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Role play

Role Play

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
What it involves
What you will get out of it
Ideal circumstances for use
References, guides and key readings

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.


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Last updated: 
Wednesday, 16 August 2017

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