Number three in our line up of the best Trainer's Tips are these communication skills exercises from Paul Hollands.
There are many exercises you could do, each can be tailored to suit the situation and modified to effect a specific outcome.
For example, organising a menu for a celebratory meal (post course!). Split them into groups, each group decides on what they would like as one course (i.e. group A does starter, group B does main etc.). You can let them free select or provide a choice (a local restaurant menu can help here). Once decided they come and tell you their group's choice, which cannot then be changed.
For the meal to be a success they must communicate as a whole group to ensure they meet dietary needs, tastes etc.
As part of the exercise get each group to identify five or so ‘success criteria’ i.e. what will let us know that the meal was a success. Do this after they have submitted they choices (you may then choose to allow them to change their ideas – challenge their ideas based on their success criteria).
Set the exercise up so that the groups negotiate an overall menu.
Chinese whispers: Piece of card cut into shapes – in twos sit back to back (so they can’t see each other) one person has copy of the solution and must tell the other (who has the bits) how to assemble them.
For emphasising non-verbal communication: Similar to above, but facing each other (can be as group) this time with no verbal communication. Play ‘Charades’ – but link in to their work (i.e. choose topics relevant to what they do).
Depending on their level (and what you have covered already) you could use ‘advanced models’ such as the ‘Meta Model’ of communication (Deletions, Distortions & Generalisations). There are many ways to use it, e.g. print off a passage of text and get them to spot deletions/distortions etc. In threes or so, get one person to talk about a recent experience for a couple of minutes (hobby, interest, work etc.). The group then notes down the deletions/distortions etc. Review in plenary.
Of course we haven’t mentioned any of the listening exercises yet, nor different levels of listening, rapport skills, language and pace matching, psychological type preferences etc., all of which are essential to good communication!
Another great exercise is in threes, ‘A’ sells a car to ‘C’ matching (in rapport), ‘B’ then sells (same) car to ‘C’ mismatching. ‘C’ chooses who to buy car from (should choose ‘A’!) This can be varied greatly to include thinking strategies, communication preferences (VAK matching & mismatching etc.).
It all depends on how long you have and what outcome you want to achieve.