All I Do is Win

IMG_2767 I taught a workshop about games for meetings and events at a conference in Ventura last month. That night, at a Hosted Buyer dinner at the Ventura Historical Museum, there was an inter-table competition.

The banquet’s accents featured the logo for Ventura. “It’s an anagram,” someone said. I internally weighed whether or not to chime in and reveal myself as a word nerd and elected to do it. “Actually,” I said, “it’s an ambigram. An anagram is a word scramble. An ambigram has 180 degree rotational symmetry.” I flipped the beer cozy over and the logo still said VENTURA. I added, “They’re featured in one of the books by the guy who wrote The Da Vinci Code.” Dan Brown. Angels and Demons. I didn’t say all that. Big nerd can become too much nerd in a hurry.

Before the dessert course, our impresario for the evening revealed that the five tables would compete for a prize: bottles of locally produced booze. Everyone at my table did a head-swivel to me. “You’re the games guy!” they said. “We should win!” That’s pressure. It’s OK. I’m a game guy. I’m always ready to get in the game.

Our hostess delivered cans of Play-Doh to each table and said we would have to do a re-creation of the logo, and the one that was judged best would win the prize. She put five minutes on the clock. The competition began.

“Who has an idea about how we should approach this?” I said.
A planner at our table said, “Whoever does the V should also do the A, since they’re the same shape. Just make two that are the same.”
“Great idea,” I said.
“And we should do the T first so we know what scale to make the rest of the letters.”
“Great!” I repeated. “Who wants to do the T?”
We gave out cans of Play-Doh to 4 of the teammates. I didn’t touch the Play-Doh, although I did point out that using less than half of the can for each letter would be fine. Not that I don’t like manipulating Play-Doh: I do, but the rest of the team looked like they had it under control. The lady who did the E and the R got a little panicky when she felt she was behind, but I helped smooth out the loopy bits and we were done in plenty of time.

We had so much time, in fact, that I went and made some mischief at another table. Some would call it sabotage. There’s two sides to that story. I couldn’t help myself: our table had a centerpiece that included wicker balls about the size of grapefruits. They didn’t weigh hardly anything. I picked one up and lobbed it – lightly! – in the direction of Table 1. It rolled across their Play-Doh letters. There was a pause. “MYLES!” shouted everyone. Next time take off your name tag before mischief/sabotage. Also, don’t make such tempting centerpieces!

Time’s up. Play-Doh down. I checked out the other teams’ submisisons. One table had mushed a lot of the Play-Doh together so each letter looked kind of tie-dye. Another table did a vertical installation, wrapping the letters around the wine bottle, which was the most creative interpretation. None matched ours for faithfulness of recreation. We had a lot of artistic merit too.

Wisely, the hostess had designated a delegate to adjudicate: the band’s drummer stepped up. Trey, from The Westsiders, looked studiously at every table, and he looked at them right-side up and upside-down. You never saw such shameless flattery, cajoling, elbow-twisting, brown-nosing, grade-grubbing from these events professionals in all your life. I’ve run team building events for sales professionals who sweet-talked an Indiana Jones actor into giving up the entire contents of his gold pouch instead of the TWO that I had instructed him to give each team. And even considering that, this was some of the most rabid competition I ever saw. Poor Trey.

Poor Trey tried to whisper into the hostess’s ear the name of the winning table, but even though she was right next to him she could hardly hear over the catcalls, jeers, accusations of cheating, bribery, arson, plagiarism: deafening! (Great event space though.) Trey’s choice: Table 4. My table.

So what’s the secret to winning? Depends on what you’re trying to win. My team started by making sure everyone’s voice was heard, and then we assigned tasks based on competencies. The results speak for themselves.
We can bring the win to your team too. Call us.


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