Think Interactive: Driving Engagement Through Activities, Games & Entertainment
When you think back on your favorite moments from past events, the ones that conjure up positive feelings were probably filled with laughter, fun and maybe even surprise. Event attendees want an experience that they can’t get elsewhere or online. Events have to be more than just transmitting content, they must help participants feel connected, inspired and moved towards joy.
Being a planner means tackling the unique challenge of creating those moments for others. How do you design lightness, joy and humor into an event? How do you intentionally orchestrate something fun without it feeling too forced?
The right ideas for your event ideally will work seamlessly with your venue, atmosphere, guests and goals. But planning creativity and trying to generate enthusiasm is probably more art than science. And as attendees expectations rise every year, it can be difficult knowing how to navigate audience engagement while still ensuring a memorable experience.
Let’s look at some ideas that may help you add some inspiration and fun in your next events.
Make the room work for you
Sometimes ballrooms or meeting spaces are more about functionality than creativity. We have to think about comfort, practical needs and guest expectations. But don’t let a room dictate the amount of imagination you have when designing engaging experiences for your audience.
If you’re hoping to bring a jolt of energy to a room that feels a bit inflexible, there are ways to introduce fun in the space without compromising functionality or spending time rearranging the room.
Active Listening Games
Effective and clear communication is vital to any healthy, high functioning team. Active listening activities can be great team building exercises that are both challenging and fun. Ask your guests to assemble into small groups of two or three.
One person tells a short story for a few minutes, and then another person in the group retells the story. No one is permitted to interrupt while the story is being told or retold. This activity can be light and playful while demonstrating that listening is just as crucial as speaking.
This is a simple one that just involves some paper and writing utensils. Assemble everyone in groups of three. Each person in the group draws a line and then passes it to the next member. Everyone gets five seconds to add another line. Go through about 20 to 30 times and watch the image develop. At the end, ask your guests some questions. What was drawn that was recognizable? What did you learn? Did the limited amount of time affect you? This game usually produces amusing results while exploring interesting concepts and strategies.
Add a Little Competition
Introducing friendly competition can liven up your event in a hurry. Have you ever attempted an escape room? These customizable experiences can fit the host city and theme of your convention, and foster an opportunity for guests to work together and perhaps bond as a team.
Another idea that can bring a different element is hosting a cooking competition. Inventing new dishes requires creativity and will ask everyone to put their team skills to work. The idea is simple: divide your guests into teams, pick a food category, and challenge each competing team to come up with a tasty dish. Which team can cook the best pizza? Who can design the most decadent dessert? What would be the most interesting and best tasting salsa?
Or perhaps add a twist to the idea: Pick a common ingredient that all teams must use, like peanut butter or bacon. Unleash the creativity of your attendees and see what happens!
Maybe engaging your guests’ brains in a different way sounds appealing, and some pub-style trivia can be a great chance for some light fun. You can build a loose theme around your host city or simply make it a potpourri that sprays to all fields. Be sure to incentivize participation with prizes for reaching the top three!
There’s also the classic scavenger hunt, which is a great way to explore the host city if the weather is cooperating. This is something you can organize on your own, or you can enlist the help of some companies who specialize in creating these experiences at corporate events. Two of these companies are The Go Game (thegogame.com) and Stray Boots (strayboots.com). If you have the budget, sometimes it’s nice to outsource the logistics so you can focus on other aspects of your event.
Food Can Always Be Fun
An easy way to make an impression on your guests is through the food and drink they enjoy while attending your event. You can always choose the more standard fare, but this is an area where human imagination has really come up with some fun stuff in recent years. Maybe your guests would enjoy a customizable sundae bar or a mobile wood-fire pizza station. Perhaps they would love a donut wall. Or you can take it to the next level and wow them with a hanging buffet, food tree or edible spoons.
Knowing your audience is paramount and your food choices should reflect that, but if you’re tuned in to the needs of your guests there is no shortage of creative ways to provide them with a unique culinary experience.
Bring in Professional Performers
One of the tried and true methods of adding levity to an event is to bring in entertainers who make a living delighting corporate audiences. As with any vendor, it’s best to check out the work and reviews before committing yourself to any one artist. Let’s take a look at some fun options.
There are many gifted comedians who’ve chosen the corporate route, tailoring their act to professional audiences and knowing how to connect with specific work cultures. Some will also come with a positive message, tying in some higher ideas to leave attendees feeling inspired. But you’ll want to vet these performers and make sure you’re hiring a corporate (or at least clean) comedian, because not doing your due diligence could really come back to bite you if the standup tends to work “blue.”
Adding a magician to your event can inject a lot of fun, and give you some versatility. Magicians can be hired to walk around your event doing close-up magic for your guests. This is a fun way to drive participation and allows more people to connect with an experience. Or, if the magician has a stage show, you can designate session time to make sure your audience is exposed to some lighter fun.
A different way to customize your guests experience is to have a caricaturist onsite for their amusement. People can have their own portrait drawn, or it can be a witty way of needling the CEO or other people in the room. And these artists have evolved with technology; you can now have them doing live work on a tablet or screen which can be projected for your entire audience to see.
Watching a work of art come alive is amazing to witness, so if you have the space for a graffiti artist to come in and create a mural, it’s usually a pretty big hit with attendees. Guests will be able to witness its progress and the artwork often serves as a conversation piece. If your event happens to include a raffle, including the finished piece as a prize is a great idea.
Engage Your Guests in Creativity
Depending on the size of your event and the length of your guest list, there are countless opportunities to create memorable moments that may stick with your attendees longer than more traditional experiences. And while some folks may prefer competition and a chance to win prizes, others may want a more relaxed challenge that still allows them to have fun.
Let’s explore some ideas that lead to audience engagement while fostering team building opportunities and social interaction.
If you think your guests would enjoy a culinary experience but you want to remove the competitive element, consider offering a cooking class. You can bring in a professional chef to teach your attendees how to work together to create a fancy meal that they will enjoy at the end of the activity. The cooking is a bonding experience and there’s a great feeling of accomplishment over a delicious dinner.
Sometimes there’s no better way to add laughter to an event than by fostering organic moments and creating an environment for silliness. Providing an improv workshop for your attendees will create hilarious interactions while teaching them useful interpersonal skills. Depending on how much flexibility is in your budget, you could simply facilitate improv games or hire professionals to run some more advanced activities.
If you think your guests are seeking a slightly more relaxing activity, a group painting class may be just the ticket. There are several companies that are willing to host and guide your attendees through the creative exercise while providing a great setting for social interaction.
If your guests are feeling fearless, having an opportunity for them to get a little crazy could make for a great time. Karaoke nights can go all sorts of directions, but with the right group they’re rarely dull. This option may not be right for every event, but sometimes you just need to give Linda from HR an opportunity to bring down the house with her rendition of “Love is a Battlefield.”
As planners, the goal is always to lead a successful event that engages the audience and leaves them with lasting memories. It’s important to know what’s right for your group and what knowledge or resources they’re hoping to gain from the event. But designing some fun into the experience that will connect with your guests in a different way can be crucial to building long-term trust, credibility and enjoyment.