This is great fun and has the added benefit of exploring the world of virtual improvisation. It focuses on saying as much as we can in as few words as possible.
The activity can be used to explore the notion of “less is more”, of getting down to the essential and the importance of “Lean” thinking. It can also be used to explore virtual communication using tools such as Twitter.
How it works.
The game is done in a pair, in front of an audience. Each person in the pair has 3 lives. You need a PC on hand open in Microsoft Word or any programme that can count up letters. Hootsuite is a good free program.
The pair improvise a conversation on a given subject.They alternate sentences in a classic transactional conversation. Each reply must no exceed 140 characters, nor must it be less than 40 characters.
At any point in the conversation one of the pair can challenge the other by shouting “Challenge”. They do this when they believe a reply has broken the rule – that it is less than 40 or more than 140 characters.
When there is a challenge, the spoken sentence is quickl typed by a volunteer at the laptop into the program and checked. If the challenge is correct the challenged person loses a life. If the challenge is incorrect, the challenger loses a life.
With practice we can get close to controlling the length of our reply and getting an intuitive sense of 140 characters.
Allow the game to run for as many pairs to have a try as there’s time or need for. There’s a competitive element here but only for the purpose of realising the learning possibilities of the game. With practice we can get better at speaking eloquently in 140 characters. We can find out way towards “essential” speaking and the simple improvisational part of the game allows for plenty of creativity and also improvement over time.
This can be an excellent little training exercise for tweeting!
But we can also go deeper and look at the notion of less is more, and also that sometimes too little is a blockage to dialogue.
How did it feel when we went over or under the word limit?
How much can really be said in 140 characters?
Do we tend to use too many words? If so, why?
How smart can we get with choosing our words?
How could we make this exercise more collaborative?
What helped or hindered flow?
Getting an instinct for the length of a sentence can be a valuable giftfor presenters and communicators. This game can create a kind of time yardstick. 140 characters is enough on Twitter to say almost anything meaningfully. I’ve written more about that here.
For someone who wants to reduce their verbosity, you could vary the character limits, for example, down to 100 characters; for someone shy or too minimal we can set a higher minimum, say, to 200 or 400 characters. You could also specify a number of words rather than characters.
Try it! It’s a bit different and gets into the virtual improvisation realm.
Visit the Applied Improvisation Zone