As the year 2020 draws to a close and no end to the pandemic in sight, online meetings are an ongoing reality and here to stay. All walks of life are now holding meetings online, whether it be school conferences, work conferences or conventions of all kinds. Just like in real life, these meetings need something to liven them up, and just like in real life, the answer is improvisation!
Here are some simple improv exercises to do online you can add to a meeting of any size to liven it up, give it some pizzazz, or just to make people smile. I have collected exercises that can be done in one big group, in breakout rooms up to 10 people each and in breakout rooms of 2 people. These exercises are easy to explain and not too intimidating to try for the first time.
Improv exercises for groups of any size:
Call out things you want to see on the computer screen. If you have 25 participants, you can say “I want to see 50 hands on my computer screen.” Everyone then has to show both hands in their camera. The bigger the group, the simpler you will have to make it, with groups of 12-14 where you can see all the participants on one screen you can be more creative. The participants should have some challenge to do it “correctly” but everyone sees a different number of “squares”, so don’t be too harsh in judging! Examples might be 14 elbows, 10 fingers, 15 faces, 32 butts (for the sales/marketing crowd), 5 coffee cups, 2 house plants, 100 eyes, 25 feet.
Big Face, Little Face
Have people move away from their camera and make a face as big as they can, mouth wide open, tongue out. Then have them move in with their face as close to the camera as they can making their face as tiny and scrunched up as they can. If you have permission, take a screenshot of the tiny faces, it will be a great souvenir of the meeting! Repeat several times. Variations: have everyone (without moving their heads) make their face go as far to the left, right, up, down, forward and back as they can. Making sounds with the faces is a fun addition as well as a warm-up for the voice!
Have a portable speaker by your computer. Turn on a song and tell the participants you will be leading the dance. They have to follow all your boogie moves. Depending on the size of your group, you can also call out the name of someone and then they have to lead. They call out the name of someone else and then that person leads. Each leader should have about 30 seconds to a minute to lead. This is an active and energetic way to warm up!
One of the advantages of having a meeting online is you have unlimited spaces to put people in groups, the breakout rooms. Breakout rooms are a good way to get some interaction between smaller groups of people and you can use them no matter what size your whole group is. It is a good idea to show one example of the improv exercise in front of the whole group before putting them in break out rooms, and then if you can, visit the rooms during the exercise to check how they are doing!
Here are some Improv exercises you can try in breakout rooms up to 10 people each.
Each person introduces themselves with a lot of energy and/or emotion. Then everyone says, all together, hello to that person and they use the same energy/emotion the person used. So if I say in a bright happy voice and with big arms, “Hi, I’M NICOLE!!!”, then everyone says together “HI NICOLE!!!΅ in the same bright happy voice and big arms. Name games are a fantastic ice-breaker, hardly anyone can refuse to say their name!
Say the name of one of the participants and ask them to name 5 things in a category. Explain that the group counts with them. Categories can be tv series, brands of cat food, flower names, rock stars, countries in Europe. So the leaders says, “Tom, name 5 kinds of cheese”. Tom says “Cheddar” and the whole group yells “One!” (Online it’s nice to also use 5 fingers to show the count!), Tom says “Mozzarella” and the whole group yells “Two” and so on and then Tom says, “Marjorie, name 5 horror films” and so on. Let the participants know ALL answers will be accepted, the goal is to name 5 things with enthusiasm and energy, not to be ‘correct.’ I like it when people wave their hands during the game, to support those answering the category, but this is optional.
Together the group is going to create new bumper stickers, those things you stick on the back of a car that has a cute saying or a wisdom of life. The participants add one word per person, and when the group as a whole decides the bumper sticker is finished, they all put their hands forward (as if they are sticking the bumper sticker to