Picture this… 200+ high schoolers, 2 hours, 20 orange cones, a soccer field, and… You.
Summer Camps run on fun, and there’s not much that is more exciting than giant camp-wide games! These games afford opportunities for campers to explore the property, run with friends, crawl through trees and mud, and form bonds of camaraderie and friendship.
Our camp has it all: 600 acres, bountiful fields and forests, at least 100 people to play in games at once, and resources to make games more realistic.
It seems like the perfect recipe for an incredible game. What could possibly ruin it?
Poor. Game. Facilitation.
When games fail, it’s often due to a flaw in the leader’s introduction or running of the game. What if you don’t have the above resources that allow excellent games? What if you’re in a classroom or a church building? It still boils down to creating an excellent experience as the leader of the game. You have the opportunity to make or break the experience. I use a lot of “camp” language here, but the advice is the same for anyone who is leading a large group game!
Remember the 200+ high schoolers situation? With no help, I was able to successfully keep the students engaged for the allotted time.
Whether you’re running a game for 100 campers, 20 kids in a class, or 40 kids in a youth group, you will need internal and external tools to keep kids engaged. Here are some tips and tricks to facilitate an excellent group game:
Everyone has to be able to hear your voice. Whether that’s through the use of a speaker, megaphone, or just your God-given pipes, the whole group needs to be able to hear. If they can’t hear you then inevitably someone in the crowd leans to their neighbor and asks, “what is he saying?” By explaining what you were saying, suddenly both of them now have no idea what you said.
The use of volume doesn’t mean that you’ll always be loud. You just need to be in control of the volume in the space you occupy. One example of the use of volume comes from a friend of mine. He would use the megaphone to wrangle everyone and get them into the gathering location, and then would proceed to explain the game without the megaphone. It was the megaphone that captured the energy, which then allowed him to capitalize on everyone’s stillness.
Volume doesn’t only have to be about sound. Using your body as a way to accentuate what you’re saying is pivotal in communicating how fun or exciting something is going to be. Getting small when your voice is small and getting large when your voice is loud, draws the crowd in which makes it more compelling.
Know what you’re going to say:
This is simple: you should have what you’re going to say rehearsed. You do not have to know it verbatim. However, knowing each point that you’re going to hit is key in making sure that everyone knows the gist of what you’re explaining. Volume means nothing if what you have to say is confusing and unclear.
This is especially important when working with kids. If you have a game that involves collecting colors of paint, you need to explain exactly how to collect the colors. My description sounds like this:
“Take a small dot of paint from the cup. Make sure to hold the cup while getting paint, and then use the dot on your finger to make a clear stripe on your arm. Make sure it’s spaced out from other colors so that you don’t get them mixed together.”
For important and specific items, over-explanation is better than leaving questions out. But remaining concise for simple instructions is equally important.
Pro-Tip: write down questions that participants have during the game rules! If you end up running the game again, you can hit those questions in your explanation. This can save time and provide clarity.
Prep Your Staff:
Make sure your staff understand the game and what you’re going to do. There shouldn’t be any ambiguity in the rules for staff. They are your liaison when the campers don’t know what’s going on. If staff break the rules then there is a 100% chance that you’ll have campers break the rules as well.
Don’t take too many questions:
One of my good friends has a great line when it comes to taking questions:
“I’ll now take three very thought out and specific questions.”
I like to employ this concept because it is really difficult to take questions during group activities because people often use this time to ask uninformed questions. They didn’t listen to you and now want you to explain the whole thing again. Asking for questions at the end of an introduction can be helpful, but mostly for those that didn’t listen to the main spiel. Usually, I’ll take three questions then point any others to my staff. This is where you really benefit from having your staff prepared. Plus, it gives the campers time to talk with the staff members which can help solidify the relationship between the campers and their (in our case) counselors.
If you have everything above solidified and ready to go, you can take some extra time to add a bit of spice to the game. Announcing a game is always exciting, but giving a story to build suspense and then framing the game within the context of a story can give it another edge of excitement. It’s always a great idea to explore your creativity and empower other staff members to participate in the game’s announcement. Suspense can also bring everyone’s attention to the speaker, thus giving you precious time before someone zones out and misses a rule.
These tools provide a framework that is intentionally focused on the camping industry and for those of us that have to run games literally all the time. But this advice can also impact your public speaking and presentation prowess in the workplace. Exploring creative ways to frame your idea, engaging in the specifics, and taking the time to prepare and understand what you’re planning to say will help tremendously in many different job environments.