Pick the right activities

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TL;DR recommendations
—Ground your activities in the goals of the session, and the target audience's expectations —How you start your session matters —Balance complexity and simplicity —Pick activities with inclusivity and cultural sensitivity in mind —Be prepared to pivot on the spot and adapt —Different activities serve different purposes: play with variety to your advantage!

The goals of the session, the audience needs and the duration of the session will influence highly the activities you pick.

No matter if you are designing a workshop, a training, or any other type of session, you can consider the following to ensure you are picking the right activities:

  1. How you start the session matters. Choose the right icebreaker and energizer to set the right tone
  2. Variety is your friend: Different activities serve different purposes. You’ll want to look for a mix of thinking and reflection times + sense making through conversations and discussions + opportunities to apply and practice (e.g. role-plays, problem-solving etc).
  3. Balance complexity and simplicity: Activities should be challenging enough to stimulate interest but not so difficult that they frustrate or alienate participants. The complexity should be appropriate for the group's skill level.
  4. Mind the accessibility: Make sure activities are accessible to participants with disabilities, specific tech requirements, extroverts versus introvert, neurodivergent participant, and consider inclusivity to ensure everyone can participate fully and comfortably.
  5. Mind cultural sensitivity: Be mindful of cultural differences that may affect how activities are received and ensure that they are appropriate and respectful to all participants.
  6. Be prepared to pivot: No matter how well you prepare, virtual sessions are often unpredictable. Have backup activities ready and be prepared to adjust on the fly based on participant engagement and feedback. Flexibility is key to a successful facilitation.

🧰 For your toolbox:

We have compiled 25 free resources libraries, toolkits and frameworks you can browse and bookmark to use as an inspiration. Remember, you will always need to adapt them to your session’s goals and target audience.

And you can always browse all the plug-and-play Butter templates here.

Also, in the Resource List above, you will find links to many more activities and tools.

Bonus: Using gamification in your design

Adding gamified elements and game dynamics into your virtual sessions can increase engagement, enhance participants' motivation, boost learning by doing and immersion, and foster collaboration and social interaction.

The choice of gamification tools and methods should align with your workshop's specific goals and your audience's preferences. Prioritize tools and formats that offer user-friendly interfaces, and seamless integration with your workshop format.

Let's explore some practical tips you can follow to start experimenting with games and gamification in tour sesisons.

👉 Tip 1: Have a clear goal or objective

Every game has a specific goal, which creates a sense of purpose for the player. Similarly, gamification should align with your session objectives and enhance the learning experience. Identify specific knowledge or skills participants should acquire, and design game elements accordingly.

👉 Tip 2: Mind the invitation

A key element in gamification is voluntary participation. Use storytelling to craft an attractive invitation, and give participants the option to opt in or out. Skilled facilitators frame games as experiments, or they open up an imaginary circle with different rules than our reality, where participants are invited to step in. Also, ensure the rules of the game are clear from the get go. The limitations created by the game rules usually create a safer space, and set the behavioral expectations for participants, making it easier for them to opt in, by knowing what's expected from them.

👉 Tip 3: Include feedback signals and reward systems

Games create an initial hook through world-building, a quest and a good story, but what keeps players engaged is the sense of progress, and the sense of accomplishment as they improve their skills. Common ways to achieve that are points earning, unlocking achievements, badges, certificates, and so on. Rewards should be aligned with the learning objectives and encourage desired behaviors.

👉 Tip 4: Experiment with low-key formats

One doesn't need to be an expert in gamification and game mechanics to experiment with it. Simple tools like quizzes, polls, puzzles, a breakout rooms treasure hunt, simulations, or small group challenges can we very effective if they support the session goals and purpose. Some popular platforms to design gamified learning experiences are Kahoot!, Quizizz, Genialy, and Gaminar.

📚 For more tips and resources on gamification in learning design, check out these resources:

🧩 Check-out this online course packed with tips and resources from Moe Ash on ramifying learning experiences, and watch the ButterMixer Moe hosted for our community here.

🧩 Listen to this fireside chat with play and creative experts David Gagnon, David Newman and Jennifer Kumer on harnessing play for effective learning.

🧩 Watch this video from The L&D Academy on how you can gamify your training programs.