Six Useful Pre-Session Event Activities

by | Aug 8, 2019

If you are facilitating a meeting or a corporate event, it is always good to begin with some sort of pre-session activity.

You may think these are unnecessary and waste time, but an interactive and constructive pre-session activity… especially one that is relevant to the upcoming content or participant activities… sets the stage for a successful and productive meeting. Getting participants involved in a fun and easy activity that asks them to interact with one another right away will get them in the mood to work together and problem-solve. If you have timid participants, or you know attendees have not worked together much, these activities can serve as an effective initial step towards creating a cohesive and constructive group. If you want participants to get the most out of your event or meeting, then a quick, well-planned pre-session activity will get your participants in the mood to learn, work together, and fully engage in the meeting’s activities. Detailed below are six easy-to-implement ideas that you can use as a pre-session activities. There are many more out there but these are typically quite effective.

Pre-Event Survey

This can be sent out as an email before the event or used as the pre-session activity itself. It works a little bit better if it’s sent out before the event, but either way, it gives you the tools to learn more about your participants. There are many online programs that you can use (Typeform or Survey Monkey, for example) that let you create cool surveys you can send to participants via an emailed link. You can also send some non-survey questions in an email to participants and just have them reply to you with their answers by a specified date.

If you want to do this as the pre-session activity itself, there are a couple options you can utilize: You can either print the survey on paper and pass it out for participants to complete, or you can provide them with a link to the survey online and have them use their mobile devices to complete it. You can also get them in groups and have them take the survey together as teams. Most importantly, have participants complete the survey before the pre-session time limit is up, then reveal the results and the how the questions pertain to the day’s event.

Find Someone Who…

This is an activity that calls for participants in the room to interact with and learn more about one another. Distribute a sheet that has a list of factual statements that could apply to anyone at the event. Next to each fact is a space to write someone’s name. Participants are then challenged to talk to each person at the event and fill in the appropriate attendee’s name next to each fact. With this activity, they will learn names and a little bit about each person present. For this activity to work best, you will need to know a little bit about each of your participants. If they have taken a pre-event survey, or you know a fact or two about each person attending, craft your information on the activity sheet so that only one person can apply to each listed statement.

Shout Outs

This is an activity that doesn’t require much pre-work and is very quick and easy to accomplish. Play an upbeat song for 5-10 seconds and simultaneously have participants mill about the room in that time. When the music stops, they must partner up immediately with someone nearby and ask each other a list of questions that you provide (you can put them up on a board, project them, or even just tell them the questions). Don’t do more than four questions, and the first one has to have them ask their partner’s name. If there is an odd number, then one group will be a triad. Give pairs one minute to ask and answer the questions, and then call on a few volunteers to share their partner’s response. You can have them do this procedure as many times as time allows and have participants find different partners each time. This method gets participants up, walking around, and interacting with one another. The questions can be crafted in ways that are fun, or even targeted towards your event content.

Two Truths and a Lie

Distribute a note card to each participant. On it, each person writes down two truths and a lie. These can be about themselves or things they have done in their life, or they can be targeted towards your event’s content. When they are finished writing, have participants use the Shout Out milling method detailed above for finding partners. When they get in pairs, have them share their card’s written two truths and a lie with their partner. Their partners must try to guess which of the three statements shared is a lie. Once they are done, have them find another partner and repeat the process if time permits. If you wish, you can have a few participants share with the class which true facts stood out to them the most as an activity debrief.


Targeted Questions

This method does not get participants up and about as much as the previously discussed activities, but it does allow participants to really unpack a topic before your event or meeting starts. Have participants get in evenly-sized table teams or groups and give them one or two open-ended questions to answer as a group. They will have a few minutes to record their answers and elect a group spokesperson to share their thoughts at the end of the allotted work time. When time is up, call on groups to share their answers until all groups have provided their thoughts. You can record key points on a board in front of the group to show how different teams answered the same question. This is a great way to get participants thinking about a specific topic before the event starts and provides you with a jumping-off point for key content. You can repeat this a couple more times with different questions if you want, and you can even quickly switch up group membership. 

High Fives

The High Fives activity is the quickest and easiest way to get people up and about and interacting with one another. It works best with a group of people who know one another, but also can easily get people in the mindset to work with new people. All you have to do is tell all participants to get up and walk around the room while giving high fives to as many other people as they can. When the time is up, you can either have them return to their original seat or sit down where they ended up. Even this simple activity can get people excited to work with new people, since it acts as a quick, non-verbal icebreaker.