Demonstrate a particular handshake with a volunteer, eg high-five.
Invite everyone to find one partner, according to random criteria you nominate, to practice this greeting.
Demonstrate a second handshake/greeting with a new volunteer, eg fist-bump.
Again, invite everyone to find a new partner – according to new nominated criteria – to practice this latest handshake.
Introduce two or three more unique handshake/greetings, asking people to find a new partner each time.
For fun and to reinforce established partnerships, randomly call the name of a particular greeting to challenge everyone to locate their partner as quickly as possible.
Adopt one or more of the variations to squeeze extra value from this interaction.
Video Transcript for Crosstown Connections
presented by Mark Collard
Everyone got themselves just one partner? Fantastic, I’d like you now to start with this exercise is to simply give your partner a quick high five.
(Group high fives their partner.)
Beautiful! Alright, so I would like you now to always remember as best as you can that this person is your high five partner. Now it’s going to have jog the memories here, but I’m actually going to use this as an anchor during the rest of the program.
So when I invite you to go find your high five partner, this is the person that you need to find. So quickly eyeball that person so you don’t have to forget them.
Alright, so just quickly remind yourself high five partner, give them a quick high five. Alright, and now I’d like you to go find yourself a new partner, remembering each time you find a partner it’s just you and one other. Find yourself a new partner, someone with a similar colour top to what you’re wearing right now. Go!
(Everyone is walking around trying to find a partner.)
So if your last partner was your high five partner, this person is your low five partner. So it’s simply a low five.
(Group low fives their partner.)
Alright, a quick recap, just to jog the memory of ourselves, quickly go find your high five partner. When you find them high five and then come back to your low five partner.
(Partners high five and then low five.)
Alright, good, good, good? You’re probably going to guess what’s about to happen now. I’m going to invite you to find a new partner and it’ll be associated with a new greeting, but to find this new partner I’d like you know to identify any part of the jewellery or adornment that you may be presently wearing. I’ve got only two things, my wedding ring and I have a watch. That’s it. Nothing else other than my clothing that I’m wearing.
I want you to just to go find one other person who’s wearing at least one item similar to you in terms of jewellery or adornment. Find someone new. Go!
(Group finds new partners.)
We’ve got a high five partner, we got a low five partner. This partner, again anchoring for future reference, is now going to be your fist bump partner.
Now there’s a particular way that I would like you to fist bump, and that my son in particular at three and a half years of age prefers this form of fist bumping. And that is you come in you do hit, you’re not looking to hurt them, you’re just going to simply touch and then when you do that you do the jellyfish pull back. Where it’s like, like that.
So this is how it looks. Here we go. You ready, here we go? Alright, fist bump with your partner now.
(Partners fist bump.)
Here we go. Right, good job.
Quick recap, high five, low five, fist bump, go!
(Partners find each other to high five, low five, and fist bump.)
You’re about to find one new partner. This time it’ll be related to the last digit of your mobile number. Mine is a three, so I’m going to go find another person whose last digit is a three. Go!
(Groups tries to find partners.)
Georgie and I will now be partners, but earlier when we introduced the high five what is the country or the cultural that we often identify perhaps having established the high five greeting?
America or the United States. Some would say it’s the American high five. It may or may not be, but in fact the very first culture to have introduced the high five was actually not America. It was many many eons ago, and it was actually the ancient Babylonians. But they got just one thing wrong, which is why it didn’t take off. They would face one another. I’ve already forgotten your name…
Georgie, hasn’t changed. Thank you Georgie. Alright, so we go in for the high five except we don’t make contact. That’s where they wrong. Like they were all going to get really very busy up to this point, but they pass each other, they keep following through, they lift up each other’s leg on the inside, and you grab the ankle of the other person and shake the ankle. This is the ancient Babylonian handshake that looks like this. Here we go.
Alright, do that with your partners now. Here we go Georgie, woo hoo.
(Partner complete the ancient Babylonian shake.)
High five, low five, fist bump, come back to your Babylonian partner, go.
(The group finds each of their partners to complete each one.)
How To Play Narrative
This has become a popular favourite of mine to start many of my programs, especially those involving large groups.
With your group gathered before you, ask everyone to find one other person to form a partner. Ideally, form pairs according to some random criteria you nominate, such as similar length of hair or eye colour. Take a look at Getting into Pairs for many more ideas.
By way of demonstration, perform a ‘High-5‘ with a willing volunteer and then ask each pair to engage in the same greeting. Once the initial clamour has died down, ask everyone to note who their ‘High-5” partner is, ie they will need to remember this person later.
Next, ask everyone to find a new (second) partner, again, by way of a random partner-matching criteria. This time, invite each person to engage in a ‘Low-5’ – the same as a ‘High-5’ but your hands make contact below your waist. Naturally, ask everyone to note who this particular partner is.
And by now, you’ve probably got the idea.
Continue to introduce new greetings, such as those described in Five Handshakes in Five Minutes, or ask your group to offer a few ideas. Four or five is a good number of unique greetings, six at the very most.
This is the basic set-up for the exercise, but the most fun and value is found in the Variations tab listed below.
For example, during the course of the greetings and occasional sharing, I will invite everyone to find and greet an earlier-formed partner as quickly as possible.
Or, to repeat all of the greetings with the relevant partners – from first to last – as quickly as possible. Simply fabulous for ramping up the energy of a group.
Practical Leadership Tips
In the very first round, ensure that everyone has a partner. If not, jump into the exercise to even the numbers.
Given that this exercise features lots of partner action, it works with large groups of any size.
Take a look at Five Handshakes in Five Minutes for a description of lots of greeting variations. But don’t stop there, invite your group to create their own. In my experience, there is no shortage of novel greetings in circulation.
Now that you have established a series of anchors in your group’s memories, you can refer to these throughout the rest of your program to form really quick partners or small groups.
Why the name Crosstown Connections? Once you have established 4 or 5 greetings, the melee which results when all of them are repeated in order looks like people cross-crossing between different subway lines in an underground commuter station.
Health & Wellness Programming
The highly interactive nature of this exercise makes it an ideal experience to reflect on the establishment and maintenance of certain social and interpersonal competencies. Here are just a few observations that you could explore in a moment’s reflection at the conclusion of the activity:
Did we look after the emotional and physical safety of others during our frenetic interactions?
Did you observe any interactions that concerned you? Why?
How did these interactions reconcile with our full value agreements?
What are some examples of when empathy and/or compassion were demonstrated?
Generally, did we exhibit growth or fixed mindset during the exercise? How?
What other social cues did you observe?
You can learn more about SEL and how it can support character education here.
Stop & Share: Take a minute or two between greetings to ask each person to share their response to a question you pose (see Ice-Breaker Questions Exchange for plenty of options.) This is a terrific way to invite people to get to know one another better, and generate lots of energy.
Speed Round 1: Once all greetings and partnerships have been established, call out the names of a series of different greetings to challenge everyone to locate their relevant partner as quickly as possible.
Speed Round 2: As above, challenge your group to greet every one of their partners in the order they were introduced as quickly as possible.
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Useful Framing Ideas
I think we’ve all seen at least a few unique handshake greetings which people use to greet one another when they see each other. Across my travels, I have seen dozens of fun ways people use to say hello, and here are a few of my favourites…
If you’ve had the fortune to travel around many parts of the world, you may have noticed that people from different cultures have some unique ways of greeting one another. To prepare you for your next trip overseas, let’s practice a few…
Reflection Tips & Strategies
Coupled with one or more reflection strategies, here are some sample questions you could use to process your group’s experience after playing this highly interactive ice-breaker game:
Which greetings did you enjoy the most? Why?
What techniques did you use to remember your various partners?
Why are greetings – of any type – important?
The inspiration for Crosstown Connections, and many more highly interactive group exercises, can be found in the following publications: