In this post, I talked about why I like to give toys to my workshop participants to play with.
Today, I'm going to talk about how I use toys and props myself to make workshops more fun and engaging.
Example: Since I frequently have my groups do timed activities like mini-presentations or speed networking, I need to be able to let them know when time is up, or call them back when finished. Here are some toys I use to accomplish this:
1. Cow moo toy. Flip the can over and it makes a mooing sound. A little surprising at first.
2. Tiny maracas. Shake shake shake! Gets their attention every time!
3. Stuffed toy American Goldfinch. This birdy makes an authentic American Goldfinch bird call to get the audience back on track.
When I bought these two-foot-long hand pointers (thanks to Andrew Dlugan for first *pointing* them out), I wasn't even sure what I would do with them.
The first time I took one to a training, the group was sitting around a large table and people couldn't reach some of the materials in the middle. So it was fun to pull out my hand pointer and use it to push papers to the people who couldn't reach them.
I also have a giant pen that I keep tucked away until someone needs to borrow a pen, or until I pass around my newsletter signup sheet.
What's the point of the toys and props? Fun! Just because we're talking about serious or important matters doesn't mean we can't enjoy ourselves a little... or a lot. Laughter is the best way to warm up an audience.
Toys that make sounds, are extra large or extra tiny, or are colorful and playful in some way, will all work to wake up and engage your audience. And remember: keep your prop hidden until you're ready to use it. It's much funnier when the audience is surprised.
You don't have to go crazy with tons of toys. Just bring one or two and see how it goes. Be subtle or be silly. Try it!