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Last updated August 20, 2014

Whether you’re running a meeting, facilitating a workshop or just having a get-together with your team, it can be useful to have a few activities to help people engage with you (and each other) right from the outset. Not every activity is right for every occasion, so it is important to have few options in the back of your mind so you can use the activity that is most appropriate.

When choosing an activity for your meeting or event, keep in mind:

1. How many people will there be?
Some activities work perfectly with small groups but if you try to do it with large numbers the whole thing falls apart. The opposite is also true. If you’re not sure how many people will be present, make sure you have a couple of options prepared.

2. How much space have you got?
If you are asking people to move around, make sure there is plenty of space for them to do so. There is nothing worse than trying to squeeze, shift and wriggle to do an activity….unless that’s the point! Try to avoid activities where you will need to shift the furniture and then shift it back. You should be able to run the activity while leaving the room set up as it will be for the rest of the event.

3. Do the people involved know each other well?
While games and activities are often used to break the ice, not everyone is comfortable making a fool of themselves in front of people they don’t know. Likewise, be considerate of how much personal information you ask them to share. You don’t always have to break the ice with a sledge hammer – there are activities that will gently melt the ice away as well.

4. Are there any special needs you should be aware of?
Team games and activities are supposed to be for the whole team, so make sure they are designed so that all members can take part. If you do not know the participants attending your event or meeting, err on the side of caution.

5. What is the purpose of the activity?
Sometimes you want a game or activity to break the ice and get people talking, but there are plenty of other reasons to use a group activity as well. Perhaps you want to give people an energy boost at the end of a long session or maybe you want to illustrate a specific point. The purpose could be as simple as filling in time or having a laugh. When you’re clear about the purpose, it’s easier to make decisions about which activity to use.

6. Is the activity culturally sensitive?
Offending someone right at the start of your meeting is hardly a useful way to begin, so be aware of any cultural issues in choosing your activity. This is particularly important if you are using activities which require physical contact.

7. Is the activity safe?
I’m not suggesting that you need to be the ‘fun police’, but be aware that some group activities can become quite boisterous depending on the personalities in the room. Make sure you set clear boundaries and can maintain control of the situation at all times.

8. How you will introduce and wrap up the activity?
Some people have a real dislike of group activities, especially if they don’t understand the reasoning behind it. Think of how you will introduce and wrap up the activity so it ties into the rest of your event.

Once you’ve chosen the activity for your meeting or event:

  • Go over the activity several times so you are completely comfortable with how it will work in a group situation.
  • Make sure you have all the necessary props prepared ahead of time and check that they all work.
  • On the day, give your team clear instructions on how the game will work and if appropriate, write the instructions on the whiteboard for them to refer back to.
  • Tell your team how long they have to complete the activity and stick to that time (it helps to give a couple of warning bells about 1 minute and 30 seconds before you want to wind the activity up – especially if you have a big group).
  • Make sure you have a plan B. Sometimes it’s not until your meeting or event is in progress that you realise a specific activity won’t work with a given group.

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