What’s in Your Bag of Tricks?

A few years ago, I wrote a blog post about icebreaker questions to help spur on conversation among attendees in a group. Last week, as I began our small group discussion at church with an introduction time (we had a lot of new faces), I was put on the spot for a fun question to have each person answer as they introduced themselves. My mind drew a complete blank, and we ended up answering an awkward question about our Christmas holidays, weeks after the decorations have been put away. I remembered the post I wrote, but not a single question came to mind!

How can you be prepared for situations like these? I’ve met group facilitators/event planners who often have what they call a “bag of tricks” (figuratively speaking) – things they know they can pull out anytime that will help get people talking, fill in a spot that may be lagging or just break the monotony of a lecture or presentation. The main component of these ideas is simplicity – no set-up or special supplies are needed so you can use these at anytime, anywhere.

What do you have in your “bag of tricks”? Here are a few ideas:

  • Icebreaker Questions: These are designed to facilitate discussion and help people begin to feel comfortable speaking around each other. Some examples include:
    • If you could eliminate one thing from your daily schedule, what would it be?
    • Would you rather be three feet tall or ten feet tall?
    • How many pairs of shoes are in your closet?
    • What is in the trunk of your car right now?
    • What is the most unusual thing you have ever eaten?
  • Stand Up and Stretch: Sometimes all your group needs to stay focused is a small break to stand up and stretch. Leading your attendees in a few easy exercises (or even breaking out in a small song and dance) can get the blood flowing and even bring a few laughs!
  • Jokes or Funny Stories: Commit to memory a few funny (and appropriate) jokes or stories. Use these sparingly and only if you can tell them correctly!
  • Teambuilding Games: Have one or two teambuilding activities you can do with various size groups with no set-up involved. “Knots” and “Never Have I Ever” are two good options, though a quick Google search can give you many more ideas.

Hopefully, by having a few things in your “bag of tricks” you can avoid awkward moments of silence and be a more dynamic group facilitator/speaker as you interact with your attendees. If you have trouble thinking of things on the spot, keep a list of these on your smartphone or other device you might have with you for a quick reference before your session begins.

What’s in your “bag of tricks”?

Beyond the “Hello, My Name Is…”

We recently blogged about effectively designing name badges.  When done right, name badges can be a great tool for your event.  When done incorrectly, they can be a distraction and something attendees purposefully “forget” to wear.  Name badges are often considered a necessary evil, but they don’t have to be!

Here are a few ways you can utilize name badges for more than their intended purpose.

  1. Meal Tickets.  If the event is being held in a location requiring meal tickets for entry into the dining facility, consider using name badges to serve that purpose.  Talk with the event host to see if this is a possibility.  This is best utilized if the entire group is on the same meal schedule; however, there are ways to differentiate between guests with varying meal plans.  Consider a different color lanyard or name badge background for each meal plan.
  2. VIPs.  Do you have particular guests that might need “special attention?”  Perhaps these people can charge items on the conference tab, such as at the location’s coffee shop or office center.  Certain guests might need easy access to backstage areas or the green room.  Attach a badge ribbon or sticker to the name badge of these people in order to differentiate them from other attendees.
  3. Small Groups.  Will guests break out into pre-arranged small groups during the event?  Note the group an attendee will be in on the corner of the name badge.  This will take a little extra preparation time, but it is an easy way to quickly divide into groups.  (How many times have you tried to number off a group only to find half of the people forget their number by the end of the line?  This is a helpful way to solve that dilemma!)

Name badges serve a primary purpose:  they tell us your name.  With a little creativity, however, you can make use of these conference staples for additional purposes.  Keep these two things in mind if you want to go “beyond the name badge.”  First, too much information can distract from the name.  Choose one or two extras to add, if needed.  Second, and most importantly, the key in successful extra uses of a name badge is communication between your leadership and your event host location.  For example, don’t assume you can use name badges as meal tickets without talking with the host location.  (And, if you are the host location, make sure you communicate with the dining facility if the typical meal ticket required is done differently.)

Have you used name badges for something extra in an event?  If so, share those ideas with us in the comments section.

Why Make Team-Building A Part Of Your Retreat

What do you think of when you see the words team building?  My mind immediately goes to a trust fall…that’s the olde standby activity in most organizations.

I recently read a story about an NFL coach surprising his players with a bowling trip.  He used this time to build camaraderie between his players.  They’re a literal team.  The offensive line has to block for the quarterback.  The line backer has to support the defensive line.  You can see how those pieces come together.

Most organizations are not football teams but need similar team-building exercises.  Why?  Here are four reasons.

  1. Gets you out of your comfort zone. I’ve worked in big organizations and little organizations. When we’ve done a large group team-building exercise, I was forced to work with people inside the organization I didn’t know. This can be a great thing as it can lead to other collaborative ideas.
  2. Relationship building. This can relate to the first reason, because even in the same department, you may not know the person working in the cubicle next door.
  3. Allows you to see your co-workers in a different light. We always put up our work fronts. We probably don’t know it, but these fronts come up when we go to church or conferences. These team-building exercises allow these fronts to come down.
  4. Sometimes you need a reason to get out of the office. When I worked in a big organization, our department always took some time once a quarter to get out of the office. We went bowling or to the batting cages. Not much of a big deal, but it was great to laugh and get rid of that extra stress.

Do you find including team-building exercises as part of your event are important?  Why?  And what are some team-building exercises that you’ve used?

About the Author:  I am currently an artist manager for Michael Smith and Associates.  I work with promoters and event planners to coordinate their concerts that feature our acts.  I’ve been in the CCM business since I was in 8th grade having worked at a Christian bookstore and then Word Entertainment.  I’m also a drummer and attend ClearView Baptist Church in Franklin, TN.  My wife, Caron, and I have one daughter, Molly Cate.  Most importantly, I’m an Apple fan. Follow me on Twitter: @KyleBJohnson

3 Ways To Ensure Positive Team Building

Planning an effective team building retreat can be a daunting task.  Organizing activities to foster creativity and group participation to generate new ideas is tough. Here are  3 ideas to keep in mind while leading any team building event to ensure a positive experience for everyone involved.

Build Trust – Trust is a huge part of life, no matter if you’re at work or at home. If you don’t have trust, communication and collaboration will also be nonexistent. If some people aren’t participating, or they’re getting their few ideas shot down, it’s going to be hard for them to trust the group. Keep an eye out for this and remind them how it’s done!

Increase Communication– Communication is a huge piece of team building, and also a giant part of any group work. The fact that everyone understands what is going on, who is in charge of what, what the exact goals are, and what steps to take to get there, is crucial. As the “boss” or “planner,” talk to your groups, be available to listen to their comments, and invite questions from staff, coworkers, and other guests.

Boost Collaboration –Some people work best when collaborating with others, while others excel working alone with little to no outside help. If you’re having a corporate team building retreat, or any kind of retreat that focuses on team building, a lot of independence needs be left at the metaphorical door. Team building is all about learning together, growing together, and working together. While conducting your team building strategies, keep an eye on people who are trying to take over the conversation or group, and encourage everyone to participate.

Keeping these 3 ideas in mind during team building activities will ensure positive results.

How have you implemented these ideas with  your team?

Don't Get Stuck In A Classroom!

One of the numerous advantages Christian conference centers have over hotels is the natural setting that surrounds them. Not only does the natural setting provide your group the opportunity to get away from the distractions of the world, but it also provides your group with the opportunity to get out of the traditional meeting room setting.

Recently I read a blog post entitled “What I Learned About Leadership From A Low Ropes Course”. It was written by Michael Hyatt and in the post Hyatt talks about how beneficial he found going through an adventure learning experience to be. Here’s a quote: “I love reading books on leadership and attending seminars. But as helpful as these are, they are not the same as doing something together with a team. There are some things in life that are best learned by doing.” (Read full post)

I loved reading this post! See, I’m a big believer in adventure or experiential learning. As Hyatt points out, it’s one thing to read about a subject or sit in a classroom listening to a lecture, but it’s another thing all together to actually get out and learn by doing.

I think this is especially true in dealing with leadership and team-building. Getting a group out into an adventure setting helps to break down barriers and level playing fields. If facilitated well, this type of learning can have a huge positive influence on growing leaders and building teams.

When was the last time you incorporated adventure learning into one of your retreats? How did it work for your group? If you haven’t done this yet, why not? As you think about these questions, I’ll leave you with one last quote from Hyatt’s post…“Find a retreat center with a low (or even high) ropes course. It is well-worth the investment.”

Interested in learning more about adventure learning? If so, here’s a link to the Ridgecrest website where you can get more information (click here). Also, feel free to call 828-669-4844 and speak to one of adventure learning professionals.

Do You Really Listen?

Ego’s can be dangerous things. Not enough ego and you can be seen by others as lacking confidence. Too much ego and you start buying into the lie your organization can’t survive without you. You stop listening to those around you.

If you’re in a leadership position, a very real danger is thinking you have all the answers. Hate to break it to you…YOU DON’T!

Don’t be afraid of getting your staff involved. Ask them what they think, what they would do, and then listen, really listen, to them. I guarantee, you won’t be disappointed.

Building Community

CCCA National ConferenceI recently had the opportunity to attend  Christian Camp and Conference Association’s national conference. It was held at Ridgecrest Conference Center and the theme this year was, “Mosaic…accomplishing more together”.

We are long-time members of CCCA and were excited to have the honor of hosting this year’s conference. We were also quite nervous as this was the first time in almost 30 years that CCCA had chosen a member facility to host this very important conference. Last year’s conference was held at the Broadmoor Hotel in Colorado Springs and the year before at Disney’s Coronado Springs in Orlando.

To say the bar was set pretty high would definitely be an understatement. However we had an ace up our sleeve that we felt would allow us to more than hold our own against those other very nice properties. The advantage we had is the same advantage you will find at any Christian conference facility, and that is the ability to help create community.

Hotels and convention centers are created to host meetings and conferences. They do a good job of providing sleeping rooms and meeting space. What they don’t do a good job of is providing a place where a group/organization can come together and build community. By this I mean they don’t really provide a place, or way, for attendees to come together and easily network in an informal manner, outside the scheduled meeting times. On the other hand, most Christian conference/retreat centers are created in such a way as to help make this happen naturally.

At Ridgecrest, this informal networking happened primarily over meals. The ability for everyone to come together for breakfast, lunch and dinner was huge. Last year at The Broadmoor, most folks skipped breakfast (cost too much), grabbed a box lunch in the exhibit hall and then scattered to have dinner somewhere in Colorado Springs. As a result, any community building that took place was on a small scale and had to be very intentional.

This year, in contrast, people would come into the dining hall at Ridgecrest and interact with different folks at every meal. By the second day you could see the results of this fellowship as people would wait until the last possible minute to leave and head to the next scheduled part of the conference. Old friendships were being renewed, new ones were beginning and a strong sense of community was being built.

I learned a long time ago that most meeting attendees will tell you they get as much, or more, out of networking as they do attending the actual conference sessions. If you are a Christian meeting planner, I would challenge you to give this a lot of thought as you plan your next event. Not only in designing the flow of the meeting, but also the location you choose to host the event.

So, what are you doing to help your group build community?

Successful Teambuilding Session?

Have you ever headed out to attend, much less plan, an all day teambuilding outing with just a little dread in your heart? I know I have. Here were some of the questions/thoughts bouncing around in my head…Why do we have to do this? I’m sure I could find better use for my time than this! I don’t even like him/her, why do I have to pretend I do? And my favorite…This is going to be really lame and they’re going to blame me!

While those may have been the thoughts going in, I always came out the other side thankful for the process. I now look forward to the opportunities to build our team. What about you? Do you dread planning teambuilding exercises? Or, do you embrace them?

While you’re thinking about it, here’s a little cartoon I came across the other day. Would you call this a successful teambuilding session???