The following are five free business etiquette training games that we have used with clients during our etiquette training courses for more than a decade.
We frequently receive requests for training ideas from organizations wishing to develop their own etiquette programs. In the interest of improving behavior, we are sharing these activities for use by others.
You are welcome to incorporate them into your business etiquette courses.
You may also link to them.
However, we request that you not publish them in an online guide, for-profit printed guide, or otherwise without our permission.
Each of the activities listed requires a basic knowledge of etiquette and protocol. While we are happy to answer questions about the mechanics of the games and activities, we kindly request that you do your own research on questions related to content.
Knowing how to connect people to each other is an important part of professional presence and business etiquette. This game is about business networking and making connections.
Supplies Needed: Whiteboard or some other large surface to write on.
Directions: Ask the participants to share a fact about themselves. I like to cook; I like piano music; I just got back from Peru; etc. Write each person’s name and the fact about the person on the board.
- George: Plays Soccer
- Linda: Rides Motorcycles on the Weekend
- Dan: Likes to Cook
The participants must then select two people to introduce to each other. The top person on the list is the more senior. Explain that you always introduce junior people to senior people. Furthermore, once the introduction has occurred, those being introduced have an obligation to exchange some basic pleasantries.
The game ends when everyone has introduced someone.
Example: Linda, I would like you to meet Dan. Dan, Linda is an avid motorcycle rider and just got back from New Mexico. I know you like to cook. Do you ever make Southwest dishes? She said the food there was great. From there Dan might say, Linda, I don’t cook much Southwest food, but what did you eat on your trip? Then it is the next person’s turn.
Learning Point: “Linda, this is Dan,” and “Dan, this is Linda” just isn’t that interesting. If you help people build connections with others, they will enjoy you and themselves more. This is particularly important when you are hosting an event.
Topics for Further Discussion: How to ask questions and what to do if you forget someone’s name.
Time: 15 Minutes
Thank You for the Rock
From time to time, people receive gifts that they don’t like, can’t use, or don’t understand. As people with manners, they must still be polite and gracious. This game allows practice of that skill.
Supplies Needed: One rock
Directions: Discuss the importance of graciousness with your group. Then explain that you are going to give someone a present. His or her job is to say something gracious about the gift and then pass it on to another participant. The process continues until everyone has received the present. You can either have the participants select their recipients at random or set the order ahead of time.
The game ends when everyone has received the rock.
Example: Beth, I got you something that I think you are going to adore. (Hand Beth the rock.)
What a fabulous present. We just put in a new fireplace, and I am decorating the mantel. It will look perfect there. Thank you.
Steven, I got you a gift that I hope you find useful. (Beth hands the rock to Steven.)
Beth, I don’t know how you knew it, but I broke my hammer last weekend and need a replacement. This will work well for me. Thank you.
The faster this goes, the more fun it is. The goal is not to wait too long before responding. You will be amazed at how creative people can get and how much the group can laugh.
Learning Point: As long as the gift is not offensive or inappropriate, you should be gracious, regardless of whether you like it, can use it, or understand it.
Topics for Further Discussion: Re-gifting and appropriate versus inappropriate gifts.
Time: 15 Minutes
Table Setting Showdown
The easiest way to learn which fork to use is to understand why the table is set the way that it is. During this dining etiquette training activity, participants will set the table based on what is being served.
Note: Alternatively you can have the participants draw the items. This is not as hands on but may be more practical.
Directions: Divide the participants into groups of four to five people. Explain that they will be setting the table based on a few menus. Show menu one and let the groups set the table. Then review each setting making corrections as you go and explaining the changes. Choose menus that will make sense to your group. If they are young students, for example, skip the wine.
The game ends when places for all of the menus have been set.
Menu 1: Soup, Salad, Fish, Beef, Dessert, Coffee, White Wine, Red Wine, Water
Menu 2: Salad, Pasta, Chicken, Dessert, White Wine, Water
Menu 3: Salad, Pizza, Beverage
Learning Point: Each item on the table has a purpose. Knowing what each item is used for will help you choose the correct one.
Topics for Further Discussion: How to place silverware during and after a meal and how to eat different foods.
Time: 20 Minutes
Bone crushers, limp fish, and clammy are descriptions nobody wants associated with his or her handshake. However, many people have poor handshakes and don’t know it. This activity is designed to correct poor handshakes.
Supplies Needed: None
Directions: Divide the group in half. Have the first group form a circle. Have the next group form a larger circle around the first. Each person should then find his or her partner. From there the handshake cycle begins. Each pair should shake hands, say their names, and state how long they have worked for the organization. The pair then comments on each other’s shake. When finished, the outer circle moves clockwise, and the process begins again.
Note: If the number is even, you don’t need to participate. If it is odd, you do.
Note: This is a good icebreaker or energizer activity. At the end of the round, you might have the pairs complete an additional task together such as solving a case study.
Hello, I’m Roger Ellis. I’ve been with the company five years. I’m Pam Green. I’ve been here for 20 years.
Rate the shake.
Learning Point: Handshakes are a big part of first impressions. Ideally, the handshake should not be remembered for anything other than being strong and professional.
Topics for Further Discussion: How to handle handshaking in countries where males and females do not shake hands and how to handle occasions when someone is missing an arm, has a false arm, etc.
Time: 10 Minutes
Occasionally people will find themselves in the presence of an obnoxious guest. Part of a well-mannered person’s job is refocusing attention and conversation to something more appropriate. This game is designed to help participants develop that skill.
Supplies Needed: Eight slips of paper with one of the following topics listed on each slip: (1)my last vacation, (2) foods I don’t like (obnoxious guest), (3) my favorite holiday, (4) sports I enjoy, (5) books, movies, or television shows I like, (6) music I don’t like (obnoxious guest), (7) where I grew up, (8) my family or pets.
Directions: Invite eight people to the dinner party. (Select eight people.). Have the group of eight arrange their chairs in a circle in the middle of the room. Pass out one of the slips of paper to each guest. Explain that the topics are suggestions; they are not scripts. The conversation should flow as naturally as possible, and not every topic will be covered. The challenge at the table is that there is at least one obnoxious guest. The obnoxious guest will complain, act rude, etc. The job of the other guests is to politely take the focus off the obnoxious guest.
This game may fail if the group’s chemistry is off. You can help prevent failure by letting people know that you may substitute members of the audience during the game. Depending on how it is going, you can subtract or add guests as needed.
The game ends at the facilitator’s discretion after several rounds of conversation.
Guest One: I just got back from Thailand. It was a wonderful vacation. Have any of you been?
Guest Two: No, and I would never go there. The food is gross. I don’t like anything with fish in it or mushrooms.
Guest Seven: Where I grew up, we didn’t eat that much fish, but we did eat a lot of spicy foods. Did you happen to make it to a fresh market on your vacation?
Guest One: Yes, we went to several. The produce was beautiful and everything so fresh.
Guest Six: Fresh produce is expensive. That includes the cost of things in this place. Did you see that they are charging seven dollars for a coke? Highway robbery. What idiot picked this place?
Learning Point: Nobody likes obnoxious people. Because you will not always be able to address their behavior directly, learning how to refocus them is a valuable skill.
Topics for Further Discussion: Appropriate versus inappropriate conversation and what to do with someone who has had too much to drink.
Time: 20 Minutes