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A prehearsal is an improvised situation of short duration, a try-out of a scenario focusing on the player’s behaviours and interactions, using minimal props and setup. The prehearsed situation should be familiar enough to the participants, so they can focus on the content rather than the form of the prehearsal. For example, the situation might be a reception, press conference, ferry ride, a coffee-break or anything else that is related to the core question the group is exploring. The challenge for the participants is to place themselves in this familiar situation, but imagine that it is happening in a possible future.

The difference between role playing and a prehearsal is that the participants do not assume the role of another character, but play themselves in different situations. Prehearsals are designed as short improvisation exercises that can be used as elements in longer participatory sessions.


  • Step 1: Create a backstory for the prehearsal, based on images of the future developed through speculation_and_visioning and incasting.
  • Step 2: Design the situation you want to prehearse. Choose a context that is relevant to the issue the group is exploring. It is helpful if the situation is familiar to the participants in the present (e.g. a party, a market, a seminar, workplace, family lunch…). If needed, include characters that would guide the prehearsal, which can be played by you or invited improvisers. Think about props, symbols, rituals that you might need to make the situation more believable. Keep it simple and use mock-ups, written or drawn suggestions of where 'real' objects, technologies, media (etc.) might be.
  • Step 3: Demarcate a part of the space and have a clear physical threshold. Once they cross this threshold, the participants will be required to act “as if” they exist in the future they are prehearsing.
  • Step 4: Describe the backstory and the situation to the participants and invite them to spend a few minutes thinking about what they would be doing in such situation in the future. You can ask them to write a page of their future diary in which they describe themselves in this situation.
  • Step 5: Give clear instructions to the participants beforehand, with simple rules of engagement. Allow enough time for questions and clarifications, so that everyone feels comfortable they know what is expected.
  • Step 6: Prehearse. Run the prehearsal from beginning to end without interruptions. Host the prehearsal 'in character' and help the immersion with your own actions.
  • Step 7: Debrief. After the prehearsal is finished, there should be sufficient time for reflection on experiential insights. Integrate the findings with other knowledge gained through other inquiries (analysis, visioning, etc.)


Prehearsals are a short-form of the pre-enactment method.

futurist_fieldguide/prehearsal.txt · Last modified: 2018/10/07 15:19 by