Role Play – why do delegates fear it so much?

We used to love role playing!untitled

Delegates universally enter the training room in fear and apprehension that at some point in the day they’ll be forced into a dreaded role play. It’s usually one of the first questions they ask about the day, and can then spend the entire time worrying about the few minutes they’ll be “put on the spot” and be laughed at by their colleagues. Undoubtedly this can then affect their learning and absorption of information because all they do is fret about it.

Yet we used to love role playing. Who hasn’t spent time as a child being a doctor, fireman, Bob the Builder, listened to the dog’s heartbeat with a toy stethoscope as a vet, or changed the toy doll as a mummy or daddy?

We used our imaginations, had conversations in our head (or even out loud) and recreated real life scenarios where we acted out our response, oblivious to who was watching or listening.

So why do we hate it as adults?

Basically we shy away from situations that we fear will make us look stupid/inadequate/awkward, especially in front of our professional colleagues. Unless you are a born actor, we can spend more time worrying about what other people think of us than concentrating on the reason for the role play.

What’s the point then, if so many fear it? How can it be effective?

Jacob Morena, Viennese Psychologist, stated that “people gain more from acting out their problems than talking about them”.

It is true that there are huge positive benefits to not only taking part, but watching how others handle situations and as such, role playing is a cracking learning tool in the training room….BUT it needs to be used correctly to avoid causing more harm than good.

Having a structure is critical – it’s not about the “drama”, but sets a scene that provides the opportunity to re-enforce the right behaviours for dealing with situations and allowing feedback that benefits the learning for individuals and groups as a whole.

What is unhelpful are the “spontaneous” role-plays. We’ve probably all been in a situation where the facilitator has said “can I have a volunteer” and launches into a scenario with no preparation, causing anxiety from the unfortunate who has been landed with the role, and amusement/relief from those who haven’t been picked on! This is no way to learn effectively.

Script Analysis

For those who feel that role playing is an anathema and a block in the training room, another option is script analysis. This is where an interaction is written down – say between a manager and an underperforming member of staff – and the group reads through the responses. After each section, the group of learners evaluates the response given and then suggests alternatives that might be better or equally effective.

It has the benefit of structure, discussing how you may react to a situation or scenario and has reflective thinking time for offering alternatives.

This does need to be well prepared by your training provider, but removes the stigma of “acting” from the group which can be beneficial if there are real concerns about how the delegates will react to the pressure of role play.

Top tips for preparing and undertaking role plays

  1. It is important for the delegates to have the tools to know how they should behave before they are launched into a role play situation. Essentially don’t put them into a difficult situation without first having given them the opportunity to understand what they need to do, and how to react to a scenario. If they are left floundering, trying to find an answer under pressure, they’ll give up and fear both the real life situation when it arises and feel a failure for the rest of the day.
  2. Use professionals! Great corporate actors are skilled in their craft. They flex and adapt the situations; they don’t over-dramatise, as colleagues can sometimes do; they understand the outcome is to provide support and practical guidance for the delegates on future behaviours and are an aid to the learning, not an impedement.
  3. Planning….don’t wing it! Real life scenarios take time to plan and execute accurately and by just making up a situation and making it as hard as possible for the learners isn’t productive or helpful. Your training provider should work with you closely on the types of situations faced by your staff so they can accurately portray this in the role play scenario.
  4. Time out – allowing time out to be called when a delegate is feeling under pressure and flustered is essential. The whole point of doing role play in a safe space is that it isn’t real life! You have the opportunity to stop, reflect, gather thoughts and start again. I know from experience how critical this can be when training to be a bereavement counsellor. No one is expecting you to be perfect first time….that’s the reason for having the role play in the first place!
  5. Learning by watching is especially helpful for interpersonal skills development and many will say that they learn more by seeing what someone else does. A delegate who has had the training and tools to know how to respond, will value the opportunity to practise their reactions and responses, being confident in their approach.

Will you ever get a delegate in a training room that says “yay, role play, great I can’t wait”….maybe not. Managing expectations and fears around those expectations will help and form part of the preparatory precourse work.

We can say that without doubt, whilst many may not claim to enjoy the experience at the time, they all categorically rate role play as one of the most effective and informative elements to a training session and how it has benefitted them in preparing for those real life scenarios. Done well, with planning, structure and ensuring everyone is supportive of one another, it is such a strong element to any training environment.


Presenting – perfectly possible to enjoy

Sarah G

Highly recommend Sarah Gorbutt’s ‘Presenting with Passion’ training due to its interactive nature, clear structure and constructive feedback.

On a cold December day in Canterbury, it was a useful day’s training on practical presentation skills when standing up in front of an audience.

It’s abundantly clear Sarah gets the best from her attendees due to her dynamic and positive nature.

For anyone apprehensive about presenting in the business environment , this training merits a gold star.


Delighted to receive feedback this morning on Associate, Sarah, who spent yesterday in Canterbury with a client working with their team on presentation skills.

Always one that people come to with nerves aplenty and a sense of impending doom that they’ll freeze, forget what they were going to say, or not be able to answer those difficult questions.

Sarah has spent time working with their team to understand the types of presentations that the team have to do (including internationally) to a variety of audiences and by tailoring and really drilling down to the nitty gritty of what is relevant to their business, and the messages they need to get across, they have come away with confidence and practical skills from the day.

Great that everyone took what they needed from the day….and enjoyed it too!  Thanks Sarah for another great course.

Guide Dogs for the Blind – Maidstone

Kate is a speaker for Guide Dogs for the Blind and knows just how life changing it can be for a visually impaired person to own a Guide Dog.  If you could forego your morning coffee from Pret/Starbucks/Costa for one day and put the £2 towards the Pups to Partnership appeal, we CAN achieve this incredibly ambitious target of £420,000!  Read more below:-

This October, we launch Pups to Partnerships – a life changing Guide Dogs appeal, with the ambition of funding seven lifetime guide dog partnerships in just one month. To succeed we’ve set an ambitious target and need to raise £420,000 in just 31 days, the cost of seven adorable puppies from birth to retirement, on their journey to become life changing guide dogs.

Our appeal puppies; Harry, Prue, Anthony, Declan, Jamie, Sandra and Cookie, are taking their first steps on that journey. They have a lot of learning and growing to do as they begin to explore the world. It will take approximately two years of training before they are ready to support someone with sight loss.

Text GUIDE to 70099 to donate £2 to the Pups to Partnerships appeal or visit
to make a one off or regular monthly donation. With your help, we can make Pups to Partnerships possible this October.


Visual description: A real guide dog sat on the base of a collection box with the collection box dog sat as though looking at him.

Communicating change – avoiding the panic


We have recently received details about our new recycling services….new bins, new days, new items for collection (no more surruptious visits to the bottle bank after a party!).

There has been lots of communications in recent weeks and months from the local Council about the changes.  The fact that the garden bins now need paying for in advance, and the dates that the changeover will take place.

Regardless of all the information, there has been a myriad of questions and queries on the local village Facebook and social media pages about what goes out when; what is and isn’t being collected; why dates are changing and in some cases double checking when the end of September is coming as this is the changeover timeframe!

It goes to show that change alarms people.

No matter how much information is provided, the idea of working with new systems and processes causes angst and once one person starts asking for clarification on points, everyone jumps on the bandwagon to make sure they fully understand what is happening.

Communication is key….but equally it also goes to prove that on matter how much information you provide, someone will always want more.

Some guidelines for assisting with change and the communication of it:-

  • KISS – Keep it simple and short.  Too much information in one long paragraph can be overwhelming when there is so much to take in and assimilate to make sure you understand what is needed and you have the danger of losing the point of what you are trying to say so in the end no one can remember what the original message was. See what I mean!!!
  •  Include your audience in the early discussions to take all views on board
  •  Patience – just because you know and understand what is happening, don’t assume your audience does. You may need to repeat yourself several times to get understanding
  •  5 W’s – Who, What, Where, When and Why.  Always good starting points for making sure you have answered as many questions as possible but remember, you will be repeating yourself for clarification.
  • Communication – just because you understand what is happening, you have to look at it from the position of your audience and make sure everything is as clear and informative as possible.  You won’t please all of the people all of the time but endeavour to get the majority on board and they’ll help spread your message.
  •  Use a variety of methods for communicating – like any good trainer, remember people take in information in a variety of ways including the written word, pictorial, via social media, face to face conversations, meetings, etc.

Accept that there will be an element of panic no matter how good your preparatory messages and information but by maintaining a sense of calm and clear direction, with good communications will aid everyone in their understanding and hopefully a sense of calm will then descend.

Support for Family business in times of crisis


As members of the Family Business Place, we are privileged to support other businesses both large and small in their endeavours.

Every now and again, there’s something that can impact hugely on work, but is so much bigger and goes to the heart of the fundamental point of being kind to our friends, colleagues and strangers.

One of the current FBP members has been diagnosed with Stage 4 bowel cancer – a young chap in his 30s with 3 small children and no NHS access to the one drug that could make a massive difference to him.

Please see the link below about Adam from Cattermole Electric and if you are able to donate a small amount, it will make a colossal impact on his future chances.

Watering for Growth & when to transplant your people – a summer analogy!


This weekend was a scorcher! Whilst most of us revelled in the warmth of the Bank holiday, it was apparent that many of the garden plants in their decorative pots were looking….well frankly pretty knackered!

Draining heat, burning sun and a hot contained environment are not conducive to a flourishing plant.  Sure, they look great for a while but quickly start to droop and fade without water and feed.

Whilst providing some much needed evening “hose” relief on Saturday evening, it struck me that there is a strong analogy with how teams and individuals need a similar refreshment.

Are your people wilting from lack of care?

Those who are left to flounder in the heat will often wilt and succumb to their environment.  There are those who are “contained” and “constrained” within their roles when really they need to be allowed to spread and develop larger root systems to enable them to flourish.

If we don’t feed their development they stagnate and like our gardens, eventually fail to bloom – what was once such a promising specimen becomes withered and withdrawn, not reaching its full potential to show us just what it is capable of.

Our son-in-law is a specialist soft landscaper. What I do is pick his brains (and very often his brawn) to help decide what different specimens need to bloom;

  • would a transfer to a different department (or in the horticultural sense, different border), provide an opportunity to spread out, develop and become vibrant again?
  • has it been overfed or over-watered and can’t cope with all the additional pressures on it?
  • am I being too impatient for a result?
  • what needs to be pruned, or in some cases put on the compost?

Trust me, a mid season move of our pretty pathetic single stemmed rose bush to a bigger border, with a bit of the right feed and shade has produced a triffid like response that is now taking over a dull and previously uninspiring front wall. Everyone’s a winner

Like any good gardener, as a business you need to sometimes stand back and take a critical view of what you’ve planted.

Use Specialist knowledge to bolster your options

Making full use of a “specialist” who knows what you want as the end result, but can also focus your thinking on the difficult and challenging decisions to be made in order to bring about the best display possible, is time and money well spent.

We thrive on working with organisations that are forward thinking and want the very best for their employees – looking at the options and the adjustments that need to be made to help them flourish and bloom.

If you’d like some support from us, do give me a call on 01892 832059 – just don’t ask me about your geraniums and Cala lillies – that’s not our area of expertise (but we know a man who can!).

FCA new guidance for vulnerable customers & how to prepare your staff


For the 3rd time today we’ve taken a call from an overseas number saying that our Visa card has a suspicious transaction taking place and to press 1 immediately to take action.  Now we all know this is a scam, but what about those vulnerable people who get sucked in?

The Financial Lives Survey has found that “50% of UK adults have one or more characteristics of being potentially vulnerable”.  These include:-

  • Health – illness or reduced ability to carry out day to day tasks
  • Life Events – bereavement, relationship breakdown, housing
  • Resilience – a reduced ability to withstand financial or emotional shocks
  • Capability – reduced knowledge of financial matters.

The FCA are undertaking a draft proposal and consultation (4th October 2019 for responses) to understand and implement further improvements that can be made to support these groups.

We are delighted to be working with one of our FCA clients on staff development around vulnerable customers and how to recognise and respond to their needs.  The training starts in September and includes working with an actor to bring some realistic scenarios into the learning environment for greater practice and confidence in handling these cases.

More information and the details for the consultation feedback can be found in the FCA July 2019 document –

There are many who should be interested in the consultation feedback, but specifically they are looking for responses from:-

  • Any FCA regulated organisation
  • Industry groups and trade bodies
  • Consumers
  • Organisations promoting the interests of vulnerable people
  • Consumer advisors.