How to transition a breakout session game into a larger general session.
But can the small workshop solution translate into something like, say, a larger general session at an event? Sure a game show is fun in training a small group of sales reps, but what about in a room of 500...1000...1500? Will it even work? How does one even begin transitioning from a breakout session game into a larger general session game?
The answers are: Yes, game shows translate into large general sessions. Yes, they invigorate a large group in the same way they add energy and interaction in a small group. Yes, it has worked time and time again.
And here are a few strategies and considerations for transitioning a smaller game into a game within a larger context:
Team selection: Whereas everyone in a workshop or breakout may get to directly participate on a team, that's not always possible in a larger group. There are three options for team engagement in a big-group game show:
- Use audience-response keypads: If enough are available, giving everyone in the audience an audience response keypad is the most straightforward way of engaging everyone. Audience members can individually play along, but you group individuals on teams--creating a compelling, competitive dynamic. No "stage teams" are needed in this scenario.
- Use a mix of keypads and on-stage players: You may also want to have representative team members playing on stage to "ham it up" or to take the audience response into consideration for their answers.
- Use representative players on stage: Even if you have no keypads, you can engage and entertain everyone by selecting members of the audience to come play on a smaller team onstage. The rest of the audience members are still "part of" the team--they're responsible for cheering the team on and may reap some rewards if their team wins--but they don't have to directly interact with the game on stage.
Simplify the rules: In a workshop you may have a chance to answer clarifying questions about the game rules as you go along. In a larger group this may not be possible, or it may be harder to control chaos from unclear rules as you go along. Make sure your game show rules are simple, clear and that everyone knows them. Playing a sample game question to get audience members familiar with the format, keypads and game logistics is a great idea.
Have the professionals run the game: It's easy to click-through a game show and host at the same time in a breakout session. In a larger event setting, you'll want the A/V crew to control the game. Even if you do have access to the game controls, hosting and running through the game on stage in a large setting takes a lot more energy and focus than you'll want to spend. Get a colleague or technician to supervise the game play with the tech crew if you can.
Format selection: You may want to switch out a traditionally formatted game for alternate game play when bringing it on the big stage. For instance, we often make Tic-Tac-Toe into a Hollywood-Squares-Type game, utilizing different experts and presenters throughout the game.
When in doubt? Call in the experts. We'd be happy to help you transition your breakout game into a larger event general session.
Voting with a Smartphone: What could go wrong?
Since we've been using various audience response pads for large audience-wide games--and have gotten some pushback from people saying, "Why can't everyone just use their phones--why do we have to have separate pads?" this email was intriguing to us.
We expected to find a new solution; a foolproof way to incorporate smartphone voting--maybe ensuring that concerns like connection strength in a hotel ballroom were addressed and mitigated. But alas, what we found are succinct and compelling reasons NOT to rely on smartphone voting that we've been trying to put into words all along.
Basically it comes down to 3 main points that are tough to regulate--unless everyone has a company-distributed phone (and sometimes not even then).
- Phone variations: Everyone has a different make, model, operating system and carrier--all with different operating speeds and load times that can adversely affect the voting or ring-in process.
- Complexity: Phones aren't meant to be voting or ring-in devices. Invariably you're routing a vote through your phone's own security, an app, the internet, etc.
- User responsibility: There's no way to ensure that people come to the meeting with their phones charged, relevant apps downloaded, etc.
We would also add: For years, the opening messages of meetings have included the phrase: "Please turn off your cell phones...." Obviously if you were using smartphones as a voting device you would not include this message word-for-word, but the original purpose for this message is lost. You don't want your audience to be surfing the web instead of listening to crucial content. You don't want them checking their email when they're supposed to be participating in a teambuilding activity. You certainly don't want the harmonious chimes and dings of alerts, updates, messages, texts and phone calls sounding off in the middle of your meeting either.
When you want the audience to focus on your event and you're trying hard to engage them (with, say, an audience-response game) you don't want to put the number one distraction device (smartphone with internet, email, games, etc.) in their hands and tell them to have it turned on and logged in.
Is Your Audience Prepared for your Event?
Your first response might be something like, "Of course, all flights and travel are booked, all days are marked off and important meetings rescheduled or scheduled..."
But we don't mean this in the technical sense; packing, flights, hotels, teambuilding activity choices, signed up for the event app, etc. While this may be the only way that MOST meeting planners think about their audience being prepared, we're thinking about something much more impactful: Are they prepared for your messaging?
Our CEO's daughter is currently taking developmental psychology course in college. The other day, she came to him with a quote from her professor: "'The difference between adults and children is that children will learn for the sake of and love of learning. Adults have to have a reason to learn.' See dad? It's just like you always say!"
Small validations aside, you have to give your *audience* a reason to learn. You have to prepare them for your event. That's the biggest thing that we see missing from major events: Preparation. Not only is preparation the first stage of learning (followed by presentation, practice and performance), but it's crucial in captivating the attention of your audience. Preparation should answer the question, "What's in it for me? What do *I* get out of sitting through this event?"
Here are four ways to prepare your audience and to make sure they get the MOST out of your content:
1. Pre-event communication:
Your audience knows that this is going to be your "best annual event ever" because that's what you say when you send out the invitations, right? Go beyond that. This isn't going to be the best event ever because it's in a great resort or because the weather looks perfect for golfing--err, teambuilding--day.
It's going to be great because the CEO is going to reveal the top 10 reasons why the latest product will be great for their personal sales. The marketing team is going to unveil the new ad campaign that will help drive business in the coming year. The CFO is going to show us a roadmap that will make it clear where we've been and where we're headed. Plus we're going to have an amazing keynote speaker that will do x, y, and z. Etc, etc, and so on and so forth.
You want your audience to know how tremendously valuable this event is going to be for them. How those three days they're spending away from the field not making sales are going to be WORTH it and pay them back in heaps and piles over the coming year.
2. Pre-event feedback:
Do your attendees act like passive players in your event because they feel like passive players in its design? Surely THEY weren't all consulted about the agenda, the presentations, etc.--so why should they listen to some stuffed suit? Give them a reason.
Put out a pre-event survey asking them what they want to get out of the meeting. What questions will they want answered? What workshops or breakouts are most important to them? What issues do they have on their mind coming into the event?
Turn them into active participants by asking them to develop their own event learning outcomes. Sure, you have outcomes, but what are theirs? By the end of the event, what do they want to know, believe and do? What will they be responsible for learning that will make this event "worth it" to them when they get back to their office the next Monday?
3. Pre-frame the content:
Every presentation should have a pre-frame, and every opening session, too. Attendees need to know what they're going to get out of a meeting, a speaker, a presentation, and why it's important to them. Issues also need to be addressed, lest they stew in the minds of the audience leaving precious little space for the actual messaging.
For instance, if you've had 4 different CRMs in 5 years and you're introducing ANOTHER one...and talking about the importance of getting completely on board with this CRM... why would your audience believe that they should be actively embracing your message? It's just going to change in another year or two anyway...
Address those objections and points of skepticism. You have to exorcise those thought and points before the audience can move on to accepting your message. (You also, in the extreme case cited above, have to provide hard evidence that they should adopt this program or that it's not going away in 2 years...it's not enough to say it when it's been said dozens of times before with little veracity.)
4. Use preparation activities:
So your audience knows it all. They've had YEARS of experience. You want to tell them about the new protocol, but THEY know how to do it. They're experts. How do you shake up that dismissive mentality and get them to focus on learning? Prove them wrong in an engaging way.
One thing that we'll do is include an audience response game as a pre-test (of sorts) before a presentation. The audience gets to compete on teams and engage with the material, but it's also a rather stark wake-up call highlighting what they do and do not know. Not only is the presenter aware of their knowledge gaps--but they are as well. And if, by chance, they should become aware that there is going to be another round of the game AFTER the presentation...they're going to be listening VERY closely for the answers they need to score well.
This is just one example of a preparation activity. You can also have someone perform a task or do a roleplay, try to install a new product, or give a team pitch. The point is to illuminate the need for the presentation/learning in an interactive and engaging (and fun) way.
Case Study: Intel's Best Buy DSM Event
We divided the audience into teams and gave them each their own audience-response keypad. Using this keypad, they all played along in a game show (called the Intel Ultra Bowl). In addition to the game show, there was also a live, 3D, AniMated game show host tasked with emceeing the event, hosting the show, adding in humor, and interacting with the audience in real-time. The game show both reinforced and taught the content, and the event was structured so that additional information from Intel experts was placed at key moments of peak attention within the game.
“The Best Buy folks are still talking about the event even today [3 days post-show],” and “One word: AWESOME! The feedback has been great!”
According to Best Buy:
“I heard GLOWING comments about the Intel Breakout…Thanks for putting together a great experience for our employees.”
Case Study: Custom Game Production "A Fistful of Dollars"
Custom Audience-Response Game: A Fistful of Dollars – Three different game plays
Graphics, Programming, Scripting and Game-play: Designed by Live Spark
Situation: Toyota wanted a way to engage and entertain their top sales reps while at the same time testing their company knowledge and giving them the opportunity to earn some big rewards with that knowledge. This was a great teambuilding event in the morning; it gave the audience a chance to compete on teams and individually and allowed them important, low-stress face-time with top executives.
Toyota had already used a game show the previous two years—both times utilizing either our sister company--LearningWare's--software (Gameshow Pro) or custom software programmed for their event by Live Spark. They wanted something to fit their Clint Eastwood “Western” theme and that would add variety from previous years’ play.
Solution: A custom Fistful of Dollars game show with three completely unique varieties of game play. The audience still played along using audience-response keypads, but there were a few variations:
Target Practice: In this game play variation, we asked extremely difficult multiple choice questions. The audience members, consequently, had three opportunities to get a question right.
The question was be asked the first time, and the audience saw what percentage of their team responded correctly. They did not know whether they—individually—answered correctly. They then got a chance to answer again—and they could either change their answer or stick with it. Again, the percentage of correct answers was be shown. They got one final chance to answer the question, and only their third response counted as correct or incorrect.
Do You Feel Lucky Punk?: (Wager Round) In this game variation, we utilized a team leader—someone with guts, daring, and willingness to take the glory or the fall.
Everyone on the team was shown a question. Before the audience votes, the team leader decided whether he/she thinks that 75% of the team will know the answer or not. If he/she is confident, then they’ll bet high. If not, they’ll bet low.
No guts, no glory. The team leader wrote down or verbally submitted their wager. The question then played out as a typical audience-response question.
Six-Shooter: (Speed Round/Final Round) Teams were asked a group of 6 questions—rapid-fire-style. They were NOT shown the team results of their answers until after the questions are done, at which point the team scores rose (and failed to rise as much as they should) dramatically, determining the final winner.
Results: The game show was entertaining, challenging, tough, competitive and held a level of novelty—being different than the year before. The audience was engaged with each other and management for the entire morning.
Case Study: Amazing Team Building for Onyx
The first executive was brought onstage and the audience was asked a question about that executive. (I.e. On his day off, you're most likely to find [John Doe]: A. On a golf course, B. Surfing in the ocean, C. Drag racing, or D. Playing competitive backgammon). The audience (in their team designations) voted on which answer they felt was correct (using audience-response keypads). The answer was revealed, and the executive in question used that as a jumping-off point to elaborate and go into a 3-minute pitch on his vision. After he was done, the team tallies were revealed and the next executive was brought up to repeat game play.
"Great way to know more about where we're heading!"
- The final clip was the best representation of the team’s interaction. It could be:
Audience Response Keypads vs. Smartphone Voting
We've been hearing quite a bit about using smartphones as audience response devices lately. Naturally, we're intrigued since we've helped clients produce many whole-audience game shows using audience response systems...and we've also seen smartphone voting systems in use--so we have some thoughts.
We love the idea of an audience response device that the attendee can always have with them, keep with them, and is multi-purpose. That's what we love about the smartphone audience response concept.
However, the smartphone technology still has a few things that need to be worked out:
- Not everyone has a smartphone yet. Hard to believe, but true! Unless the company is providing the smartphone, it can be hard to reconcile the availability of technology AND make sure that the audience response system is compatible across all platforms.
- Reception. It can be difficult to get reception in an event room. Sometimes impossible. Though smartphones can often hook on to internal wifi, etc, this may pose security issues of another kind. Therefore, you have a legitimate concern with steady connectivity. If someone's cell signal gives out at a game-winning moment... We'd hate to be the judge on that one!
- With a smartphone, everything is at hand. Literally. It's easy to get distracted by an incoming text, email, the internet, etc. If you're using this in a large event it encourages people to have their cell phones out (when it can already be difficult to maintain their attention spans).
- Cheater, cheater. . . having a phone in-hand while voting makes sending a game show answer to a friend just a quick-text away. Not that we'd question the integrity of the audience, but stranger things have been known to happen.