Usually, at the end of an encounter with foreigners, we ruminate about what we could have said and done better. In real life, we don’t get another chance to re-do the encounter. But in this roleplay activity, that’s exactly what we do.
Prepare a scenario. Select the type of interpersonal interaction that you want your participants to handle. Specify a few details about the role of the two people involved in this situation.
Here’s the scenario I created for use at last year’s SIETAR-USA conference:
I will play the role of a foreign participant who is wandering around the meeting rooms at a professional conference, looking lost. You will play role of a friendly local who wants to help him without appearing to be patronizing.
Surprise the participants. Randomly select a participant to play the role of the person in an intercultural interaction. Explain that you will play the role of the other person, a foreigner.
Specify the scenario. Explain the situation in which you meet each other.
Conduct the roleplay. Let the other person initiate the conversation. Respond to him or her in your role as a foreigner.
Conclude the roleplay. At the end of 2 or 3 minutes, abruptly announce the end of role play.
Repeat the roleplay. Ask the roleplaying participant if he or she has second thoughts about what could have been done better. Explain that you are going to rewind the roleplay tape and start all over again. Invite the participant to begin the roleplay again from scratch.
Repeat with coaching from the audience. After a suitable length of time, conclude the second round. Ask the participant to mingle with the other participants and collect their suggestions for improving the interaction. Tell the roleplayer that he or she may ignore or modify any of these suggestions. As before, invite the roleplayer to start from scratch.
Repeat the roleplay with another participant. After about 2 minutes, invite someone else to replace the roleplayer. Use the same scenario and roles. If time permits, conduct two or three more rounds.
Debrief. Begin with the roleplaying participants. Ask them to recall the changes they made between the rounds and the reasons for these changes. Also ask them what they would do differently if they were to start all over again. Invite other participants for their comments about what they observed and how they would coach future roleplayers.