Icebreakers, energisers and gamification

GamesAs a copywriter, I know that sometimes the best way to get your message across is verbally, rather than via the written word.

But that doesn’t mean a list of bullet points in PowerPoint.

Years ago, when I worked at Freemans home shopping, I was asked to design some slides for an IT presentation.

“I want you to put a lingerie image in the middle of the slideshow,” my client said, “so it will wake the audience up.”

I refused, saying: “Why don’t you just rewrite it so it’s not boring?”

With millennials who grew up with computer games now entering the workplace, there is a trend towards gamification. Wikipedia defines this as ‘the application of game-design elements and game principles in non-game contexts.’

Gamification is often used as an online marketing technique to encourage engagement with a product or service. It can also be used to add pizazz to seminars, workshops and training sessions.

People forget what they heard, but they remember what they experience.

In my view, there always has to be a point to the game, and they can be adapted to draw out all kinds of different lessons.

Whatever you do should ideally be uniquely yours. For example, I advised a Hong Kong adventurer/explorer to run a breakout session where the CEO and top team were tasked with putting up a pop-up tent on stage – against the clock.

If I take a display stand at an exhibition, I challenge delegates to beat me (the writer) at Scrabble.

And when teenage relatives want cash for their present, I make them earn it by playing games I invented based on Cluedo, Who Wants to be a Millionnaire, or Deal or No Deal.

The exercises I devise are usually easy, cheap and low-tech. They might involve paper tearing or paper throwing that disrupts cultural norms and releases tension.

This is not role play or cringeworthy ‘audience participation’. Everyone is engaged and involved at once, and no-one is embarrassed. It’s a bonding audience experience which creates an excited feeling that gets people into a mood of attentiveness and anticipation – and isn’t that exactly how you want them to be for your session?

You might want a ‘getting-to-know-you’ icebreaker that fits with your theme. I have ideas that work for small groups who think they already know each other, as well as for big groups of strangers, such as the pig personality profile, snowball fight, networking bingo, ‘pass the networking parcel’, and toilet paper exercises (yes, really!).

Rather than a coloured dot on their name badge, you can get people into groups using fuzzy balls, index cards, or via a line-up in order of birthday or postcode.

Instead of a show of hands, you can collate audience votes via an app, or by asking them to stand up, wave flags, or hold coloured cards in the air.

You might need to communicate information that would otherwise be dull. You can do this through a pub quiz, or a ‘Play your cards right’ guessing game.

As a natural-born communicator, I never run out of creative ideas, often inspired by TV and children’s games. I grew up in a game-playing family, and still enjoy a games night with friends.

Note that, to make interactive games work, you need high energy and a playful mindset.

Please let me know if you’d like some new and exciting ways to inject energy into your next talk. It’ll be fun, I promise…

P.S. A new ebook on this subject is coming soon. Please email me to register your interest.

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