Corporate.Event.Entertainment.Ideas.Diverse.Groups.jpgCorporate Event Entertainment Ideas Diverse Groups

This past weekend, I attended a friend’s 50th birthday party. While schmoozing around the back yard, I found myself speaking with the guest of honor’s son, a Broadway actor in his early 20s. This kid is truly amazing, I’ve seen him perform – it’s a real treat to be able to ask someone like that anything I could possibly want to ask about theater, working on the Great White Way, etc.

We started talking about the musical Avenue Q, a production of which he had performed in while in college this past summer. After peppering him with all sorts of questions about voices and songs and puppets and such, I got around to something which I’ve thought about a lot: pop culture references in scripts. For those of you who might not be familiar with Avenue Q, it is set in New York City, and is kind of an adult version of Sesame Street. There is a mix of both puppet and human characters, and they all interact and sing together.

One of the human characters is Gary Coleman.

Not the actual Gary Coleman, mind you, however an actor who is supposed to portray the actual Gary Coleman – now a washed-up former child star, working as a building superintendent. I remember when the show first came out, there was a big scandal because the actual Gary Coleman was none to pleased about being represented in a show without his permission (additionally, the role is cast for a female). The real Gary Coleman tragically died in 2010, leaving a very big question for Avenue Q: what do we do with this character? Do we remove him completely? Do we keep him? How do we appropriately honor the legacy of the man, while maintaining the integrity of the show?

They ultimately decided to keep the character in, and today audiences watching Avenue Q will find Gary Coleman, still fixing the toilets along the block. But to me, the bigger question is: does enough of this audience even know who Gary Coleman IS?

Fast forward to the very end of the show, to the final number – a song called “For Now.” There is a portion of this song where the cast shouts out a few things that are only temporary, such as “Your Hair!” and “George Bush!” (the show came out in 2003). However, during a performance of the show I saw this past summer with the young actor I was speaking with at the party, they changed this last line to “Donald Trump!” I understand also that depending on when the show is performed and in which part of the country/world, this one line is often changed to make it appropriate and relevant to the intended audience.

Why am I telling you all of this? I think it’s a great segue into a topic which you, a planner of corporate entertainment events in NYC or elsewhere, have likely struggled with. That is, how can I plan an event for a highly diverse group of colleagues or clients?

It’s probably one of the biggest concerns I field from prospective clients: our group is incredibly mixed, and we must find a means of entertaining and engaging ALL of them at once. How can we do it? What do we do with this hodgepodge of ages, nationalities, departments, employment levels, even primary languages? Is it possible to produce a program in which they ALL enjoy a positive experience?

To answer this, I refer you to the above two examples from Avenue Q. First, let’s examine the Gary Coleman thing. Here we have a situation where a pop culture reference has been added to a fixed piece of art, a script. While relevant to the audience it was originally intended for, the passage of time has made this less so: the audience has changed, as has the status of the individual being parodied. Do millennials have any idea who Gary Coleman is? Probably not. Does that matter for the sake of the show’s entertainment value? Maybe…but then again, maybe not. It’s still an incredibly funny role, and even without knowing the back story walking in, audiences can probably infer what’s going on, and enjoy the parody as it was originally intended.

The same logic can be applied when selecting interactive corporate entertainment activities. Is your entire audience likely to understand or enjoy whatever it is you intend to do? Granted it’s tough to please everybody, but still – will whatever you’ve chosen be a good fit so that nobody feels left out, that this isn’t for them? With trivia events for corporate groups like my company, TrivWorks, produces, we can craft an appropriate mix of fun trivia questions which allow everybody a chance to shine – that’s one of the reasons why our events do work so well for diverse audiences (click here for a relevant case study).

Let’s now look at the second item, the “For Now.” Once again, we have a pop culture reference which has been fixed to a script, however as shown the words on the page aren’t as immutable as one would think. The playwright and directors saw fit to allow some flexibility here, in order to make the experience relevant to varied audiences. How can we apply this lesson to your event?

Again, look at who you are expecting to attend, and ask yourself: is the activity we are considering something which may be adapted in order to accommodate to our crowd? It’s all about the audience experience, after all; at the end of the day, no matter what they do you want them walking out saying, “Man, that was SUCH a fun time!” As Avenue Q proves, this can absolutely be achieved – even with diverse audiences.

Yesterday, I produced and emceed a team trivia event for a private group in Southern California. The group was highly mixed – the youngest person there was 13 years old, the oldest was about 80. Applying the two lessons above, I found a nice balance of using trivia material that was appropriate and relevant for the entire group, making sure that everyone had a chance to shine and no one felt like they didn’t belong. Afterwards people came up to me, thanking me for such a fun time and remarking at how included they felt, regardless of their age.

Believe me, it’s possible to produce corporate party entertainment for mixed groups!

For another relevant article, visit www.trivworks.com/2015/12/team-building-activities-nyc-diverse-groups/