Quick Easy Ideas to Liven Up Your Holiday Party

This was in our newsletter a couple years ago, and people have asked us to share these fun ideas again. Happy Holidays!!!

You have the facility, the food and the drinks, and lots of people coming for fun. How can you make the holiday party more interesting, fun and memorable—without having to spend a lot of your time getting ideas and materials together? Here are some quick, easy ideas to get the party going…

  1. What’s My Hobby? Give each person a 3” x 5” index card, a pen and tape or a straight pin. Each person will write their name at the top and list their hobbies on the card –and pin or tape it on their shirt. This is a great way to break the ice and give people something to talk about during a cocktail party.
  2. Lego party—put a bunch of Legos or other building blocks on a large table. Ask people to help build a replica of your company logo.
  3. Theme/costume—it’s always fun to dress up, and costumes always make mingling more fun and spirited. Announce the theme when you send out the invitations. Ideas for themes: Middle Earth Holiday; Victorian Holiday; Scrooge; Ugly Christmas Sweater; Holiday Characters (Rudolph, Frosty, Charlie Brown, Elf, etc.)
  4. Cocktail Concoction- Have a contest for making an original Holiday Cocktail or Mocktail.
  5. “White Elephant” Gift Exchange- Have each person bring a wrapped “gift” they have never used and don’t need. The value of these should not be more than $25. Everyone draw a number from a hat. When a person’s number is called, they may pick a wrapped gift from the pile or “steal” a gift from someone who has already picked and unwrapped a gift. An item may only be taken 3 times, and you may not directly steal a gift back from someone who has just taken it.
  6. Toy Drive- Have people bring a new, unwrapped toy. Ask a representative from a local charity to come and give a short speech about how the toys will be distributed.
  7. Prizes for oddball things: “Most unusual earrings.” “Hat contest” “Most unique tie.” “Hairdo- both men’s and women’s” “Shoes-both men’s and women’s” “Best Holiday Manicure.” You should announce that there will be prizes for these categories BEFORE the party, so people will come dressed appropriately. Give everyone a ballot to determine the winners—or have a small committee who decides the winners.
  8. If you have a small group of about 20 or less, you can have a Bunko Tournament after dinner, or consider playing one of these fun team games: CatchPhrase, Outburst, Cranium, Pictionary. Make up your own Minute-to-Win-It challenges.



An Interactive Event for Theater Style Seating?

This was an interesting question posed to us recently. In this seating configuration, people cannot move except to stand up, sit down, and turn in place. However, you may have people seated in this fashion for a meeting, but need a quick energizer or two. Here are some great ideas that we formulated just for a group like this…

Ideas for Theater Seating Activities– This is a series of fun, energizing activities. Some are actual team competitions, others require the entire group to work together.

(Six) Team Competitions-  The teams are denoted by crepe paper streamers that are draped between and on the back of the seats. The area is divided into six sections (imagine two rows of three squares). Each area represents one team.

Beach Volley – 15 minutes– Each team is given one small beach ball. At the signal to commence, music starts playing and the balls must be batted into the air towards another team. The volleying continues until the music stops, and no one knows when that will happen. However many balls are within a team area when the music stops, that team gets a negative point. In the second round, another beach ball is added to each area (total now of 12 beach balls). Once again, when the music starts, teams must attempt to keep any beach balls out of their own area. There is a third and fourth round. Each time, another beach ball is added to each team area. In the final round, there are 24 balls being batted around. In the end, the team with the fewest points is declared the winner.

Clues- 15 minutes– Each of the six teams is assigned with the name of an animal (horses, lions, giraffes, etc.). A series of questions will be presented on the screen. These are trivia questions – whose answers will be one of the animals. Simple example: It’s the name of the NFL team from Detroit. A: Lions. When the question comes up, the team with the correct animal must stand and in unison, make a sound or movement like the animal they represent. If they are the first to do so, they get a point. Here is the tough part—if anyone from your team stands up and your group is not the correct animal, then you get a negative point. Additionally, for some of the questions more than one animal is the correct answer. Example: Which animal can run faster than 20 mph? That might pertain to more than one team, but the team that stands first gets the point.

Shapes and Outlines- 15 minutes– In this fun activity, each team will be asked to form a shape given by the facilitator and also shown on the screen. Each of the six teams must decide who will need to stand in order to form the shape for their group—depending upon where each person is sitting and what the shape is. A simple example is a Circle. People on each team need to stand and form a perfect, solid circle. A point is given to the team that is able to accomplish this first. The shapes/outlines start easy and get more complex. Finally, the last shape is their company logo (if that lends itself to this exercise). If the logo does not, then it might be the company initials.

Full Group Activity

Balloon Drop- 5 minutes (a Minutes-to-Win-It Challenge)– Balloons are held in a net above the auditorium. There are six colors of balloons. Each of the six areas is assigned to one of the colors. When the balloons drop, everyone needs to bat them away or try to collect them—in order to collect all the balloons that are of just their color. The idea is to have all the balloons sorted into the six areas in less than 3 minutes. The group must all work together to get this accomplished. If they are successful, everyone earns a point—AND the team that got all its balloons collected first earns an extra point (only if the whole group was successful in doing this under 3 minutes).

Card Stunts- 15 minutes– This is a take-off on the college football card stunts you have seen on TV. This can be done as a team competition or as a whole group. Every seat can be preset with a list of the card stunts (or you can try to have people figure this out by themselves). The list would state which card the person in that seat should hold up for each of the stunts. You can have them spell out words or company symbols, etc. There should be a live feed camera trained on the audience. This will allow them to see the finished stunt—or it will allow them to see what they are doing and figure it out (if you are not going to provide a stunt list for each seat). Great fun to see them form the words and pictures on the big screen. Many different ways to orchestrate this.

You’re only limited by your imagination and the time it takes to organize any of these activities.

Foster a TEAM Attitude and Culture

What happens when you are part of a team, but are excluded from giving input or receiving information? The team ultimately fails. It is not that easy to foster a team culture- and sadly, human nature is at the heart of the problem.

We all have opinions on how things should be done and what we should do to succeed. Those who are like-minded tend to bond together; it is very satisfying to have your opinion validated by others. We all want to be “right.” Those who do not share our views are often shut out—and they form their own exclusive group(s)—with people who are like-minded. These splintered factions fuel their own agendas by the notion that others are “against them.” They build passion for their cause when there is a common “enemy.” It is so sad when people fabricate this “us against them” mentality.  Unfortunately, what ensues are closed-door meetings, which leave the other group(s) understandably suspicious. If there was ever any trust, it erodes. Respect for each other goes by the wayside. Even worse, communication with all team members starts getting very selective and may even stop. Does this sound familiar?

This happens in teams of every size unless you can all foster a culture of openness and finding common ground first—in order to move forward, which should be everyone’s goal. There must be open discourse and an agreement to disagree. Ground rules for the team must include sharing everyone’s ideas and ultimately working together to progress. Respect for each other must be maintained; if we devolve into name-calling that just fuels more division. What is the point of that?

Some say we need to be “adults” about this, but children are often better at collaborating than adults. So maybe we should think about what it was like to be a child and not have any preconceived notions about each other. Don’t shut doors, but be open to learning new things.  If everyone on your team felt this way, you’d be way ahead of the curve.

The Design & Engineering Olympics– Expanded and Funtastic!

Here’s a great event that has something for everyone. It:

  1. Provides a series of team challenges, not just a single competition. This keeps things moving quickly and keeps energy high.
  2. Has a variety of types of challenges—some that are more physical and some more mental. This increases the appeal, because there is “something for everyone.”
  3. Requires a high level of interaction and collaboration. They are true “team challenges”—not activities that rely heavily on the skills of a few.

Introducing: The Design & Engineering Olympics. It is a fun and engaging competition that is a series of three design and construction competitions. These range in complexity from simple to more complicated and also have varying deadlines.

In each contest, the teams are given the materials, tools, objectives and a deadline.  With each subsequent contest, the challenge gets more difficult. Each competition is scored differently. This encourages each team to understand the measure of success, and plan accordingly.

For this 2.5- 3 hour event, there are three competitions that you would select from the following list:

  1. Quick Challenge (select 1)
    1. Marshmallow Shooter– each team must figure out how to construct a device that will shoot mini-marshmallows at least 30 feet—using PVC pipe.
    2. OR Rocket Launchers—each team needs to put together a simple Rocket Launcher (from a kit) and shoot off 3 rockets.
    3. OR The Ball Machine—each team needs to construct a pipeline of PVC pipe and connectors that are of varying diameters and curves—in order to create a tube through which 20 small balls will roll in the fastest time possible.
  2. Medium Challenge (select 1)
    1. The Tower—teams need to build a tower out of index cards and tape that is at least 20” in height. It must hold the weight of a full 20 oz. cup of water placed at the top of it.  
    2. OR Marshmallow Catapult—built from cardboard, rubber bands, string and a pencil. Teams must be able to shoot marshmallows 30 feet.
    3. OR 3-2-1 Lift Off!– an exciting rocket building and launching event. The rockets are made out of light weight foam and cardboard tubing. The challenge is to create not only a great looking rocket, but to design one that will fly the highest.
  3. Complex Challenge (select 1)
    1. Walking on Eggs– each team must construct a pair of shoes that can walk on eggs. The eggs are placed in the sole of each shoe. After construction is completed, all teams must demonstrate that 4 people on their team can walk 30’ in the shoes without breaking the eggs—in a spirited relay race. Plenty of cheering!
    2. OR Mousetrap Cars—each team builds a model “car” powered by a mousetrap. They must adjust the variables on the car and figure out, by trial and error, how to make the car go the farthest. The testing and adjusting are a lot of fun. The car that can go the furthest wins.
    3. OR The Trebuchet– This is a weighted-arm, catapulting device that flings tennis balls at a cardboard “castle.” Each team must build and test its own trebuchet as well as its own cardboard castle. In the final competition, each team will shoot at a different team’s castle (drawn at random). They have a limited time to knock down the castle with their trebuchet skills.

In the end all team scores are tallied, and the team with the highest cumulative score is declared the winner. But everyone has a great time creating these entertaining objects—as they practice collaboration and teamwork. And that’s the point!

Experiential Learning = Real Team Building

There is a very wide range of activities that people refer to as “team building” these days. Nearly everything that is done in a group is referred to as team building—even things like going to a ball game together. However, this is incorrect. And because so many things are categorized as such, you’ll see some people push back and question the need or relevance of “team building.”

First, selecting the right activity is key. “You must tie team activities to real work-related skills,” says Cynthia Shon, president of Corporate Games, Inc., which designs and implements corporate team building events. “When people don’t see that relevance, they don’t understand the value of participating. When you make the connection to work situations, participants realize the exercises can impact workplace issues and skills. They can even discover something about themselves. It’s not always easy to be a team player. We’re often in front of a computer or phone all day, not dealing with people face to face. We’re losing important people skills. That’s just one reason why team interaction is so important.”

What is Experiential Learning? Not experimental, but experiential. This is an interactive exercise that allows the participants to learn by “experiencing” –as opposed to passive learning like reading or listening to a lecture. This is exactly what the best team building activities do. They are fun, but they are also business simulations. For example, the Corporate Games Building Bridges event is a team challenge that requires participants to practice the skills they need at work in order to succeed. This includes: 1) Brainstorming, 2) Collaboration, 3) Group consensus building, 4) Communicating with the customer, 5) Execution of a plan to meet a specific deadline, 6) Adjusting to change, 7) Quality of product, 8) Relationship building, and more. In other words, they practice and experience these skills and learn by doing.