3 Activities to Get Meeting Attendees Interacting

October 15, 2012, 2:39 PM EDT

Photo: Courtesy of Sharon Fisher

Sharon Fisher, president of Play with a Purpose, creates and runs hundreds of teambuilding, community service, and icebreaker events each year. At the Event Innovation Forum during the BizBash IdeaFest in New York October 24, Fisher will speak about incorporating new engagement techniques into meetings. As a preview of her presentation, here are three activities designed to break the ice and get guests interacting.

1. High Flying Help
The study of neurology proves that exercise and motion boosts brain power. The more we sit, the more we lose our ability to focus. Try to build in as much physical motion as you can to stimulate the brain.

This activity is best done at the beginning of your conference or meeting. Give each person a sheet of paper, and ask them to write their name, company, phone number, and email address on the paper. Then have them write one issue, challenge, or problem that they would like some help with. After that is done, have them fold the paper into a paper airplane and stand up. On “go,” have everyone in the room fly their airplane toward anywhere in the room. Then, each person should pick up the one that lands closest to them and fly it again. Keep flying for a minute or two. Then have everyone grab a plane and be seated. Their responsibility is to try to assist the person with their challenge, either by finding them during the course of the conference or getting in touch afterward.

2. Two Consultants
The face of meetings is changing. We no longer want to listen to subject-matter experts; we want to participate in subject-matter communities. Attendees have valuable knowledge and experiences to share, and we need to give them the opportunity to do so.

“Two Consultants” is a peer advice sharing activity. It can be done in a break-out and revolve around a specific topic, or done in a general session with no topic structure. Divide your attendees into groups of three. To begin, one person will act as the client and share their challenge or subject that they need help with, and the other two will be their consultants. To begin, the client shares his issue. The consultants offer their solutions, with no feedback or questioning from the client. This one-way communication forces the client to simply listen and absorb. After they share the information, the client can ask more in-depth or alternative questions—but he cannot tell the consultants that their ideas have already been tried, are too costly, won’t work, etc. The client can simply ask more questions. After 10 to 15 minutes, someone else in the triad becomes the client.

3. You've Won
At many meetings, guests sit with the people they already know. As the organizers, our role is to help facilitate conversation across the table. Before guests arrive, choose one seat at the table to be the moderator. Place a “You've Won” sealed envelope on that chair. Ask them not to open it until everyone is seated. (You could also tape the envelope to the underside of the chair, or place it under a plate.) Inside the envelope, place a card that says, “Congratulations! You've won the opportunity to be the conversation starter at your table. Once everyone is seated, go around the table and have each person share their name and company, and answer the following question:”

The question can be anything you want, but should be something that sparks conversation and gives people an opportunity to share something about themselves. Sample questions:

Where is the coolest place you've ever been on vacation?
What is the strangest thing that ever happened to you at work?
What's your favorite holiday memory or tradition?
How did you get into this business?
What are you hoping to get out of this meeting?

This can be done at a meal, or as part of a general session or break-out. You could also have tables share what they found out, and award a prize.

More about the Event Innovation Forum—including a full schedule of speakers and topics, plus registration information—is here.

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