Preparing for simulation sessions

How to get into a role

Learning about your character’s motives and background history is crucial to successfully portraying a role, but it’s equally important to think about body language for the character you’re playing; for instance, someone in pain might be hunched over.

Facial expressions are also key to playing a role; someone who is struggling with grief is unlikely to be smiling and maybe too distraught to make eye contact with the participant.

Dress the part

Get in character by dressing the part. Someone suffering from depression might have the appearance of looking a little dishevelled. For example, they may not have brushed their hair or may not have shaved their facial hair for several days.

Think about the clothes that your character might wear; a factory worker would probably be wearing jeans and a jumper rather than a shirt and pants for a visit to their GP.

How to practice the role

There are lots of ways to learn a role. Some SPs prefer to just read over the role to memorise the character. Others pester a friend or family to quiz them on the role or play the role of the participant. That’s a great way to vocalise your character and think about how they would sound and act.

Otherwise, you could record yourself on a smart phone or video recorder and listen back to see if you could make any improvements. By recording it, you could also replay the audio as a technique to memorise the character.

Analysis of the Character

It’s important to do a character analysis to give you character depth and background. Who is your character? What is their family background? Where do they work? How long have they worked there? Where do they like to go/eat out? What hobbies do they have? Where do they come from?

This is especially important because participants don’t always stick to a script; they are often encouraged to make small talk in a scenario like a real world situation.  If you haven’t given thought to the backstory, it could make the character less consistent and is likely to make your performance unrealistic.

Ask the Educator

Make notes for the educator if you have any questions before the session with regards to your character and how the session will work.

Playing a character can be lots of fun, but make sure you take the role seriously. Ask for feedback and make sure you give this consideration to improve your experiences as an SP.

Stay in Character

It’s important for the realism of the scenario that you don’t break character in the simulation. You will be required to focus, concentrate and pay attention to the participants and educator in the scenario.

Breaking out of character mid-role and then needing to re-focus is something to avoid. Take silences when appropriate, think about your character analysis, or if you aren’t sure what the participant is asking of you, ask them to repeat the question or further explain themselves.

Deal with stage fright

It’s normal for most people to feel nervous before a performance. Breathing exercises can help if you need to control your nerves. Remember you are not alone, so discuss anything worrying you with the educator if you are having difficulties. The participants that are about to experience the simulations are often nervous too.

The important thing is to be prepared for the session and enjoy the experience.