Networking and Play. A Powerful Mix for Event Attendees
Playful networking activities are a fun way to get people talking. Whether the aim is to provide a quick icebreaker for your event attendees or develop team building skills there are options here to suit any time frame and event environment.
Networking games can provide the perfect mix of playful fun and serious mingling. Whether the aim is to help your event attendees to get to know each other better or develop the team building dynamic and skills, there are numerous options which can fit any time frame you have available and work with different group sizes and environments.
This post explores five ways to encourage relationships and team building at your events and shares a list of 22 networking games, separated into short (5 – 30 minutes), medium (30 minutes – 1 hour) and long (1 hour plus) activities, so you can easily slot them into your event agenda.
5 Ways To Encourage Relationships and Team Building at Your Events
There are a number of ways to encourage better team building and relationships at your events. The first thing to evaluate is what the objective of the activity is, for example helping people to get to know each other better, or identifying areas the team needs to improve on, such as communication, trust or strategic thinking. Whatever it is, networking games can help if you pick appropriate activities for these objectives. You will be surprised how much you can achieve, even in under 10 minutes.
Whether you are planning a business networking event, company away day or multi-day corporate retreat here are 5 things to consider for maximum participation.
1. Enthusiastic Facilitator
Hire a facilitator or leader that is enthusiastic and believes in what they are doing. It encourages team members to get involved, even if they find it particularly cheesy, are shy or if they don’t feel motivated. Enthusiasm is infectious.
2. Change Teams Each Time
While it is good for attendees to bond, it can be easy to latch onto a new connection and then avoid new connections because it is “safer”. Each game should involve new teams, partners or groups to get everyone working together effectively and strengthen the overall dynamic as a whole.
3. Ground Rules and Open Evaluation
Set some ground rules before each activity and allow a safe space for everyone to provide honest and genuine feedback without fear of resentment or retaliation. Evaluating co-workers as well as yourself is a key part of team building but can be scary for those who don’t want to risk friendships so having open evaluation rules are important.
4. Be Adaptable
Not every exercise or game will suit the type of people in your team or your attendees so be prepared to adapt and switch to something new. Don’t try to force something that isn’t working as it will have the opposite effect and attendees are likely to lose interest altogether.
5. Find The Leaders
Most teams have a leader or most influential member (which is not necessarily the appointed leader or manager) and they often have sway or power to encourage or discourage others. Finding the true leader of a team, appealing and working with them often gets the rest of the team on board and more likely to participate.
Short Networking Games (5 – 30 Minutes)
If you only have a short period of time available at your event, here are some quick networking activities to try.
2 Truths and a Lie
This can be played in large or small groups or in pairs. One person gives three “facts” about themselves but one of them is not true, it is up to everyone else to spot the fake fact. Particularly useful as an icebreaker, a way of learning interesting things about each other, as well as determining who is good at bluffing (which can be a useful tool in business and for negotiating)
In a large group start with a word and the next person has 3 seconds to name another word associated with it, for example “event” and “planning”. If a person cannot think of a word quick enough they are “out”. Words cannot be repeated. This game encourages creative thinking and can also be incorporated into the event theme with the starting word used.
Paper Airplane Competition
A short creative game that gets attendees working with their hands and can be performed individually or part of small teams. Set a time limit, e.g. 5 minutes, to create the best paper airplane that will fly the furthest. At the end, test them out and see who wins.
Particularly useful for networking and operating in a similar way to speed dating, set up tables with interview stations and give attendees 45-60 seconds at each table to learn 3 things about each other and move on. If you want this to be less structured the speed networking can take place stood up, with a few seconds to find someone new they haven’t spoken to between each encounter. At the end, everyone should have mingled, broken the ice and gotten to know each other a little better.
Using rope, string or something else that is easily adjustable, create a square island on the floor that will easily accommodate teams, groups or all attendees. Ask them all to stand inside, then ask them to get out, shrink the boundary and try again. Do this several times so that they have to work as a team, get close and come up with ingenious ways of making sure no one is left out with the sharks.
A traditional game that is fun and involves team members working together with equal input. Using a cane or long stick, all attendees must balance the stick on top of their forefingers and remain touching the stick at all times. Starting above their head, attendees must lower the stick to the ground, if any attendee stops touching the stick it much be reset and started over.
Encouraging creative and fast thinking, coming up with ideas on the spot, this game involves creating a “plausible” story collectively together. Starting with the first person in the group they set the scene, one character name and a time period and pass onto the next person by saying “and then…”. The next person must then continue the story by adding little pieces each time until everyone has contributed and the story is repeated back again. While outlandish, there should be no contradicting points and they must follow some level of continuity.
A Change Of Perspective
Sometimes known as “winners or losers” this game involves closely linking to the business or brand, which makes it ideal for corporate retreats. In pairs, the first person explains a situation they struggled with or that upset them in the workplace, whether that was dealing with a difficult customer, something going wrong or a relationship with a co-worker. Their partner must then retell the story from a positive perspective, focusing on the pluses of the story and offering a new way of thinking about it.
Medium Networking Games (30 – 60 Minutes)
If you are looking for a networking activity that takes less than an hour for your event, here are some suggestions to try.
In a Knot
All attendees (or in multiple groups of 10 people) hold hands in a circle. Keeping hands together, they must get themselves knotted by going under arms, twisting and crossing under other people to get to the other side until the entire group is “tied together”. Then (without letting go of their hands) they must untie themselves again.
Focusing on teamwork and how to be quick and effective without traditional communication is what this game focuses on and it involves all attendees standing in a circle with one in the middle blindfolded. Attendees in the circle must pass around a noisy object, for example a metal tin full of marbles and make it all the way around the circle without the blindfolded attendee pointing to the person holding the tin.
This game can be adapted to make it shorter but generally it has a few rounds and involves attendees organising themselves by certain criteria but with the rule that they are not allowed to speak. For example, they can order according to seniority, age, height, birthdays or any other criteria you can think of and really works on non-verbal communication and ice breakers.
Find Your Pairing
List out traditional pairings, such as salt and pepper, peanut butter and jelly, milk and cookies and create cards with one of each of these on them. Attach them to attendee’s foreheads or backs and ask them to go and find their pairing. The tricky part is that they aren’t allowed to say their own word or tell someone else what their card says, so they need to ask questions to work out if they are together or not and this tests lateral thinking and dealing with difficult communication situations.
Lip Sync Battles
For a fun twist you can have performance based ideas such as this one where attendees are organised into groups, given a song and must come up with a lip syncing performance where they must mime to the words. The winners are voted for by other contestants and the judges to win a prize. This can be an excellent evening idea that helps to loosen everyone up and get them relaxed.
Particularly useful for working in pairs, attendees sit back-to-back with one having drawing utensils and the other holding the object. The object holder must describe the object to the drawer in as much detail as possible and then see how accurate the drawing is. They are not allowed to say exactly what the object is and have to give instructions working around this obstacle which helps with critical thinking, team-work and trust.
Protect The Egg
The aim of this game is to divide into groups and give attendees around 30 minutes to construct a protective device for an egg so that it can be dropped from the highest height. Give attendees basic materials such as deflated balloons, newspaper, tape, plastic bags and straws (nothing overly helpful!). When they are done, start from a small height and if you have eggs remaining, keep increasing the height until you have a winner. The egg must be protected by the construction alone (no trying to cheat the system by catching it!)
In small teams of 5 or 6, the teams need to uncork and pour five glasses of wine into separate glasses. The catch is that only one of the team members is not blindfolded and only one member can act out each task at a time. For example, you can have 5 members pouring 5 individual glasses under instructions but not two on one glass or uncorking. This can be a fun but messy task that is based on communication, trust and developing listening skills in a team as there can be many aspects going on at once. Best for evening and social events guests can then enjoy the wine at the end of the task!
Longer Networking Games and Activities (1 Hour Plus)
If you need longer team building activities that take an hour or more, here are some suggestions for your event.
This indoor game can be particularly beneficial on self-catering corporate retreats, particularly when there is poor weather and you need to be inside. In groups or teams go head to head in a cooking challenge of your choice, for example: come up with the best 3 course meal idea and implement an element of it, cook for everyone in bulk or simply produce the most extravagant or best tasting dish.
An indoor game that aims to build team working and also identifies the different types of workers you have in each team and who will want to become the leader. You can adapt the quiz, either traditional general knowledge, or you can make it industry or workplace specific to add a personal element, (plus you can highlight who really knows their stuff!)
Depending on the venue, you can have a larger building challenge that can be a favourite for getting everyone involved and working together to plan and execute the best ideas. Good examples are raft building and having a raft race (which usually ends in a “who can hold on the longest situation). If you don’t have access to a body of water you can buy basic go-kart kits that attendees need to build upon to race and add bonus points for the most extravagant or best looking vehicle.
By setting clues around your venue and dividing into teams, each group must race to the finish line. You can make this harder by adding cryptic clues. Traditional scavenger hunts can be simple to set up or innovate by using beacon technology.
Easy and adaptable for indoors or out is an obstacle race which can include things like stepping through a hula hoop or over/under obstacles. To build on this idea and make it more interesting, as well as if you have minimal space, you can pair the attendees up or divide into teams and blindfold one of them while the others direct, for a good test of communication and trust.
A classic idea that works every time. Perfect as an evening game during a business retreat, when people have loosened up a little from the day’s activities. Charades involves acting out a song, film, TV show or book to the rest of the team and they have to guess within the time limit what it is. This can be particularly amusing as the opposing team generally chooses the titles for the other so you can get some weird or tricky ones in there!
Ultimately networking games can provide the perfect mix of playful fun and effective mingling. Whether the aim is to provide a quick icebreaker for your event attendees or encourage socialising and team building there are options here to suit any time frame and environment you have available.
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