Communication Skills Exercise: Observe, Explain, Do

Communication Skills Exercise: Observe, Explain, Do


This activity helps delegates to improve their teamwork and communication and interpersonal skills while going through a specific task. The task is fairly simple. To succeed at their task, the team must be able to self-organise, communicate well, and work together to resolve issues. Optionally, if you have a large group, you can divide them to several teams where they can go through the exercise in parallel and at the end compare their performance.


A person observes a poster and explains it to another person who in turn explains it to a group which should proceed to replicate it.

What You Need

  • A poster. This should contain a design of some sort which is suitable for the age group and the background of the delegates.
  • Drawing and writing materials
  • Large sheets of paper


  • Ask for two volunteers. Once would be the observer and the other, the explainer.
  • Everyone else would form the group whose job is to replicate a poster.
  • Hang the poster outside the training room. Make sure no one sees the poster.
  • Ask the observer to leave the training room and stand in front of the poster.
  • Ask the explainer to go to the observer. The observer should provide instructions to the explainer on how to replicate the poster. The explainer is not allowed to see the poster.
  • The explainer should then go back to the group and explain what he has heard. The group need to replicate the poster based on the instructions they hear from the explainer.



  • The explainer is not allowed to see the poster.
  • Arrange so that the instructions given by the observer are not heard directly by the group.
  • The explainer can ask questions from the observer and the group can also ask questions from the explainer.
  • The explainer should effectively go back and forth carrying messages and instructions, while using his own understanding to accelerate the process.


  • Allocate about 15 to 30 minutes for the whole exercise. You can lower the allocated time to make the exercise more challenging.
  • At the end of the allocated time, get everyone to come back together and to compare the original and the replicated posters.
  • Follow with a discussion.
  • Timing

    Explaining the Exercise: 5 minutes

    Activity: 15 to 30 minutes

    Group Feedback: 10 minutes


    What do you think of your performance? Were you satisfied with how the instructions were related by the explainer? What was the effect of the explainer on the process? How about observer’s instructions? If you struggled in the task, do you think you should blame the observer, the explainer or the task group? What does this exercise suggest about providing feedback? What does it say about teamwork, cooperation and communication? What does it mean in relation to working in the dark where all information is not necessarily always accessible? What can you do to improve the quality of your work?


    You can run this exercise as a competition between groups, ideally located in different rooms so they cannot copy each other. Each group should have one observer, one explainer and a sub-group which carries out the task of replicating the poster. Use the same poster for both groups. Allocate a fixed amount of time and then bring everyone back together to compare their replicated posters and choose the best. Follow with a discussion to see why one group did better than others and how different groups compare their performances.

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