Rolling the Dice on Role-Plays

Stop role playing in your stagnate meeting rooms…GET OUT ON THE SALES FLOOR!!! It’s not that role playing in a meeting space is worthless, its better than nothing but if you want to maximize your time with your team or peers it’s time to set yourself up for success instead of mediocrity. Our brains are pretty big into visual ques. In fact in a recent article in National Geographic by Diane Cole, “A Message From Your Brain: I'm Not Good At Remembering What I Hear” it talks about her new study that shows that we are far better at remembering what we see and touch than what we hear. One of the reasons that role-playing is so effective is that you get to experience something by seeing, hearing and doing which is the trifecta of learning. However just role-playing isn’t enough as our brains need as much stimulation as possible to pull the right memory files when we encounter the practiced situation in real life. That is why you need to start role-playing where the actual engagement you are practicing is happening.

Our brains match the situational experience we are in with memories. The more visual ques we have the easier it is to pull the memory file from our brains even if it is a stressful situation. In an article by Melanie Pinola, she describes an ancient technique called “Memory Palace” or “Method of Loci” which came from Ancient Rome where the process was used by the Romans to remember important information. The technique is simple you use your brain to imagine something you are very familiar with like your house. You then visualize different items in your house like a lamp and table and you associate them with things you need to remember. Once you need to recall the information you needed to get you will visualize the items in your house the memories will show up in association. Although this technique can help you remember things it’s not as practical in a high leverage or stressful situation. A HUGE shortcut to this is to just practice your role-plays in a the actual setting where you need to remember something and teach it there. The same principles apply from Memory Palace apply to role-playing in the exact place where you want to remember something. The files in your brain will start to link the practiced techniques with the surroundings and they will become instant ques with your guests to bring up what you wanted to remember.

If you are a car sales professional and you are practicing talking about a new model’s features you need to actually go for a test drive with a co-worker and practice what you are going to say as you go around your same driving loop. As you practice certain elements for your pitch, you will actually sink up visual cues that will jog your memory in the future. You’ll take a left turn at a certain light with a guest the following day and your memory of the role play and the features about the new AC will come right out so easily, it will amaze you.

If you are a retail sales associate and are trying to sell a particular item, it is imperative that you go to the area on your sales floor where that item is most often sold. You need to practice with co-workers or your trainer exactly as if it were a real engagement. If you are the trainer, or presenter taking a field trip out of the stale conference room will work wonders on your team’s fluency of the topics. Take time to look around, notice the table you are in front of, notice the floor, ceiling any landmarks and associate your elements of the role-play with those items. The next time you have guest in that same spot and you are telling them about the same product you will love how easily the sales features start flowing.

At the end of the day, role-plays need to be designed to allow the person you are training the opportunity to do two things:

  1. Make the content their own by learning how to say things in their own words and comfort range.

  2. Creating triggers from the products, environment, etc. that will help them know when and where they should be bringing up the practiced techniques.

Role-playing out where the action is happening helps to do both by allowing the trainee to practice their pitch out on the floor in their own words just like they do everyday, while creating the visual ques subconsciously.

Unfortunately, this isn’t always possible sometimes your stuck in a break room, or training center or presenting on stage, so what then??? Time for an ice-breaker! Provide your audience with paper and pencils, and take them on a quick mental journey. Have them draw out on the paper the place where they would be often times utilizing whatever pitch you are role-playing. Have them draw in the setting, colors, etc. Once done have them visualize doing the pitch in the space!

I assume you are reading this and are thinking that this sounds cheesy and it would not work. Remember, our memories are files and we want to unlock those files. This is an out of the box idea that works because you link the images in your audiences drawing to the concepts you are teaching which is basically “Memory Palace”. At the end of the day, most presenters don’t try new things because they are afraid of what people think, instead of being afraid of running a mediocre presentation that nobody remembers a week later…

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