While sometimes perceived as mere relaxation moments during seminars, workshops – whether they come in the form of team-building exercises (*) or incentives (**) – activities are powerful drivers when it comes to the success of your events. By underlining and reinforcing your meeting’s main message, they are the perfect way to complement your event strategy, make an impact and change behavior.

However, planning a balanced schedule is no easy task. Seek advice from experts who know how to find the right formulas for events, which will help you achieve your goals faster and have a larger impact. It is also wise to make sure these experts have an ethics code that corresponds to their client’s ethics.

When companies play along

It is a known scientific fact that games or a fun approach have a beneficial impact on humans in several ways. It expands the size of the brain, improves spatial awareness, and increases the amount of gray matter (***). Games helps develop memory and logic by stimulating decision-making, organizational, and cognitive abilities. Curiosity and concentration are also widely used. Games also create important memories by generating emotions. Who doesn’t have unforgettable memories of their favorite childhood games?

So, it is no coincidence that the corporate world uses games to boost professional challenges. Activities have become a must-have at seminars and events for those who want to get their message across and carve it into people’s minds.

Helping meet the event’s goals

During set up, seminars are always built around one or more goals that must be clearly defined during prior workshops with the Business Sponsor, consultants, facilitators and event project managers. And the activities must, of course, be suited to each goal to be achieved. For each goal – whether it’s educational, operational, behavioral, mental, etc. – there must be an appropriate corresponding activity. Consequently, it is important to ask the right questions, to ensure the appropriate activity are offered: “What are we trying to do? Unite? Shake up? Surprise? Reward?” »

When you are trying to get messages across and change behaviors, games are really useful for driving change. The interaction required during activities (such as escape games, team sports challenges, and brainstorming sessions), is key to changing behaviors. Through games – as a team or individually during skill-boosting sessions – you create awareness, practical application and enrichment. This enrichment is even more significant the higher the emotions run in the game.

The primary responsibility of facilitators and activity leaders is to create a reassuring environment, a springboard that will free the participants’ emotions and help break down their walls one by one.

You therefore need to create an entire architectural plan, an overarching design, for your events. Because when it comes to activities, it’s all about relevance and tempo.

A musical score

Professional events are similar to music scores: they involve tempo, rhythm, breath, etc.

Knowing how to alternate plenary sessions, activities, subcommittees, and incentives is a subtle, yet effective art. Which is why it is a good idea to seek help. A sports activity that happens during the 11 a.m. “slump”, a plenary session that goes on forever right after lunch – these things will all ring sour notes that diminish concentration and reduce positive impact on your goals.

In keeping with this, incentives, or moments that are just about relaxing, like parties, meals, cocktail hour with music, etc. are also key activities for events. Such moments often allow people to “digest” the various highlights of a day, to create professional and personal bonds, and to share how they’ve felt about what they have just experienced. This informal sharing is just as impactful as the activity itself and helps lead to a successful day.

This musical score also has to be in tune with those who are playing it. Every group, every target, every nationality, and even every team within one company has their own codes and culture. It is imperative to be aware of these and to take them into account.

What about feedback?

A successful activity is one that has perfectly met the goal of the meeting or event. How do you measure that success? By listening to the participants tell us about how they experienced the event, during and after its occurrence. These “warm” and “cold” responses make it possible to formalize feedback and make adjustments accordingly for the next event.

Place your bets… and win!

Activities, whether team-building exercises or incentives, have varying formats, rules, and styles, depending on the goal to be achieved. But they all ultimately carry motivating and uniting messages that really help boost success.

Playing together. Talking together. Building together, and finally, coming together: therein lies the real added value of activities at company events.

Article written collaboratively with Carly Abramowitz, founder and director of CA Consulting Group, a partner of the Campus Serge Kampf les Fontaines, and with Edith Combier, Center Manager at Capgemini University.

(*): fun group activities that help build, develop, unite or strengthen
(**): activities that reward people, making them happy
(***): Research presented at the 2014 Alzheimer’s Association’s International Conference