Ask them to close their eyes and mingle randomly in the area until you say “STOP.”
Explain that everyone must keep their eyes closed until they are tagged on the shoulder.
To start, you will tap one person at random who must then quickly open their eyes and attempt to name and tag another person in the group.
This process of naming and tagging is repeated until everyone has been tagged.
Encourage people who are tagged to step back out of the group to ensure they don’t get tagged again.
Play several rounds, with ample time for discussion between attempts, to record the quickest time.
Video Transcript for Speedy Name-Game
presented by Mark Collard
Here’s how it works. In a moment I’m going to ask you to simply mingle about the area, but as you do it, I’m going to ask you to have your eyes closed, just for five to ten seconds until I say stop.
And you’ll mingle about, maybe suggesting you have your bumpers up. So you’ll be bumping in, mingling, basically mixing yourselves up. You’re going to be completely random position, just in the space here.
Having said stop, I will then ask you to keep your eyes closed. I will come up and then randomly just simply tag the shoulder of one person, in this case it might have been Jack. As I do that the person whom I’ve tagged will immediately open their eyes.
They will then need to find someone who has their eyes closed, obviously, and tag them. But before they tag them, they must call their name first. It’s a competitive exercise to see how quickly we can run through the ten names in this group as quickly as possible.
Now I know because of the stress involved when you open your eyes and all you have to do is quickly say a name, everything falls apart and you can’t find a name that you know.
So it will be a matter of just finding someone you do know. You may even need to move to the other side of the group to tag the person whom you still remember the name of.
We keep going until all people have been tagged. Once you’ve been tagged you can open your eyes to tag somebody else. Step back out of the group so it’s quite clear those who are left are still involved in the exercise.
So to repeat, in a moment I’m going to ask you to have your eyes closed, mingle up, keep them closed, I’ll tag someone. That person will start the time, they’ll open their eyes and immediately, quickly tag another person but having first call their name.
So it’ll be like “SAM” and then I tag Sam. He will then open his eyes and then try the same process until we get to the very last person. Last person, they don’t have to do anything until just be tagged.
Can I ask you bumpers up, and start mingling just in your little spaces here, moving about, around different people. Feel free to move about. Move to the other side. That’s it. Alright, and stop.
Now you’re not going to be moving any further now except for when you’ve opened your eyes. You can now place your hands by your side with your eyes still closed.
Okay, I’m about to tag the very first person. This will be the only person who can open their eyes. Don’t open your eyes until you’ve been tagged. Time starts now. John.
(people tagging each other, calling names as part of Speedy Name-Game)
Alright. Not bad. You had nowhere to go, Brent. There was no one left. That was fantastic. It’s great to be last one to be tagged.
21.9 seconds. Not bad. But I know all the other groups are going to see at halftime and go ‘So what did you get?’ And they’re going to feel a little bit competitive nature here. So clearly we get to do this a couple of times. So are you ready? Bumpers up. Start mingling.
(people mingling about to start Speedy Name-Game)
And stop. Hands down. Remember, same thing, I’m about to tag one person and then they will start. Everybody ready? Brent. Step out once you’ve been tagged.
(people tagging each other, calling names with Speedy Name-Game)
Alright. bunch on back in.
(We totally beat our time.)
We should just check, has everyone been named correctly?
(When you’re not named correctly do you move or stay? What should you do, just stay and wait?)
Yes, you could do that and that’s effectively what would happen or perhaps in my case I would suggest to you that got that one wrong, we either reset or try again.
Okay, 18.1 seconds, new time record.
How To Play Narrative
This is an excellent challenge for a group of people who know each other well.
Start by asking everyone to close their eyes and raise their Bumpers Up. When ready, ask them to mingle towards the centre of the area keeping the eyes closed at all times, so that they have mixed themselves as randomly as possible.
After a short time of mingling, instruct your group to “STOP” and remain standing with their eyes closed (they may drop their bumpers now.)
Explain that in a few moments, you will tap the shoulder of one person at random. This person will then quickly open their eyes and attempt to name and tag another person in the group as quickly as possible.
This process of naming and tagging repeats itself over and over until everyone has been tagged. Announce that you will record the time it takes from the first person you tap to when the last person is named and tagged.
To assist the newly-sighted person, ask every person who has been named and tagged to remove themselves from the area quickly, so as to not be confused with those who have not been tagged yet.
Encourage your group to pause often and discuss strategies to improve their time. Play several rounds to record the fastest time.
Practical Leadership Tips
Naturally, your group needs a reasonable level of name-knowingness to be successful at this exercise. Do not introduce this to a just-met group of people.
Watch for the annoying inclination of people tagging someone before they have named them. It is important that people are named and then tagged (it increases the pressure to perform considerably.)
Note, it is often necessary to remind your group to step out of the play area as soon as they have been tagged.
On occasions, you may want to check that everyone was named correctly. If not, then call that attempt as ‘unofficial’ and try again. Or, instruct your group to not open their eyes until they have been named correctly. Admittedly, this is difficult, because everyone’s inclination is to open their eyes as soon as they have been tagged, even when the wrong name has been called.
In a situation where one person cannot correctly name any of those remaining with their eyes closed, stop the activity and ask the group to solve this ‘problem.’ It is possible, some embarrassment will ensue for the poor soul who got stuck, but encourage your group to focus on this being a group problem to solve, and to not view this person as the problem.
Be sure to wait until your group has adequately mingled to mix themselves. Otherwise, you may end up with clumps of friends or people who know each other well standing close to each other.
Wide Game: Once mingled, ask everyone to move away slowly from the centre of the area, so that the distance between each person increases. This also adds an aerobic element to the exercise.
Sequence Tag: Instruct your group to name and tag everyone in a particular sequence, eg all the boys first, or those wearing a dark top, or those with first name starting with A to K, etc. Works best if this sequence is announced after everyone has closed their eyes.
Rapid Fun: Take a look at Turbo Name-Game to play a similar exercise presented as a fun name-game.
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Useful Framing Ideas
Okay, you may think you know everyone in this group, but under pressure, how quickly could you name every person? This simple problem-solving activity will determine how good your name-knowing skills really are…
Have you ever suddenly been approached by someone you know, but just can’t think of their name? It happens to all of us, some more than others. Each of you will have an opportunity to hone this name-knowing skill, but together, this next exercise will challenge your group to seek a quick solution…
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 fast-paced group initiative:
After the first attempt or two, what did you learn to help improve your group’s time?
How many ideas were suggested, and did you trial them all? Why or why not?
Do you think luck was a variable in your success, or otherwise?
In what ways did you attempt to influence the result? What does this say about your group?
The inspiration for Speedy Name-Game, and many more innovative team-building exercises, was sourced from Karl Rohnke, who first demonstrated this exercise to me.