Have participants stand in a circle or take to the stage. Explain that they will be giving you, the instructor, a gift. They will create the gift for you by adding new details to it one at a time. Ask participants to build on each other's ideas so that the present feels cohesive (even if wacky). Mention the concept of Yes And...
Whoever is currently speaking about the gift will decide who speaks next by throwing focus to that person. When throwing focus, ask participants to define whom they want to speak next and why.
For example, "Brett should tell you about why we chose to give you a red shirt. He was an art major at Skidmore, and he had a very good reason for picking red!"
Essentially this exercise is a One Sentence Story w/ Lead Ins.
The Instructor interacts with participants in this exercise. Take on the role of a friend, relative or work colleague accepting a gift from the group.
At the start of the exercise, there can be a little back and forth in order to set the scene and to get the group used to interacting with you.
Example, "A gift for me? How nice!"
As the exercise continues, help the group identify interesting contributions to build on by repeating or questioning them.
Example, "So you selected a red shirt for me because red is a loud color and you feel I often sneak around the office?"
The instructor will choose when to end each story. This activity can take 5-8 minutes to complete so there may not be time to run it more than once or twice. Provide notes after each round. Be sure participants understand that they shouldn't speak too long before passing focus.
Group Gift is a variation of One Word Story that easily incorporates scenic elements. As this is an easy exercise to generate group laughter and unity, use this exercise to address:
Teamwork / Team Building
Number of Participants:
Minimum: 3 participants / Maximum: 8-10 participants
(10 is really stretching it.)
Minimum: 10 minutes / Maximum: 25 minutes
For workshops of varying levels of experience or specific focuses, you may wish to employ some of the variations below:
Replace the instructor as the gift recipient with one of the workshop participants
Limit gift descriptions to a set number of words (somewhere in the 5-12 word range) before requiring the focus to be passed onto a new participant
Build out the scenic nature of the exercise by creating a strong stage picture
Use moments highlighted by the gift recipient as "interesting moments" as inspiration for comedic improvised scenes following the exercise
Instructor Talking Points
Try to celebrate moments where one participant built on something first contributed by an earlier participant. Possibly point out moments that might have built on but never were as missed opportunities. Point out that people can get tense when improvising if they put pressure on themselves to create something brand new. It is easier to improvise if you think the next moment will probably be more of something that happened earlier. Not only is this easier, but it also has the added benefit of honoring the earlier contributions of your teammates.
Applied Mantra: Remember, Don't Invent
Presentational Skills / Confidence
As everyone must participate in this exercise relatively equally, it is a good game with which to activate shier participants. Note that the passing of focus can often be a momentum builder for the person about to speak. Ask participants how this felt and what they can do to put themselves in a similar mindset before their next presentation. From a collaboration point of view, they may also want to consider how to help others on their team feel this way before a presentation.
Applied Mantra: Share Your Hidden Answers
Highlight moments that were the funniest and built from multiple contributions that stacked on top of each other. Compare those moments to instances where new ideas were injected into the exercise with less success. While there is nothing wrong with independently building strategies or solutions, working collaboratively often leads to unique ideas worthy of our consideration.
Applied Mantra: Yes And...
This exercise works best when the Lead Ins are detailed and fun. Explain to participants that each Lead In is really a gift. You're giving your partner something fun to play with. This is the opposite of asking a question in improv. It is the essence of Share Your Hidden Answers.
Terry Withers, 12.21.20