Conference entertainment ideas team trivia
I was really dragging earlier this week. Not because of my 5:15am wake-up (which I do most weekday mornings), nor because one of my kids woke me up from a deep sleep two nights in a row (which they did).
No, the reason I was tired was because I had flown in late Monday night back home to Long Beach, CA from Atlanta, GA, where I had been attending Training Conference 2018! Five hours jammed upright in a middle seat is enough to make anybody grouchy the next day…but it was TOTALLY worth it.
Last year, I was graciously invited by Training Magazine to produce a team trivia activity for a conference in San Diego they were putting on. Actually, this was a bit more than that: it was their 40th annual Training Conference, the go-to event of the year for professionals in the training industry. Some 2000+ trainers from all walks of the field converged for the weeklong gathering, which included corporate event entertainment in Southern California.
For my part, I was asked to produce a social trivia team building activity aboard a chartered Hornblower Cruise Lines ship. About 500 attendees would be going on a festive cruise around the harbor immediately following Day 1 of the meeting. I was to provide some interactive entertainment for conference attendees below decks, while the majority of folks on the boat were expected to take in the sights, sounds and breeze up top.
Unfortunately, a heavy fog rolled in and the ship couldn’t leave the dock; as a result, over 300 people chose instead to participate in my corporate trivia game downstairs, which was a total blast! (you can check out a full recap of that event by reading this post).
That event last year in San Diego was so well-received by the attendees, in fact, that the folks at Training invited me to this year’s summit in Atlanta. Only this time, it wouldn’t be to provide networking event entertainment.
They wanted me to produce the conference kickoff entertainment activity.
Planning the Event
While the goal of any team bonding activity is to produce a fun shared experience for all in attendance, there needs to be a different approach when the purpose of the function is to jump-start an entire conference. In this case, 250-300 of the 2000 attendees would be arriving the night before things “officially” began the following morning. Immediately upon arrival, after checking into the Omni Hotel at CNN Center, attendees would be invited to join other folks who arrived early in the grand ballroom for a social cocktail mixer – and team trivia contest, to get things started properly.
Customizing the Trivia
Like every corporate trivia event TrivWorks produces, this event began with a brief customization call several weeks in advance of the gig itself. In order to ensure that the questions used would be not only relevant to the group/conference, but appropriately fun and challenging as well, I went through my proven questionnaire I’ve been using for almost ten years to quickly glean from the client exactly what I needed to know, in order to tailor the content for their specific audience, as well as goals.
Next, we researched and wrote appropriate trivia questions for the expected audience of attendees. Unlike company team building activities, where most of not all of the attendees know and work with one another, when it comes to conference kickoff entertainment ideas, you must bear in mind that this group likely doesn’t know one another at all (as I would later discover, many of attendees actually didn’t know a soul prior to entering the space and sitting down at a trivia team).
As such, the questions needed to be formulated in such a way that they are relevant to a diverse crowd, with a range of ages, nationalities, and areas of professional interest. We selected perfect material which would allow EVERYBODY expected to be in the room to have a chance to shine.
Setting Up the Space
With the material written and an agenda in place, we all then descended on Atlanta last weekend, arriving on Saturday night, in anticipation of a Sunday afternoon gig. We arrived to the space and got everything set up just how we wanted it: thirty round tables capable of seating teams of 10, a professional stage and sound system, answer packets & pens distributed before attendees arrived to save time.
As this was the first “official” event of the conference, it was important to have a free socialization period before kicking off with the structured entertainment. Upon entering the ballroom, guests were invited to enjoy passed appetizers and the bar, and encouraged to relax and talk to one another before starting up the contest. We gave it about an hour, which felt like enough time for people to drift in and have a chance to mix and mingle before we demanded their attention.
Running the Event
From there, it was our standard team trivia contest for corporate group. I hit the stage and provided a brief orientation, instructing teams to come up with funny team names and “liberating” them of their mobile devices, asking that they be placed in the center of the tables for the duration of the game. The purpose of this is not so much to deter them from cheating (which it surely helps do), but to force people to be present, and interact with one another. It works, I really like doing this!
Multiple rounds of full-room team trivia followed, with questions designed for a mixed audience: general knowledge, pop culture, TV/movies, current events, etc. In between the rounds while our grading team tabulated the score sheets, I invited individuals up onstage with me to participate in head-to-head “bouts,” which were HYSTERICAL and fully engaging for the entire room, not just the contestants.
The event concluded with a dramatic reading of all of the teams’ scores – from lowest to highest – and inviting the winning team onstage to collect their prizes: conference T-shirts, and the official TrivWorks lip balm for each member!
It was an absolute blast, and I was thrilled to not only have people coming up to me afterwards saying as much, but to see groups of people actually hanging out afterwards, still in their teams. I thought that maybe these teams knew one another before, but I was wrong – they had JUST MET at the event, and had bonded so well through the team trivia challenge that they were just continuing to chat and get to know one another.
And isn’t that the whole point?
One attendee in particular, a young college student, came up to me afterwards and said something which made me float with happiness. This was apparently her very first conference, and she hadn’t known a single person prior to walking into the trivia contest. By the time she left, not only did she have a new group of friends from her team, but because she had volunteered to come up onstage in front of everyone, she was instantly a “mini celebrity” – everyone recognized her, and she had a conversation starter that she otherwise wouldn’t have had.
Overall, it was a fantastic event, and truly achieved the planners’ goals of kicking off the event with a high-energy, high-impact social entertainment for conference experience. I am so honored to have had the chance to work with Training Magazine once again, and look forward to the chance to do so again in the future!
Follow this link for another article you might like on using team trivia night as a networking activity.