What is it?
This is a popular improv game brought to us by Mary Lemmer, improv comedian and creator of the Improve methodology. The purpose of this game is to encourage active listening and demonstrate its power for better team communication.
Number of Participants
This game can be played in person or virtually and can be played 1 of 2 ways!
- Put participants into small group or pairs.
- If groups, identify an order for members to participate in.
- The objective is for the group or pair to tell a story collectively.
- The first person starts the story by stating the first sentence or two.
- The next person has to start their sentence (or two) with the last word of the previous person’s last sentence.
- Go back and forth if in pairs or down the line if in a group until the story is complete.
The objective and process for Option 2 are the same, but participants don’t wait for the last word; instead, they are listening for the keyword of the sentence(s), and then start their own sentence(s) with the keyword.
Playing Last Work, First Word forces the participants to pay close attention for the last word (or keyword) that they need to use in order to continue the story. They can’t be thinking ahead of what they are going to say next. If someone isn’t actively listening, they can easily miss the last word and not know how to start their portion of the story.
This exercise also helps participants get in sync with their teammates. They must be cognizant of not only which word they start with, but also which word they end with. They will need to ensure that they set their teammates up for success by giving them a last word that isn’t difficult to start a sentence with.
Active listening is an important skill, and one that doesn’t come naturally. However, with practice, it can be a powerful tool to aid in team communication and personal development, especially for solving conflict or having difficult conversations.
For more great exercises like this that help teams and leaders communicate and work better together, take a look at Mary Lemmer’s course, The Improvised Leader.