58 1/2 Ways to Improvise in Training

Improvisation Games and Activities for Workshops, Courses and Team Meetings

By: Paul Z Jackson


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Size: 234mm x 187mm
Pages : 176
ISBN : 9781904424147
Format: Paperback
Published: March 2003

Whether you are running a training session, workshop or a team meeting, Paul Jackson’s varied collection of games and activities will help you create an environment of improvisation and experimentation, of imagination and energy, and of laughter and commitment. What better way to engage everyone in the process of learning?

The games in this book can be used in a variety of ways. A physical activity warms up limbs and breaks down barriers between group members. A verbal activity is an exercise in creativity and intellectual dexterity. More than simply icebreakers, these activities are designed as vehicles for content. There are always links between the game and the subject of the workshop at metaphorical level.

Picture for author Paul Z Jackson

Paul Z Jackson

Paul Z Jackson is an independent training consultant with a wide spectrum of clients in both the private and public sectors. He has worked as a print journalist, senior producer for BBC Radio Four, lecturer at Bath Spa University College, and teacher at the London Actors Centre.

Click here to read Paul Z Jackson’s blog.


  1. I have designed, written and delivered many training sessions and workshops over the years and whilst the designing, writing and delivering contain their own pressures and stresses, the biggest challenge has always been in deciding how to make training fun for the participants. Like many people, I have sat being trained by some pretty dull people and, to be fair, I have probably been a bit boring myself in some forums, especially in the early days when I was finding my feet. But experience as a trainer and as a trainee has taught me that without fun in a relaxed atmosphere, training lessons and important messages do not linger in the memory long after the session or workshop has finished. So, fun in training is a priority. In fact, in my opinion, it is essential.

    And now, help is at hand. It is not necessary to wrack your brains to come up with games and activities of your own (although that is still allowed!) because Paul Z. Jackson has done a considerable amount of work to produce a tad over fifty-eight improvisational, experimental and inspirational audience participation activities to keep interest and energy levels high during training sessions and team meetings. “58Â'½ Ways To Improvise In Training” is a book full of creative ideas to help eliminate staid and stale employee get-togethers.

    Paul R. Scheele, Chairman, Learning Strategies Corp, says in the foreword: “Great teaching is art, and the hallmark of the great artists remains consistent. They are the gifted few who make any subject a joy to learn-¦-¦.Paul Z. Jackson has captured the essence of great teaching artistry for all who want to maximize their effectiveness as educators.”

    Paul Z. Jackson says in his introduction” “Each of the activities is improvisational in the sense that it generates what I call -˜impro energy', a current that runs between participants.“ The activities range from energisers, to working together games, to relationship influencing, to exploring emotions and attitudes and so much more.

    This is a terrific book, one that I highly recommend trainers and teachers to carry with them as part of their toolkits. It is not a stuffy text book. It is a collection of templates that will help to invigorate training sessions, to make them interesting and memorable and, oh yes, to ensure they are fun.
  2. 58 1/2 Ways to Improvise in Training is a hands on book full of ideas to help trainers energise groups large and small. It`s a book that will remain on my desk rather than propping it up!
  3. Whether you're running a training session, workshop or a team meeting, this varied collection of games and activities will help you to create an environment of active improvisation and experimentation. It's sure to bring imagination, energy, laughter and commitment: What better way to engage everyone in the process of learning.

    The games in this book can be used in a variety of ways. A physical activity warms up limbs and breaks down barriers whereas a verbal activity is an exercise in creativity and intellectual dexterity - they're all in this magical book. There are always links between the game and the subject of the workshop at a metaphorical level.

    The author is an independent training consultant working in both the public and private sectors. Paul has been a producer for BBC Radio Four, a lecturer at Bath Spa University College and a teacher at the London Actors Centre.
  4. A fun and appealing book for anyone who runs training courses. This book is filled with activities that will get a room full of delegates motivated. Whether it is physically, mentally or interactively, Mr Jackson has put together several activities which will get the ball rolling. Each activity is easily understandable and gives tips on the numbers needed, energy demands on the participants, time needed and type of activity, so that trainers can easily and quickly find the relevant activity for the group and type of training being delivered.

    Within each activity there are also suggestions for variations on the original theme so that, as a trainer, you never get bored with using the same activity more than once.

    A good book and a helpful tool.
  5. I read Paul Z Jackson's book travelling north on a train between Birmingham New Street and Lancaster. I make that point because it is very easy to read in a short space of time and is far from many of the academic tomes that frequently cross my desk. This is a "hands on" book full of ideas to help trainers energise groups large and small. It's a book that will remain on my desk rather than propping it up!

    This book contains a range of ideas that vary from the out and out theatrical that that one might imagine may have taken place in an episode of "The Office" to energisers more suited to the normally more reserved nature of the British audience.

    Careful selection of the choice of activities that Paul Z Jackson suggests is critical if trainers are to been seen as not engaging in frivolity and achieving a "nul points" response with a cringe factor rating that is off the meter. Training should always be fun but I would need to match an audience with great care if I were to select one of the more outrageous and audacious "warm ups". The "West Coast" flavour of some of the activities will be a little too adventurous for most trainers I suspect.

    I did however particularly like about twenty of the suggested "warm ups". His "Fast Lines" activity where people are asked to organise themselves by a series a criteria such as height, birthdays, surnames number of cousins or whatever else comes to mind! "One Word" is another fun activity that I have already used with a group of Local Government Officers on Time Management Course. It helped to energise the students in the "Graveyard" slot after lunch and as a relatively low level activity it actively involved those who were less than forward in coming forward.

    Trainers and teachers will find Paul Z Jacksons book of value. It ranks well alongside Scannell and Newstrom's book "The big book of presentation games" and should find a prominent place on the shelves and desks of all those engaged in developing the skills of our workforce.
  6. Paul Z Jackson has shown what a genius he is at providing Trainers and Teachers with tools that are so easy to use but when used correctly can be so rewarding and satisfying for all concerned, I have enjoyed using some of the tools and I will continue to use them on the right kind of audience. I couldn't not recommend a book that allows us to bring a different level of fun in to learning!
  7. This is a clear, concise and easy to use book of activities to inspire and energise all your trainings. A motivational companion I recommend trainers take with them to all events.
  8. The book provides an invaluable collection of innovative activities which would fit any training activity. It contains new ideas for energising and stimulating any age group. The exercises are well grouped enabling you to pick the relevant ones for your event. The simple expanations mean that anyone could pick up and use this resource, and feel confident in their success. I have a wide resource library, so was not expecting to see anything new. I was delighted that this book suprised me!
  9. As a busy trainer I am always looking for fresh ideas to support learning and change. 58 1/2 Ways to Improvise in Training offers some great, adaptable activities in a very accessable format, often requiring zero preparation. A very useful resource.
  10. The intriguing title of this book makes one immediately wonder what exactly the half an activity will be. Resisting temptation to flick to the last activity I discovered that Paul Jackson's book was a well-structured, interesting and amusing insight into the professional world of training activities.

    Paul offers his experience of creating great learning activities with a selection of activities that offer ideas to both experienced and novice training presenters. Anyone looking for a swift energising activity to use within his or her training event will find the book invaluable.


    The book is presented in a well organised format and delivers exactly what The title promises 581/2 activities for inspirational energisers. Paul's approach to the subject allows even the most inexperienced trainer or facilitator to use the book as a reference for ideas to energise parts of their training event or simply use a suitable activity as an icebreaker.

    Paul helps us recognise that the most memorable training events don't just inform, they often inspire, convince and hold the audience interest. The activities within the book help any trainer to achieve just that.

    Each activity is plotted between the visual, verbal and physical triangulation points, allowing you to choose an activity with the right content.

    The activities themselves are presented in a clear way and particularly helpfully sectioned into categories of Energisers, working together, Influencing relationships, resources, emotions, attitudes, creativity, wisdom, and finally even how to conclude a training event.

    Paul has ensured that you want to at least look at each activity with the use of suitably interesting titles such as "Shark Island, Happiness Machines and the Achievement Gallery". Once you have decided that an activity would be a possible activity, the trainer will find each activity laid out in an easy to follow instructional way which ensures the objective is set, how it should be introduced, undertaken and debriefed.

    The activities may be used "As is" or Paul offers variations and developments on that theme, which is a particular strength of the book.

    The book offers a significant helpful view within the field of training, however it is not the only publication in the subject of training activities available.

    Paul is quite successful in accomplishing the aims of the book, as indeed, it offers exactly what it says on the cover 581/2 ways to improvise in training.

    Compared with similar subject matter available, this book offers equally good ideas to help the trainer to inject a few of Paul's ideas into his or her training event.

    The main weakness, or rather, frustrating area of the book is that some of the activities seem to be described in a rather overcomplicated manor and I found I had to read the purpose of the activity more than once to be clear on what was to be achieved by that session. Paul does say himself "I sometimes find the explanation is more complicated than the activity " and he does offer an e-mail address for any unclear points.

    The book is well suited for trainers to add to their resource library of material and will be useful in many occasions.

    As a recommendation I would suggest that the book offers a word of advice to the person new to training about the appropriate use of such activities. Whereas energises, fun activities are often well received there will always be the individuals in training events who may consider them as not relevant or even may be embarrassed if asked to do something rather different to what their normal working day entails. An experienced training colleague once told me of an event he ran, where on introducing an activity which involved the delegates singing an introduction about themselves was abruptly brought down to earth when half of them got up and walked out".so use such activities wisely.
  11. This is a fascinating and inspiring book. A must have for all trainers, teachers, and managers who are looking for innovative ways to enhance creativity, communication, and learning. I recommend Paul Jackson's brilliant book 581/2 Ways to Improvise in Training to all those who want to improve by improvising.
  12. This book describes may varied games and short burst activities to enliven any group of people. They could be used equally well in workshops, training events, or flagging meetings. The simple explanations will allow anyone to run the activity and I liked the fact that they were flexible enough to allow room to add your own little touches.

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