The 20 Best Improv Games for Teams in 2021

May 24th, 11:04 am

The 20 Best Improv Games for Teams in 2021

Improv games began in theatre and drama for actors to practice their skills before taking on the big stage. It is an entertaining way of building cohesion in groups, developing confidence, and strengthening teamwork. You can also have improv games to play virtually in your remote teams.

In this article, you will find the following:

  • Virtual improv games
  • Zoom improv games
  • Verbal improv games
  • Improv games for team building

List of Improv Games

Here we’ve picked the 20 Best Improv Games we know will help you and your remote teams connect despite the distance.

1. Problem and Solution

This is an easy game to play, whether in a physical or virtual environment. It’s a test of adaptability, of thinking outside the box, and preparing oneself to walk in any situation, whether comfortable or uncomfortable.

How it’s done

  • In a group, pair up two people. Assign a ‘Person A’ and a ‘Person B’.
  • Person A starts by stating a problem (any problem is welcome).
  • Person B grabs the nearest object and presents it as a solution to the problem.
  • Person A accepts the object and explains how it will help with the problem.

After that, pairs can reverse roles and do the same exercise again. There’s no correct or wrong solution in this game as long as the person assigned can quickly come up with one.

2. Club Gesture

This is also another fun game in getting to know your teammates a little bit deeper with a little bit of fun.

How it’s done

Each participant shares a quality about themselves and acts out a gesture or movement that represents this quality. The rest of the participants mimics the gesture. Another version of this activity is for each player to act out the gesture without saying the quality verbally. The group then guesses what quality the player is trying to portray.

3. One Word Story

Words grouped may form a thought, a sentence. A series of sentences going towards one thought may tell a story. That is exactly what this activity is all about. It demonstrates storytelling, vocabulary, and ultimately storytelling.

How it’s done

One person starts by providing one word to start, and the next person gives out another that will connect with the previous word. This goes on until a story forms. You’ll be surprised at how the story will turn and what your group can come with at the end.

4. Number Count

This is another easy game to play that isn’t just limited to virtual teams. It involves each participant practicing active listening.

How it’s done

A group of 20 or more people will count from 1 to 20, one person at a time but will not follow a specific order or pattern. Two people may say the same number at the same time. When this happens, the group will have to start over from the beginning.

5. Yes, lets!

Although used mostly in drama groups, this improv game is still great for remote environments as a warm-up game or as an icebreaker.

How it’s done

To start, one player state the activity, everyone replies with “Yes, let's!” and acts out the given activity. For example, the player says, “Let’s jump in place”. The rest of the group then shouts “Yes, let's!” and starts jumping in place. Continue the routine until everyone had the chance to make their suggestion.

6. Customer Service Face Time

This is an improv game that improves communication and focus. The name of the game speaks for itself but this is how it goes.

How it’s done

Two participants act out a Facetime scene between a customer service representative and a customer. There should be a tug-of-war scenario in this activity where each party wants something. The customer may want a product replacement and the customer service representative may counter that in some way. The scene ends when one of the parties gets what they want.

7. Location, location, location

Like charades, this is a guessing game ideal for 10-15 people since it will require pairings.

How it’s done

For this to work, each player must have an identifiable location in mind like the mall, the park, or the school. With a certain location in mind, the player will then act this out without verbally stating what that location is until someone from the audience has the aha moment and gets it.

Improv Games

8. Reinvention

How many ways can one object be used? Or better yet, how far can our imagination go? In this game, creativity will be put to the test as participants think of new ways an old invention can function.

How it’s done

  • Ask everyone to turn on their video.
  • One player gets the object nearest to him and shows it to the rest of the group.
  • Each person then gives a reinvented function for that object. Ideally, one can start with the obvious functions until all are said.
  • Continue until players cannot think of any ‘reinvention’ on the object anymore.
  • You can start the game again by picking a new object and go through the same exercise. The takeaway for this game is looking at ordinary items or situations from a new perspective.

9. Last Word, First Word

You may have probably played this game in grade school or even high school in your English class. There’s a good reason why this is one of the best improv games. It banks on active listening, which is an important skill when it comes to effective communication.

How it’s done

To play the game, one player states a sentence verbally. The next person then starts the next sentence using the last word of the sentence of the previous player. Players who aren’t able to make their sentences correctly are disqualified and taken out of the game. This goes on until a winner emerges.

10. Word Ball

Just another game to let loose while thinking quickly on your feet? We’ll take it! Ideal for a group of 5-10 people, this improved activity is all about free association and just having fun.

How it’s done

  • The first player holds a ball (or any round object, if there is no ball at hand) and states any word the comes into mind. He then names the person to come next.
  • Next player says another word that should be related to the first word. The next person does the same.
  • The games continue everyone had their turn.

11. Tell Me A Story

Much like the one-word story, this one is also about honing your imagination, creativity, and communication skills.

How it’s done

One player starts by saying a few sentences like, “Once upon a time, there was a lady who lived in a faraway land. She lived in peace and harmony until one day …” Before the first player finishes the sentence, it’s passed on to the next person to continue the story. Everything is made randomly and in an impromptu manner until the story is finished and everyone was able to contribute their piece.

12. Phone a Friend

This is similar to the Customer Service Face Time but in this case, two participants act out as friends talking with each other over face time. There’s no format to follow and their dialogue are entirely impromptu. It’s a good communication exercise and storytelling exercise that you can use in your next team huddle.

13. Family Portrait

Family portraits have a distinct character about them, don’t you agree? Gather a group of 15-25 people for this activity.

How it’s done

In this game, each group is given a title for a family picture that they have to mimic and pose for. It’s a comical family tableau! Some examples are “Family of Aliens”, “Family of Chickens”, “Worried Family”. There’d surely be laughter all around this session as players portray the funniest characters.

14. Animal Characters

This is another entertaining characterization game wherein players are given an animal name a situation wherein they’ll have to act out in that anima’s character. For example, “A Camel in an Art Gallery”, “A Leopard in the International Space Station”, or “A Snake in the Supermarket”.

Give the players time to improvise their act as the rest of the group guess the animal assigned.

15. Zip-Zap-Zop (online version)

The original version of this game is for a player to say Zip, Zap, or Zop then point another player afterwards. For virtual purposes, you can tweak the game to better suit your remote teams.

How it’s done

  • The first player claps and says ‘Zip’ together with the person you want to go next.
  • The person called will clap and say ‘Zap’ and add another person’s name.
  • The third player continues the pattern with ‘Zip’ followed by another name.
  • The Zip-Zap-Zop order must be followed. Anyone who does the opposite receives a strike. Three strikes mean you’re out of the game.
  • Example” ‘Zip – Vanessa”, “Zap – Martin”, “Zop – Eva”

16. Verbing

In this game, participants need to prepare drawing materials like paper and a pen. One person starts by saying a noun and the next person pairs that up with a verb. The rest of the group then draws the two words into one image together.

For example, the first player says “bottle” and the next one says “dancing”. Then the group draws a dancing bottle as a result. Give your participants ample time to sketch and ask them to show it to the screen together. This will surely send some giggles and hoots along the way.

17. Guessing Emotions

This activity is a little bit deeper and not recommended doing the beginning of workshops or for groups of people who have only met a few times. However advanced, it is worth the shot.

How it’s done

Two people start with one person acting out a certain emotion nonverbally and the other person will try to read the emotion. Once successful, they switch roles and do the same exercise again.

It’s a little bit like acting. Some emotions may be hard to express nonverbally like guilt, overwhelm, resentment, failure. The idea of the game is to draw personal experiences to portray the specific emotion.

18. Stop, Go, Face, Clap

This game is the virtual version of Stop, Go, Jump, Clap. The facilitator asks the group to do these simple actions for each function: ‘Stop’ for stop, ‘Go’ for pretending to walk, ‘f ace’ is for making a funny face, and finally ‘Clap’ is for clapping your hands.

The facilitator starts the activity slowly, saying each word one by one while the participants act out the corresponding action. Just when everyone already has it in momentum, the facilitator speeds up and switches from one word to another in random order. It’s a simple yet effective way of introducing self-awareness and active listening.

Make an elimination round on every person who fails to make the correct action until one is left and wins.

Improv Games

19. Anyone Like Me?

Here’s one of the effective improv trust exercises, one for empathy and support. This game is apt for medium to large groups. I’ve switched up some instructions for it to be fitting in a virtual environment.

How it’s done

In a group, one starts by verbalizing this statement, “I’m looking for people who, like me, (insert a personal characteristic).” Everyone who relates to the same characteristic sends an emoji or unmutes themselves and claps. The game goes on until everyone has had a chance to share.

You can start with the obvious ones like, “I’m looking for people who, like me, have long hair”. Naturally, the goal of the exercise is for people to share deeper truths about themselves.

20. Pass the Face

The first player starts by making a face and show it to the person next to him/her. The next person then has to mimic the same face and create a new one after. Players must name the person they want to go to next.

This goes on until everyone has had their chance of passing a face. This game may be silly but it’s really all about creating awareness.

Get inspired by some inspiring Improv Games.

FAQs:

What are improv games?

Improve games draw inspiration from improvisation theatre, where actors portray characters, go through plots, and live up to dialogues made up on the spot. When talking about improv, spontaneity always comes into mind. In theatre again, improv plays often take suggestions and ideas from the audience and translate it into a full story on stage. More and more organizations use improv games in their teams to foster organizational awareness and skill development.

What are the best improve games for large groups?

Here are some of the best improve games for large groups from our list that you can try on to your respective teams:
  • Anyone Like Me?
  • Sto, Go, Face, Clap
  • Pictionary
  • Last Word, First Word
  • Location, location, location
  • Yes, lets!
  • Number Count

Some of the games not mentioned can still be done for large groups. All you need is a little bit of creativity and improvisation.

Why should you play improv games with employees?

Harnessing soft skills is one of the reasons why you should take a look at improv games. Improv has always been known in the theatre space to develop an actor’s confidence, active listening, and quick thinking. In work, it shines a spotlight on each of the following skills:
  • Self-Awareness:

    The largest impact of improv is on the self. Participants find themselves observing their behaviors as each task is assigned to them by a facilitator. They also become more aware of how they react and respond to their co-participants. Self-aware people are beneficial in the workplace as they are proven to be more flexible and adaptive to the ever-changing business environment, says Harvard Business Review.

  • Communication and Listening Skills:

    Improv participants can practice active listening and ongoing communication in a group. One needs to be in the moment and carefully place their ears for the next suggestion to come as everything happens quickly. This is usually the case in a client meeting where everything is in a limited amount of time, and you are bound to grasp concepts as quickly as possible.

  • Emotional Intelligence:

    Along with self-awareness, a host of other skills develop when doing improv. A few of these are empathy and trust. Improv games and activities encourage participants to be keen observers of people within their group. They also need to examine how people will react to their actions. Lastly, they have to look inward through self-evaluation as well outward by seeing their environment.

In Summary

There are many ways to incorporate improve games in your remote teams. We hope that you found our suggestions helpful as you plan out your team’s next huddle. For more ideas like this, check out this article on 5-minute team building activities or head over to our resources section for more.


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