Telephone Exercise: Challenging Telephone Conversations

Telephone Exercise: Challenging Telephone Conversations


Knowing how to talk on the phone is critical these days as a lot of communication takes place on the phone. Many times, you may need to respond to unusual requests or remarks and think on the spot so you can respond as diplomatically as possible. For example, how would you answer if someone asks you for a favour that you feel you cannot provide while not wanting to appear difficult or cold. As an example for the business world, suppose a customer wants something you don’t have or offer, how can you reply in a positive way to preserve the customer and not disappoint them.

In this exercise, delegates will go through a number of roleplays to practice challenging scenarios.


Make a simulated phone conversation based on given scenario and take steps to improve your response.

What You Need

  • Scenario cards provided below.


  • This exercise has two stages.


  • Ask two volunteers to come forward.
  • Place to chair back to back and ask them to sit on it. This helps them not to see each other, simulating a phone conversation. Others can see them as they go through a role play.
  • Ask them to nominate one as caller and the other as called.
  • Explain that you are about to give scenario cards to them. After reading it, the caller should call the other person and based on the scenario engage in a conversation. The person who is called should respond based on his or her scenario.
  • The caller should always explain who he is and what he is calling about so the role play can be simulated correctly.
  • Explain that this setup encourages an impromptu role play, which forces the participants to think on the spot. After the conversation, the group can provide feedback on best strategies to deal with the scenario. You can provide your own feedback in line with the course content.
  • Next, ask the volunteers to go through the phone call one more time, but this time deliver a better performance based on what was discussed.
  • Ask for two other volunteers and repeat the process by giving them a new scenario.
  • Repeat this for 3 rounds.
  • Once these public role plays are finished, move to Part 2.


  • Divide the delegates to pairs. If you have an odd number of delegates use a group of 3.
  • As before, they should sit with their backs to each other so they can use body language while communicating.
  • Ask each pair to nominate a caller and a called person.
  • Distribute a scenario to each group by giving the appropriate card to each person. Make sure you use a new scenario other than those that were used in Part 1. Naturally, delegates should not see each other’s scenarios before engaging in a simulated phone conversation.
  • Ask pairs to simulate the phone calls. Once everyone has finished, they should discuss how well they performed within each group and think of better strategies.
  • Ask them to swap roles and repeat again.
  • Bring back everyone together and ask each pair to comment on their experience and what they learned in this exercise.


Explaining the Exercise: 5 minutes.


PART 1: (10 minutes for each round) * 3 rounds = 30 minutes

PART 2: 20 minutes

TOTAL: 50 minutes

Group Feedback: 15 minutes.


What was the most important technique you learned in this exercise? What was the most challenging scenario and why? Is it easy to be talk diplomatically? What can you say to show your sincerity? What can you say to establish rapport?



Telephone Role Plays

You may need to add more scenarios to this depending on how many delegates you have. In addition, you can add specific scenarios related to what delegates do, so they can engage in telephone conversations related to their professional roles.




Your friend just borrowed your car to go to a business trip as his car had broken down. You are calling him on his mobile phone to ask if he can bring back the car to you an hour earlier than planned so that you can pick up your children from school.


You have borrowed your friend’s car because your own car had broken down and you needed a car to go to a business trip. Your business trip was cancelled since the client you wanted to see was off-sick. However, 15 minutes ago, on your way back you just drove into a traffic cone, lost control and ran the car into a side wall. You are still in shock, but you are not hurt. The car is damaged. At this point your mobile phone rings.


You need to reserve a table for 8 people at a local restaurant. Call the restaurant to book a table for 7:00pm this coming Friday.


You work at a restaurant. Recently, you are having many customers after a positive review of your restaurant was published in a major national newspaper. Your restaurant is completely booked for Friday and Saturday, this week and next week. Your phone rings.


You live in an old rented flat. There are usually many issues with your flat. You just discovered that your window no longer closes completely. It is the end of October and the weather is starting to get cold. Call your landlord and ask him to fix it as soon as possible.


You are the owner of a nice building located in a prime location in the city. Unfortunately you have a tenant who seems to complain a lot, unlike the tenants you had before. You feel that he is taking advantage of you, considering how much he pays for rent. His demands seem to be unusual. Your phone rings.


You were not able to finish the report and you need to call your partner to explain that you will be late tonight.


Your partner seems to come home late these days and you are suspecting that he/she might be having an affair. You are thinking that perhaps you need to probe further tonight by asking calculated questions, just to make sure. The phone rings.


You have not been able to prepare the marketing report for delivery to the customer which is supposed to be delivered by Friday, which is in two days time. Call your client who expects to receive the report and ask if you can deliver it by the end of next week instead.


You are expecting a marketing report from another company who specialised in this area. It was expensive, but you thought it was important to do it. You need this report by Friday this week. This allows you to prepare for your meeting on Monday to present it along with your department’s strategy for the next financial period to the top management. The phone rings.



Les Greenberg

By Les Greenberg @ Tuesday, August 23, 2011 11:01 AM

Good exercise. Need more exercises on interviewing especially ones that deal with getting info out of a client to keep the task on target, and not have the project come to a bad ending with the later comment "if you had only told me x"

Les Greenberg

By Les Greenberg @ Tuesday, August 23, 2011 11:29 AM

Good exercise.
Ill be using this in another context - Dealing with clients on the phone.
And I will add another part to it. After one round I will ask teams to write a scenario ( caller and called) that occurs in their business. They will then give those to me and we will have another team do the caller and called.

1 comment

Nivedita Bhattacharjee

Nivedita Bhattacharjee

Exciting game. Although I keep changing the content In keeping with the industry sector I am training, it is a brilliant idea. Thanks.

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