Role play helps you understand and prepare for a situation by acting out a scenario with fictional personas.
On this page:
Why you should use it
Role play enables you to:
- get a sense of what customers are likely to be feeling in a situation
- develop empathy for people in unfamiliar or difficult situations
- predict which approaches might work (or not work) for people
- constructively challenge ideas or identify approaches to improve them
- spark brainstorming sessions and improve communication
- develop listening and creative problem-solving skills.
What it involves
- Identify the situation and discuss the relevant issues.
- Decide which personas you will use in the scenario and add realistic details to flesh them out.
- Assign the personas to your participants and then you can act out the scenario.
- After the role play has finished, discuss what you learned and share observations.
What you will get out of it
- Observations of a scenario that represents the experience of real people.
- Information on how people are likely to respond to certain situations.
- A fresh understanding of potential issues and factors in your scenario.
Ideal circumstances for use
- You are attempting to understand divergent or unfamiliar perspectives, to build in empathy or understanding of customer perspectives.
- You are considering new approaches, services or methods, and want to test potential reactions from customers and stakeholders.
- It needs participants who can both take it seriously and feel comfortable with the exercise. Some people feel threatened or nervous when asked to act out a role, because it can make them feel silly, or that they've been put on the spot.
- Although the technique can be insightful, it cannot always substitute for other forms of engagement with customers.
References, guides and key readings
Role play – preparing for difficult conversations and situations – Communications toolkit entry from Mind Tools, an online management and leadership training resource.
Rules and tips for role playing games and activities – Ideas and theory for role playing, from Businessballs.
Three benefits of making role-play part of training – Guidelines on how to use role play for building confidence and developing skills in listening and creative problem-solving.