groups if you don’t have much time to spare. You want everyone to have a go miming an action, which can take a while when you have dozens of people on the team!
3. Remember when
Here’s another awesome improv game that hones team collaboration through group interaction and shared contribution. This time, though, it involves storytelling.
Have you ever reminisced about a past event with a close friend or family member? Feels good, right? It sparks nostalgia, puts a smile on your face, and solidifies your bond with whoever you’re talking to in the process.
Remember When takes that idea and puts a new spin on it…
Sitting as a team, you go around the group “remembering” an event that you’re actually making up on the spot! Begin the game by introducing a make-believe memory that the team experienced together. For instance, “Remember when we went to see the Super Bowl together?”
Each person then adds another detail, creating a story of your time together as you go. The more creative, random, or outrageous the details, the better! Taking left turns and adding funny nuances to the “memory” helps bring out people’s personalities, sparks giggles, and brings the team closer together.
Want to add a twist to this improv game? Why not make a rule that you have to keep a straight face throughout it? If you smile, laugh, or even chortle to yourself – whether you’re adding the detail or hearing someone else’s – then you’re out!
As you’d expect, adding this competitive element invites employees to say funnier and more outrageous things in a bid to up the ante and make their colleagues giggle. It should also lead to greater engagement and a more enjoyable experience overall.
4. Yes, let’s
“Yes, Let’s” is a classic improv game that’s taken straight out of drama class. We like it for a host of reasons! However, one of its main draws in the context of boosting collaboration is that it involves everyone who is present.
Unlike other activities of this nature, the focus is never on a single person – which is ideal for anyone who doesn’t like being the center of attention. Here’s how to play:
In a large open space, ask everyone present to start walking around the room. Next, shout out a suggestion for something the group should do.
For example, you could yell, “let’s go swimming in an ice-cold lake”, “let’s ski down this mountain”, or “let’s crawl on our bellies through this minefield.” It can be anything you want, but the game works best when it involves movement.
Whatever you suggest, the group has to respond enthusiastically by yelling back, “yes, let’s!” Everyone then does the action in question, moving around the room “swimming”, “skiing”, or “crawling”. After a while, someone else shouts out another action (“let’s cook a feast for our Viking guests”), and the process repeats.
Hilarity ensues as colleagues look around at their teammates doing all manner of crazy movements and mimes! Expect to energize the room, laugh until your belly hurts, and remember the joy of playing.
Furthermore, you’ll reaffirm a key element of collaboration: that there’s no such thing as a bad idea. Creative problem-solving demands a culture of acceptance, where people feel confident about raising their hand to offer a suggestion. “Yes, Let’s” normalizes unexpected ideas, rewards engagement, and stops people from feeling self-conscious. You’re sure to reap the rewards in the office.
5. The 3-headed expert
Ready for another improv activity that’s a) great for beginners and b) brings colleagues together in a fun, light-hearted way? It’s time for one of our favorites: the 3-Headed Expert. We like this game because it forces people to think creatively and enter the same mindset as their peers, without singling anyone out.
All the game involves is a trio of teammates working together to answer certain questions. Let’s dive into the details…
To play this improv game, start by dividing your team into groups of 3. Each trio is known as a 3-headed expert! The audience (i.e. everyone else in the room) then takes turns to ask this expert random questions, such as:
- “How do I make the perfect sandwich?”
- “Why don’t I sleep well at night?”
- “What’s the best book ever written?”
- “What’s it like to live in space?”
- “How do I sell my house for the most possible money?”
The expert’s job is to answer these questions. However, each “head” can only say one word at a time. When the trio’s satisfied that they’ve answered the question, each member of it has to wave their hands to signal it’s finished. The audience offers rapturous applause, before asking something else.
Each trio should answer around 2 to 3 questions, at which point you move on to the next 3-headed expert. FYI, it’s totally normal for people to struggle in the beginning!
To get them into the swing of talking word by word, tell each “expert” to repeat the question back to the audience first. For example, “The – way – to – make – the – perfect – sandwich – is…” It should help get the ball rolling.
Quick and Easy Improvisational Games
Improv games don’t have to go on forever! In fact, some of the very best activities are short and sweet. In this section, we’re going through 5 of them:
6. Pass the clap
There’s no shortage of reasons to play Pass the clap. A genuine crowd-pleaser, it’ll energize the team, get people into a focused mindset, and put smiles on their faces – all while bringing everyone together without putting too much pressure on any individual. Oh, and it’s so short and sweet that it’s suitable for any occasion!
Start Pass the clap by getting the team into a big circle, facing inward. Their task, as the name suggests, is to “pass the clap” from one member to another.
To do so, whoever begins with the clap (feel free to take this role for yourself or assign it to someone else) must make eye contact with a colleague. When they return it, you both clap your hands at the same time, while maintaining eye contact.
They now have the clap and have to make eye contact with another teammate (clapping as they do so) to pass it on again. And so it continues! Keep going for as long as you want, speeding up the whole time. To make things more interesting, you could also introduce another “clapper” so that 2 separate claps get passed at once.
Now, you might be wondering how standing around and clapping is going to help with team collaboration! But you’d be surprised…
Not only are you making eye contact with each other, which is known to improve relationships, but you’re also staying in sync with the entire group – especially as you speed up. As a result, you’re in tune with each other, communicating non-verbally, and working hard not to make mistakes.
It’s a useful lesson in how to keep up and work together in fast-paced, high-intensity environments.
7. Hello kitty
If you’re looking for a serious game that teaches the value of collaboration in a plain and no-nonsense manner…then this one definitely isn’t it!
Hello kitty’s a super simple improv game that’s all about being silly, getting involved, having fun, and making each other laugh. And, ultimately, that’s what improv games are all about. The fact they forge tighter bonds between teammates is a bonus.
Hello kitty couldn’t be easier to play either. Suitable for groups of any size, you start by dividing employees into two teams: kittens and puppies. Next, separate everyone into pairs, where one partner’s a kitten and the other’s a puppy.
The puppy’s job is to say hello with one goal in mind: to make their partner smile, chuckle, laugh out loud – anything that shows they’re amused. The kitten’s job is to keep a straight face. Expect all sorts of funny voices, impressions, and gestures to follow! What happens if/when they succeed, you ask?
The kitten turns into a puppy, of course! They can then both turn their attention to any remaining kittens who are yet to laugh. The game ends when everyone has joined the puppy team. By then – having exercised your creative sides and laughed a lot – you should all be feeling energized, light, and closer to your teammates.
8. One word stories
Remember the “3-headed expert” game we talked about before? One-word stories is similar in the sense that participants can only contribute a word at a time. Rather than answering questions, though, their goal is to tell a story.
Start by gathering the team together and sitting in a circle.
Next, decide on a general topic to help guide the conversation. It can be anything you like – what you’re having for dinner, for instance, where you’re going on vacation next, or what you’re planning to do at the weekend.
From there, invite someone in the group to say the first word of a sentence. The person next to them then contributes the second word, and so on until the sentence is complete. Keep going until you’ve told a mini-story or it reaches a natural conclusion. You can then play again with a new topic/situation.
FYI, this game works best when you encourage everyone to be creative, spontaneous, and articulate. You can make it more interesting by adding a time constraint. If someone doesn’t say a word (that makes sense and adds to the story) in a given time frame, they’re out!
Feel free to put your own spin on this game to make it more work-related. For example, why not turn your team’s “story” into a pitch? Word by word, their task is to build a persuasive argument to win a new client for the business!
Take this approach – or anything like it – and you can improve team collaboration while simultaneously honing another vital operational element.
9. Human objects
As we’ve seen already, miming actions is a common component of improv games. However, so too is imitating objects!
In Human objects, your employees have to use their bodies to impersonate a given item. You can be sitting in a circle or walking around the room – it doesn’t matter. The main thing is that there’s enough space for everyone.
From there, all you have to do is call out an object.
It can be anything you want! From vases and coffee cups to pairs of scissors and laptop computers, the items can be big, small, and everything in-between. Whatever you yell out, though, each participant has to put their arms, legs, and torsos into positions that resemble it.
As you can imagine, this game’s great fun. But it’s effective too. It forces your employees to think outside the box and displays how differently people can think about the same problem. The team will see how their colleagues approach the task, learning more about each other and forming closer bonds in the process.
That’s an invaluable lesson when it comes to collaboration. After all, it shows that not everyone thinks in the same way! If you’re going to solve problems and work well together, you have to play to people’s individual strengths, respect their perspectives, and empathize at every step.
10. Three-line scene
Anyone who’s played beginner improv games before may have encountered a game called “Yes, and”. In it, people work together to build an increasingly ridiculous story. For example:
- Person 1: “I went to the gym this morning.”
- Person 2: “Yes, and your arms look fantastic.”
- Person 3: “Yes, and they’d be perfect for arm wrestling.”
- Person 1: “Yes, and I want to tattoo my partner’s name on them.”
- Person 2: “Yes, and they’ll probably want to marry you after.”
Three-Line Scene takes that concept and simplifies it. This time, pairs of colleagues work together to say one line each, using “yes, and” to build on whatever the previous person said. Heads up, it works best when you say statements vs questions. For example:
- Person 1: “I went to the gym this morning.”
- Person 2: “Yes, and you’re making me feel guilty about eating this cake.”
- Person 1: “Yes, and I’m not going to stop until you become my gym partner.”
The aim is to move fast, think quickly, and not worry about saying the ‘right thing’. The game works well because it rewards creativity and is inherently positive. Those enthusiastic “yes, and” responses embolden new improvisers and make them feel comfortable thinking on their feet and contributing to the task.
We don’t have to explain how helpful that is to team collaboration! The fact teammates practice the art of agreeing with their colleagues (vs dismissing their suggestions) is useful too. With any luck, it’ll transfer into everyday conversations.
The best improv games for small groups
Do you manage a small team? Looking for ways to increase the level of collaboration within this tight-knit group of colleagues? Here are 5 improv games that should be particularly valuable:
11. PowerPoint karaoke
Also known as Battledecks or Powerpoint roulette, Powerpoint karaoke’s a creative improv game where you ask people to give a presentation on a topic they haven’t seen or been able to prepare for.
Start by choosing a theme – such as vacations – and creating simple slide decks on it. In this example, the first slide would be a location/destination; the slides to come might include inside jokes, company references, random details, and activities.
To play, you invite a volunteer to the front of the room and ask them to say, “Let me tell you the story of the crazy trip I recently took to…”
You’d then reveal the first slide with the location on it, at which point the participant must improvise a fictional tale about their recent visit! After a little while, you’d move to the next slide and they’d have to incorporate whatever’s on it into their story. Keep going like this for a few minutes or until the story comes to a natural end.
You’d then invite someone else to the front, ending the game when everyone has had a go (although don’t force anyone to present if they don’t want to).
There are countless reasons to play PowerPoint karaoke!
For one thing, it always leads to fun and laughter. For another, it’ll make your team feel more comfortable standing up to give a presentation – if they can do it on a whim, they can definitely do it when they’ve had time to prepare. And finally, it reveals individual personalities and brings the team closer.
12. Red ball
Ready for another light-hearted improv activity that involves miming? We thought so! That’s why we’ve included Red ball. Fast-paced and energizing, it’s a great way to lift a team’s spirits, create a tighter unit, and boost employee relations.
Here’s how it works:
Gather everyone into a circle, including yourself. Show the group an imaginary red ball that you’re holding, before making eye contact with someone else and saying “red ball” – passing it to them at the same time. Whoever receives it then repeats the item’s name and gives it to another participant.
Let this happen a few times and then introduce a second item, a third…and then a fourth! By the end of it, you could be passing around a Frisbee, a sleeping child, an angry cat, the original red ball, and as many other items as you wanted.
The idea is that people pass each item along as if they were real.
Encourage creativity and reward imagination! Wouldn’t you soothe a sleeping child if you were holding one, for instance? And shouldn’t you be careful as you pass that angry cat to your colleague? What other types of interactions can people invent?
Hopefully, you’ll end up with complete chaos as the group starts slinging, whirling, and passing these imaginary items around the circle! Expect lots of giggles, shouts, and cries of alarm as teammates hand over an angry cat while trying to catch a Frisbee, and calm the sleeping baby in their arms.
By the end, everyone should feel revitalized and closer to their colleagues.
13. No speaking allowed
Reminiscent of the classic family game, Charades, No Speaking allowed is another awesome improv exercise for small groups. As well as being fun, stimulating, and creative, it also teaches the value of effective communication.
The first step is to divide your team into pairs (a group of 3 is fine if there’s an odd number). Then all you do is give each person a phrase, saying, message, or idea that they have to act out to their partner. Here’s the twist:
They have to get the message across without speaking!
Participants are able to use gestures, facial expressions, body movements, props, and/or anything else they can find to communicate their message (apart from writing it down). But they’re not allowed to talk. If they do, they’re disqualified.
What’s cool about this game is that it showcases the reciprocal nature of communication. It takes 2 to tango!
While whoever’s doing the acting can’t talk, their partner can. They’re paying close attention, focusing on their various non-verbal cues, making suggestions, and asking for clarity. In other words, they work together to express and decipher the message.
Continue until everyone has successfully guessed the answer, or set a time limit to stop it from going on for too long. Want to spice things up a bit? Split the team into groups and pit them against each other to add a competitive element.
Robots takes the basic premise behind Human Objects (from earlier in this article) and pushes it a step further. This time, rather than individuals imitating random items, the entire team works together to embody a robot!
This funny improv game begins with everybody standing in a circle. You then invite someone to walk into the center – pretending they’re a robot every step of the way.
After a few seconds, someone else jumps in and pretends they’re a new part of it, complete with their own movements and sounds. Repeat this process until you have an entire machine made up of colleagues in various body positions performing different functions, but ultimately operating as one.
Think: “The Office” meets “Transformers”. You’ll feel as if you’re back at school, giggling like little kids as your workmates manipulate themselves into ever more unusual positions (making robot noises as they go).
When it’s fully assembled, you can then ask the “robot” to complete a task or dismantle itself bit by bit. Heck, you could even get the team to build a robot that’s designed with a specific task in mind.
Whatever happens, the end result is a high level of collaboration. They’ll be joining arms, holding hands, and moving in sync in their effort to make and imitate a machine. The fun, physicality, and humor involved should forge tighter relations too.
15. Magic box
Here’s a simple game that always goes down well with small groups – especially when it’s a new team that’s still getting to know each other. FYI, Magic box also works well when you need an improv game that’s less daunting or full-on.
To play, you’ll first have to assemble a box full of random objects. It doesn’t matter what goes inside! The stranger and more varied, the better. Candy bars, coffee cups, plants, pictures, water bottles, business cards, books…you name it.
With your box ready, the fun can start. Each person sits in a circle and takes turns picking out an item. They then have to tell the group something about themselves that relates to that object.
The trick is to do it without overthinking. Heck, this is improv! They can make something up entirely if they want to. Play it that way and the group could then try to figure out whether it was a true story or not. Bonus points if whoever’s telling the story can link it to a central topic or theme of the workshop.
Whatever version of this game you play demands quick thinking and creativity from participants. It can also showcase their personalities and help the team learn more about each other, becoming a closer group as a result.
As an aside, Magic Box can also be played by remote teams. All you need is a virtual box of items (a web tool like this can be helpful) that people select at random. We’ll go through more examples of remote improv games later.
Fun improv games for larger groups
Thankfully, just like icebreaker games, there are plenty of effective improv activities suitable for larger groups of teammates as well. Read on for 5 of them:
16. Group counting
A vital part of effective team collaboration is communication. Yet to be a strong communicator you also have to master the art of listening.
That’s one reason Group Counting’s such a popular improv game. Aside from being fun and strangely addictive to play, it requires participants to pay close attention to each other; to get on the same page by listening intently from the outset.
The game itself couldn’t be more straightforward. The team stands in a circle, closes their eyes, and works together to count to 21. However, there’s a catch: only one person can speak at once. Not only that, but if more than one person says a number at the same time, the group starts again from 1.
It might sound easy enough, but you’d be surprised how long it can take to get to 21! And remember that everyone has their eyes shut, which stops them from using hand signals and other gestures to pick who’ll speak next.
Instead, they’re forced to listen – to try and pick up on verbal cues to see if someone’s about to yell out the next number.
Expect light-hearted frustration mixed with laughs as the team proceeds from 1 to 21, followed by shouts of glee when they finally finish the game. By then, they’ll have bolstered their sense of group mind and become a closer team in the process.
Whether you’re onboarding new employees or simply want your current employees to form a more cohesive unit, Hypeman’s sure to help. Incorporating personal introductions and an element of role play, it’s a popular activity that never fails to create a positive atmosphere in the office!
Give it a shot by dividing the team into groups of 3 and asking them to assign themselves roles:
- Player 1 has to share some basic personal information with the group (e.g. where they’re from, what they do, what hobbies they have, and so on)
- Player 2 introduces Player 1 to the audience by recounting what they just learned about them in a simple, matter-of-fact manner
- Player 3 is the “Hypeman”. Their task is similar, except they introduce Player 1 in an exaggerated, hyperbolic way that makes them sound amazing!
For instance, Player 2 might introduce Player 1 by saying, “This is Arthur. He’s a salesman for our company who enjoys playing tennis at the weekends.”
Then Hypeman would step in and say, “Here’s Arthur – AKA, the coolest guy I know! He’s so good at his job that he could sell an ice pack to an Inuit! Oh, and he wields a tennis racket like Roger Federer too. Honestly, you’d be a fool not to be his pal.”
You’d then mix up the roles so everyone had a chance to be the Hypeman (and to be hyped by their colleague!). Encourage witty and outlandish claims; crazy compliments that make people laugh. You could even go a step further and award prizes for the most successful Hypeman – as voted by the group!
18. I am a tree
Here’s another awesome improv game that involves groups of 3 people performing to an “audience”. This time, though, you’re back to using your bodies to imitate objects! With an element of mime, a sprinkle of role play, and oodles of silliness and fun, we can’t recommend “I Am a Tree” enough!
The first step is to divide the team into groups of three. As always, you can pick the teams or let them choose their partners. From there, take turns to “perform”.
As the name of the game suggests, one person in the trio might stand up and proclaim, “I am a tree” – sticking their arms out to resemble branches and swaying in the breeze to prove it. Then a second person jumps in, pretending to be a different object that fits with the first (e.g. “I am a bird”).
The final group member then completes the scene. In this example, they might say something like, “I am a cat” and drop to all fours as they pretend to hunt the bird.
Then it’s the next trio’s turn! They can either continue the scene or start a brand new one. Whatever happens, you keep going until everyone’s had a try. Of course, you can also decide to create one giant scene that involves the entire team! You could then take a picture of the final result, framing it as a memento of the event.
We recommend “I Am a Tree” for various reasons.
Firstly, the fact you aren’t expected to say anything is a big plus for employees who don’t like the limelight. Secondly, teammates have to work together to create a cohesive scene. And thirdly, it speaks to the reality of teamwork: that sometimes you have to perform tasks and play a role purely in support of your colleagues.
Here’s an improv game for team collaboration that focuses on creativity, attention to detail, and enhancing the connection between colleagues.
As the name suggests, it asks pairs of workmates to team up, face each other, and to imagine they have a double-sided mirror between them. In essence, they pretend the colleague opposite them is their mirror image.
One of them then takes the lead by initiating movements of some sort. They can do anything they want! Raising their hand, bending forwards, crouching down, jumping on the spot…It doesn’t matter. All they have to do is move slowly and in silence.
The other person’s task is to mirror those actions and gestures.
So, if their partner lifts their left hand to the sky, they’d lift their right hand (remember, it’s a mirror image!). And if their partner starts doing star jumps and pretending they’re a 70s aerobics instructor, then they have to do the same!
Be sure to mix things up by changing roles and partners every few minutes. Oh, and try to make the movements more complex, intense, and/or bizarre as time goes by. At the end of the task, you’ll feel energized, positive, and aligned as a team.
20. Near and far (session lab)
Some of the best improv games for team collaboration are also the simplest. Here’s one that falls into this category, while still helping to a) lighten the mood and b) build the connections that are so fundamental to successful teamwork.
Near and Far asks participants to do 3 things:
- Stay as close as possible to one person of their choice
- Stay as far as possible from someone else of their choice
- Stay silent throughout the game
They decide in secret who they’ll be sticking close to and who they’ll be avoiding, then set to work! What follows is a fun and fascinating process of trying to accomplish these 2 competing tasks.
The office becomes an ant’s nest, with employees in constant motion, weaving around the room in a bid to dodge some people and stay next to others.
For example, what happens if Person A has picked Person B to stay close to, but Person B chose them as the employee they have to stay away from? A chase ensues! The fact nobody can talk adds another fun element to proceedings.
Near and Far doesn’t just force teammates to adopt creative systems and behaviors to achieve their goals, but it also opens up interesting conversations about group dynamics. Consider debriefing at the end of the task to see how everyone felt about it. What was it like to have to do both things at once? What were their takeaways?
Improv games for remote teams
Remote and hybrid working is becoming increasingly common. Thankfully, many improv games can be played from afar via the internet! Let’s take a look at 5 of them:
21. Quick-fire questions
We love improv games that are lively, dramatic, and force you out of your shell. But not everybody does! In fact, for employees who are less confident in nature, these types of activities can be downright stressful.
That’s where a game like Quick-Fire Questions comes in. Not only is it well-suited to remote teams, but it’s also a great introduction to improv. Nobody’s singled out, there’s no miming/acting, and you don’t even have to turn your webcam on.
To play, all participants must do is have a conversation – taking turns to contribute a line at a time. The twist?
Anything and everything they say has to be a question!
For instance, Dave might start by asking Sally, “What type of music do you enjoy listening to?” And Sally could reply, “Where shall we go to rave this weekend?” To which Joe might ask, “What’s the name of the forest just outside town?” And Dave might respond with, “How many forests are there in this part of the country?”
Easy, right? Wrong! You have to think on your feet, be creative with your answers, and frame your reply in the correct format. If someone hesitates, asks something unrelated, or doesn’t ask a question at all, then they’re out.
You can play a round-robin tournament, with one person facing off against another. Or you could try to play all together, asking one question at a time. Whatever the case, the “conversation” should help energize the virtual room, generate lots of laughs, and boost team spirit to boot.
Did you ever play a drinking game at university called “never have I ever”?
You sit in a circle, taking turns to say something you’ve never done that you think other people may have. Anyone who’s done the deed must then take a swig of their drink – revealing the fact they’ve done it and leading to ever-increasing levels of intoxication!
Spotlight is similar, although you wouldn’t (usually) be drinking at the same time. Instead, the entire team starts by covering or turning off their webcams. Then each participant takes turns saying fun/random statements that are true of themselves.
If it’s true for someone else in the group too, they have to uncover their camera.
Want a different way to decide who goes next? See who uncovers their camera! Instead of taking turns, whoever said the initial statement would pick someone who revealed their face. If only one person does so, then they’d go next. If nobody does, then you can choose someone at random.
We like Spotlight because it’s a more interesting way to get to know your teammates compared to typical networking events. It’s also super simple and accessible. The end result is a quick and enjoyable exercise that brings the virtual team together (if only in a figurative sense!).
23. Unfortunately, fortunately
One of the benefits of working in a team is that you always have someone to offer their support when you need it. Whether you feel down and need an emotional lift or have too much to do and need some practical input, a sympathetic colleague can step in to ease the burden. This is teamwork and collaboration at its finest.
Unfortunately, Fortunately draws on that supportive reality by asking teammates to reframe each other’s problems into something positive. Here’s how it works:
Ask one person on the video call to say something they’re struggling with. It shouldn’t be too heavy or serious – nothing that’s going to be uncomfortable to disclose. Next, go around the virtual circle, taking turns to reframe their “problem” in a positive light.
For example, Brian might start by saying, “Unfortunately, I’m finding it hard to wake up on time at the moment.” Upon hearing this, Sheryl might say, “Fortunately, you have such a comfortable bed to sleep in!” And Anthony might follow up with, “And fortunately, you need a good night’s rest to perform at your best!”
It continues from there until everyone has disclosed an issue and received a bunch of positive reframes from their colleagues. By the end of the task, everyone will have practiced their listening skills and offered/received support to/from their teammates.
24. Sell it to me
Our penultimate improv game for virtual teams is far more relevant to professional settings – especially if you work in sales!
With a potent combination of improvisation and sales training, your team should end the call feeling more confident in their ability to sell, more comfortable speaking in front of a group, and more bonded with their colleagues.
To play Sell It to Me, teammates take turns trying to sell the group a random item on their desk (or that’s in the vicinity). The twist is that they don’t get to choose what they’re selling! Their colleagues do – by looking at the items they can see (on the screen) in the person’s room and deciding from there.
Once the participant’s been told what they’re selling, they get 30 seconds to prepare a pitch. They then have another 60 seconds to persuade their teammates to buy that item! When their time’s up, everyone else rates the pitch’s quality from 1 (needs work) to 10 (world-class). Whoever has the highest score at the end gets a prize!
Want a slight variation of this activity?
Consider calling for a sales pitch in between other parts of the meeting. It becomes a less structured exercise, but it adds an element of surprise – keeping everyone on their toes and making the meeting more interesting.
Whichever approach you take, try keeping the atmosphere light and jovial. The point isn’t to highlight your employees’ sales skills! It’s to have fun, make each other laugh, and work together to come up with successful sales pitches.
Last but not least, we have Alphabets. It’s another improv game that’s as simple as it is fun, making it ideal for virtual meetings. All participants have to do is work together to create a story from scratch, contributing one line at a time. However, the complicating factor is that each line must begin with the next letter of the alphabet!
- Participant 1: “A long time ago, in a distant land…”
- Participant 2: “Benjamin the Brilliant was building his next great invention.”
- Participant 3: “Crikey, said the inventor…”
- Participant 4: “Don’t people know the world is on the brink of collapse?”
- Participant 5: “Especially now that aliens have landed in America.”
Keep going until the end of the alphabet, or when everyone’s spoken at least once.
Oh, and encourage the team to be as creative as possible. The more random details and unexpected plot twists, the better. The exercise should be about having fun and getting everyone involved – not necessarily about creating a world-class story!
Consider setting a general topic to guide the task too. Maybe it should be a story about pirates, for instance, or dinosaurs…or the team’s next Christmas party.
You can also mix things up by giving people less and less time to contribute the next line. The added pressure keeps the game moving, stops it from getting dull, and requires your employees to think on their feet.
Top tips for running effective improv games
Now you have a big bunch of improv games to try, let’s go through a few tips to help your team wring as much collaborative value from them as possible!
1. Agreement’s key
If in doubt, agree with your partner. That single rule should help these activities flow and prevent people from feeling too stuck for words/actions.
This is why the “yes, and” game we mentioned earlier is so powerful. Because every statement begins by agreeing with what preceded it, the scene flows, blossoms, and snowballs. By contrast, disagreement slams the door on spontaneity, causing most games to fall flat.
2. Normalize mistakes
Fear of saying something wrong, looking silly, or being judged is another obstacle for people to overcome if they’re going to engage fully in these activities. That’s why you should make it your mission to normalize mistakes!
You could set a rule that people have to do at least one thing wrong in each activity. Or why not reward people for making errors or doing the silliest possible thing? You’ll end up with a happier and more inclusive atmosphere.
3. Encourage listening and group participation (give + take)
There will always be some team members who are more willing to jump head-first into improv games than others. Celebrate them! They make a huge difference in the success of these activities. However, don’t let them do so much (or be so loud) that it stops your more reserved employees from getting involved as well.
Remember, the whole point of these exercises is to collaborate! That means everyone should take part in the proceedings. Put the emphasis on listening and teamwork; encourage people to put the scene(s) first instead of personal glory. These games work best when everyone gives and takes.
Improve collaboration with these fun improv games
Engaging, creative, and team-based, improv games are powerful ways to increase levels of collaboration in the workplace. The tricky part’s finding high-quality improv activities that suit your particular setup!
With any luck, this article will have solved that problem.
Whether you attempt one or all of the fun improv games on the list, your employees are sure to reap the collaborative rewards.
Looking for the perfect opportunity to play these games? Well, why not entrust Surf Office to organize an incredible team-building retreat for you and your employees? The combination of going away together and doing these types of activities is a recipe for success. Better still, we take all the hard work out of organizing it!
To book your retreat or learn more about what we do, click here.