You probably already know, or at least have a gut instinct, about why playing games with a group of people is a good idea. But you may have to deal with a manager, conference organizer, continuing education credits coordinator, or other serious type who needs to be convinced that playful games and a playful attitude will serve a legitimate purpose.
For all the serious, reserved, tentative, grim, somber, critical, scared, and sometimes fun-impaired people you may have to talk into being playing games (including, on occasion, yourself) are some of the major reasons play is important as a communication technique:
Fun sells and games are fun!
Advertisers know this. That’s why you don’t see hundreds of ads for beer presented with pie charts and a guy in a suit standing behind a podium. Preschool teachers know about fun too. You won’t catch them delivering a lecture to three year-olds. In fact, according to The National Institute for Play, all gifted parents, master teachers, and wise executives know that making things fun (and playing games are an easy way to do this) improves your chances of having an impact.
Audiences listen better.
When the message is presented with a unique and fun style folks listen better. Even when the subject material is boring, laughter, play and games can help improve listening and learning. In a study done by Randy Garner, Ph.D. at Sam Houston State University, students were more likely to recall a statistics lecture when it was interjected with jokes and funny stories. Laughter and fun engages audiences, whether they’re students, professionals, or members of your bowling league. And when an audience is engaged, they’re actively listening instead of writing out their grocery lists or playing solitaire on their laptop computer. Needless to say, it is more likely that they’ll actually learn something and remember it longer.
Games and play encourage the audience to be participants in the learning process.
Rather than sitting back and letting an expert do all the work, they become active in learning. Not only does it make it easier for learning the message you’re trying to teach, but this more active learning style may transfer over into other parts of their lives.
When a presentation is fun, your audience may choose to learn more on their own afterward.
Wouldn’t it be great if you left a group of people curious to ﬁnd out more. So curious perhaps, that they went right back to their ofﬁces and Goggled whatever it is you were discussing. Mark Shatz, Ph.D. and Frank LoSchiavo, PhD. have studied humor as a teaching technique for years. They found that when professors used jokes, cartoons, games, and top 10 lists in an online introductory Psych course, their students were more likely to log on to the class website afterward to learn more than when the lecture was presented drier than week-old toast in Phoenix. The same thing can happen to you.
The laughter generated by games helps circulate blood more effectively to all the organs, including the brain.
Since oxygen is carried by the blood, laughing boosts memory, cognition, and a whole host of other fancy brain-related words that basically mean we think better after laughing. And if you think about it, when is a group of people more likely to laugh – when someone in a suit drones on about something or when someone talks about the same thing while wearing a chicken suit and daring the audience to answer questions or playing a game to reinforce their point.
Just as when we were children, playing games together helps us bond and feel we belong to a group.
We’re much more willing to listen to messages, especially messages that might otherwise upset us, when we feel somehow connected both to the messenger and to the rest of the group. In fact, it has been my experience that the more you can get the group to be part of delivering the message itself (e.g., by using a game show format), the more likely it will be accepted. After all, we’re all more likely to believe something if we feel we played a part in its creation.
Playing improves the health of everyone involved.
Physical play provides aerobic conditioning, helps build strength, and improves the immune system. Visual and verbal games improve brain function and memory, and if accompanied by laughter, have all the same beneﬁts as physical play. Studies of play in young mammals, including human children, also shows that play helps us learn to cope with the unexpected, improves resilience, and builds self conﬁdence.
Games also help grown-ups express certain emotions.
Playing games helps adults express things that they usually keep bottled up and hidden away from their coworkers, bosses, customers, clients, etc. Being able to vent hostility, frustration and anger in acceptable and fun ways, not only allows people to move forward, it makes it more likely that in the future they will be part of the solution rather than part of the problem.
Research has shown that a playful spirit and a sense of humor that can be stimulated by games are two of the most important characteristics of highly effective teachers.
Both high school teachers chosen by their students as Teachers of the Year and trainers who receive the highest evaluation responses share these characteristics. From personal experience, I know this is true. The success of my career is based on the fact that my style of presenting messages is rated highly by everyone (even those who were originally afraid of the whole idea).
This should be enough to convince almost anyone that a more playful, fun approach to presenting almost any topic will be effective, memorable, well-evaluated, and possibly have a long term positive impact on how well an audience learns in the future. That’s the name of the game, folks.
The article above is from Are You Playing with Me?by Leigh Anne Jasheway. Read more about her here. Her book is available from Whole Person Associates. Click on cover for more information.
Leigh Anne’s website: www.accidentalcomic.com/