Intro to Improv: Yes, and… & Gift Giving

Adopting the mindset of improv can have a profound impact on how a group works together. These fun and easy activities are a great way to introduce the key principles and get everyone working together

Time: 30 Minutes
Materials: Nothing!
Good for: Icebreaking, Energizing, Teambuilding, Creativity
Works well for: Groups, Teams

Three Improv Rules

  1. Practice “Yes, and…”
    “Yes, and…” is a tiny formula for appreciating someone’s contribution to the activity and using it as a springboard for the next contribution. It represents the goal of creating a supportive and open environment, where participants can throw something out there that will be accepted and built upon by others.  Using “Yes, and…” requires listening fully, and being open minded about what is contributed by others.
  1. Your team members are geniuses.
    Improv is not about being funny or stealing the show, it is truly about helping your team members look good and have fun. Acceptance brings out creativity, and helps build confidence and trust on your team. Creating a space where your team members feel that their contributions are important and appreciated can help build a positive team dynamic.
  1. There are no mistakes.
    In improv, mistakes are invitations to learn, grow, and change. It is important for your group to embrace an attitude of learning and adapting throughout the activities. Improv is an opportunity to be curious about how things might unfold, rather than needing things to go exactly as planned.

Activity Outlines

“Yes, and…” Party (5-10 Minutes)

  1. Ask participants to stand in a circle.
  2. Set the Scene: Your team is planning a party together, and it’s going to be awesome. (you don’t have to stick with party, it could be the perfect day at work, a dog show, etc.)
  3. Participants go around the circle and each share an idea for the party. For the first round (or first half of circle if your group is large) after the first person has shared, the next participant in the circle starts with “No, but…” and then adds their idea, and so on. During the second round (or second half of the circle), participants switch to starting with “Yes, and…” to add their idea.

Debrief Questions

  1. What change did you notice between the rounds?
  2. How did it feel to use “No, but…” vs. “Yes, and…”?
  3. How might this relate to teamwork?

Gift Giving (10-15 Minutes)

  1. Ask participants to stand in a circle (or divide into two circles if the group is large)
  2. Set the Scene: In the center of the circle is a pile of amazing gifts.
  3. The activity starts with someone selecting a “gift” from the pile in the middle of the circle. They might act out picking up the gift and give some physical clues about how large it is or how much it weighs. They then offer the gift to the person next to them in the circle without telling them what it is.
  4. The recipient of the gift announces what it is, and thanks the giver. It is then their turn to select a new gift from the middle of the circle and give it to the next person.
  5. Continue around the circle until everyone has given and received a gift!

Debrief Questions

  1. What did it feel like to give or receive the gift?
  2. What did you notice during the activity?
  3. How might this relate to teamwork?