Program Directions are ideas for more imaginative speaking exercises to enable members to develop their communication.
Some of the most enjoyable and challenging exercises involve role-playing: inviting speakers to imagine themselves into different personalities, times or circumstances. In this exercise each speaker should present a speech appropriate to one of the following purposes or situations:
- Resigning from an organisation.
- Pleading guilty.
- Demanding immediate action.
- Calming an angry crowd.
- Laying down the law.
- Sacking an employee.
- Introducing unwelcome changes.
- Encouraging loyal followers.
- Issuing an official denial.
- Dividing us into groups and telling us what to do next.
Each speaker is asked to pretend that he/she is actually experiencing the situation while giving the speech. For the duration of that speech, the audience will be addressed as the jury, a sports team, a press conference or whatever else is appropriate to the occasion.
These exercises work much more effectively if the speaker is encouraged not to ‘set the scene’ before beginning (‘Now, I’m a bank manager, and I’ve been very worried about this employee, so you have to imagine I’ve called him into my office…’). The speaker should go straight into character from the beginning and make the circumstances clear from the content of his/her speech.
A variant on the Situational is to program a number of these speeches into a common theme. This is a great way to build the sense of special occasion, and get speakers to co-operate and interact in their presentation. Some suggestions include:
- A wedding, in which members are assigned the parts of Bride, Groom, Minister, Best Man, Mother of the Bride and so on. This could be spiced up to include the jilted ex-lover or a former spouse (or spouses).
- A meeting of the City/Shire Council debating some contentious issue relating to local government.
- A trial, requiring a judge, a defendant, witnesses and lawyers. This scenario could be played out in any country (galaxy?), in the past or in the future.
- A mutiny on the International Space Station, where growing dissatisfaction with tasteless, pre-packaged food has erupted into rebellion with demands for a cordon-bleu chef to be sent aloft. Participants might include an International Arbitrator as Chairman, the CEO of the company supplying the food, the Station Commander, a representative of NASA ground control, and a French chef on standby for take-off.
- A meeting called by the AFL Executive to try to clear the air between newcomers the Tasmanian Devils, who have not lost a game, and the Players’ Association, amid rumours about performance enhancing drugs. The club maintains it has developed a special diet, exercises and training regime but refuses to give details. Participants could include club coach, club manager, Head of the Players’ Association, the longest serving coach and others.
The possibilities are endless. The important points are that the background and role of the various characters should be made very clear; all the participants are encouraged to immerse themselves (including dressing the part and bringing appropriate props); and the speakers should talk with each other beforehand to sort out the basic ideas so that everything runs smoothly. Ideally the audience should be given some kind of role to play.
Role-playing exercises challenge speakers to step beyond any personal limits they may have set for themselves (‘I couldn’t possibly do that …’), can involve everyone at the meeting, and they’re loads of fun!
Compiled, with modification, from material originally developed by Rob Lock (49) and Pam Clarke (1/2).