This past weekend was my daughter's fourth birthday party.
Being her first year of preschool, she wanted to have a party with her school friends (18 to be exact) and neighbors. In February, we decided on a "Wizard of Oz" theme.
At the beginning of the year this sounded easy compared to the conferences, sales meetings, training programs and numerous other work events I've planned.
Not the case.
What I learned is that with adults, you can hand them an itinerary and they will go to where they are told. Start in Conference Room B, then go to D, then A and meet in the ballroom at 4 p.m.
With children, it's a completely different playing field. You need to state each item in the agenda three, four, five times. You need to keep the activity lively and engaging. Any lag in the excitement and you've lost them. The agenda needs to keep moving.
Any idle time between activities, you've lost them. Kids need to be filled with anticipation. If they care about what's coming next, kids will follow you to the end of the earth until they know. If they don't care, you've lost them.
Kids need to be involved. Directions that require everyone to shout in unison or answer questions keeps them thinking and on their toes. And speaking of on their toes, there has to be games that require running, jumping and racing.
If they stand in one place too long, you've lost them.
Luckily, we had a party packed with liveliness, excitement, shouting, running and jumping so we were able to keep our audience interested. It worked. Our party-goers left piled high with rainbows, ruby slippers, bubbles, hearts, diplomas and badges. And, exhausted.
So, what really is the difference between adults and children?
Just because they shuffle to Conference Room B to D, are adults really learning anything? Or, inside are they just kids who have mentally left the party. Did you lose them?
If you give them boring monologues from trainers or repetitive speeches from the organization's leadership, are they listening? While the goal may be to motivate and inform, the result could be a desire to find a comfortable chair in the back of the room and nap until the end-of-the-day reception.
I think, too often, we assume that by just putting people in rows of chairs and telling them something, it will be absorbed. But it does take stimulation to keep people engaged and receptive.
For your next event, try livening it up a little. You don't have to have the Wicked Witch fly by on her broomstick or a bubble blowing contest with Glenda, but add enough fun to keep the blood flowing and listening. A theme always works well to tie it together, and the opportunities are limitless.
For me, my only criteria is no costumes in the workplace. Just a personal thing.