“We are never more fully alive, more completely ourselves, or more deeply engrossed in anything than when we are playing.”
As a corporate emcee, you might sometimes be asked to host a game show night for an organization. Game shows are a great way to bring fun and excitement to an event. There are 9 keys to hosting a game show.
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#1. Choose a game people know or one they can learn quickly.
Because participation is your goal, it is important to play a game that everyone already knows or one that is easy for people to learn.
If you choose a game that is too complicated to play, you risk losing the interest and engagement of your attendees. You’ll want to find a game that is popular on television, the internet, radio, et cetera, so the first step is to think about television game shows that you like to watch or play, as well as games that easily bring people together.
I’ll talk more in a moment about some specific examples, but the key is this: You’re looking for a game that is inviting, fun, and one that everyone can enjoy.
#2. Involve as many attendees as possible.
This is absolutely critical, as it goes back to your core role as master of ceremonies. Your job is to include and involve as many attendees in the program as you can.
One of the great things about a game show is that it involves more than one person. Because you want to invite as much participation as you can, it is helpful to choose a game that incorporates the use of teams, rather than just individual players.
This is a great way to include a large number of people as well as foster a fun sense of camaraderie. Personally, I select games for events that will involve as many as 8 to 50 people.
Once you know what game you’re playing, think about ways you can involve as many groups within your audience as possible.
Here’s an example:
Let’s say you’ve been hired to emcee a sales conference for a company.
You can divide members of the sales company into two teams or more according to region, territory, age range, and so forth. Have the teams compete in four rounds until one becomes the winning team.
#3. Lay down the rules before the game begins.
One of the biggest mistakes to avoid as the host of a game show or quiz show is not clearly explaining the rules of the game.
Don’t assume that everyone watches the same classic game shows on reality TV or has played them in the past, even if it’s well-known quiz shows like Final Jeopardy! or The Price is Right.
As the event MC, you’ll want to briefly explain the purpose of the game, how the participants are involved, and what you expect from the audience members.
That’s another key point: look for ways to re-engage the entire audience, not just the participants that will be joining you onstage.
Remember, the game should have rules that are clear and simple to follow so you don’t lose your audience before you’ve finished giving the instructions.
#4. Competition is key – two teams or more.
I create the most fun when I choose a game that encourages as much competition as possible.
You’ll find that most people love to compete. Even those who don’t want to compete onstage love cheering for their team over the opposing team. See how you can create some fun and friendly rivalries within an organization.
A couple of words of caution: Be careful that the competition never makes people feel bad or diminished based on their size or strength or ability to participate.
For example, you might avoid a game like Survivor because it involves strenuous physical activity that may preclude some people from participating.
However, some games may be modified.
You could create “Sales Survivor” and illuminate participants based on how effectively they present a sales pitch for the company. Be prepared to get creative!
#5. Make it fun for the participants AND the audience.
This is perhaps the most crucial point of all.
The key word in “game show” is game. It needs to be fun!
The second word is show, which means it needs to be entertaining.
As I mentioned earlier, competition is key– but try to keep the game from becoming so competitive that it detracts from the fun. Be on the lookout for participants who are taking the whole thing way too seriously.
This often happens with salespeople, but it can happen in any group or organization. Your goal is to bring the fun factor, not give rise to feuds that will linger long after the event is over.
Find ways to get people emotionally, physically, and mentally engaged in the game. And don’t forget your audience! You want to make them feel like active participants, not bored observers.
One of the mistakes I made early in my career as a corporate MC was putting the spotlight on a handful of company VIPS, making the audience feel like they weren’t invited to participate.
#6. Have a VIP or attendee serve as announcer or scorekeeper.
This goes back to involving as many people as possible.
Remember, you’re not the star of the show– you’re the host. If you can involve the head of HR as your announcer or the company COO as the scorekeeper, you can have a lot of fun showcasing them in a co-starring role.
For example, I will be onstage with a handheld mic. I will give the scorekeeper her own handheld mic. Let’s say her name is Julie. Julie will be sitting at the back of the room, and I will shout out to her “Julie, can you give us an update on the score, please?”
She may shout out “The southern region has 500 points, the northern region has 800 points, the eastern region has 1,000 points, and in first place is the western region with a whopping 2,000 points!”
This is a playful way to add to the drama and highlight a fun dynamic between coworkers.
#7. Set the stage with simple props.
You don’t need a Hollywood game show set to produce an exciting game show.
You can use the following to create effective staging:
- music stands
- card tables
- “highboy” tables
- simple pipe and drape setups
Please note that you can also rent game show equipment from companies like gameshowamerica.com, but you generally don’t need to. The key is to invite participants into the platform and give them something to do. Perhaps it’s pushing a buzzer, perhaps it’s ringing a bell, or some other activity that keeps them busy and having fun.
A couple of other logistics to consider:
Make sure you have easy access to the stage, e.g., steps that lead from the front of the audience to the stage.
I prefer to have one handheld microphone that I use to interview participants rather than to have multiple microphones on the stage. Remember, as the event MC, you want to retain control of the proceedings.
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#8. Throw in some surprises.
The first ten minutes or so of a game show can be wildly exciting!
As the audience and participants enter into the fun, you want to be careful that it doesn’t start to feel humdrum after a while. I like to throw in surprises in the following ways:
- Special video greetings that play on the screen
- Unique prizes that are offered
- Increasing the scoring opportunity in a round
- Bringing in a “celebrity guest,” e.g., an employee or key customer to do something onstage
Other surprises can include prizes. Notice that the word “prize” is built into the word “surprise.” When you have a mystery surprise or offer a special gift certificate or dream vacation, you can add drama and excitement to the proceedings.
#9. Add music and visuals.
You can add a lot of pop to your game show by playing game show music. Some of the greatest game show songs of all time are available on Amazon Music, Spotify, and YouTube.
You can add a lot of production value by having upbeat music. Here’s when you want to use music:
- As contestants’ names are announced
- As contestants are walking up onto the stage
- During transitions
- As participants are exiting the stage
- At the beginning and end of the game show itself
Note: Sometimes I will have fun with the AV tech person and say something like “Hey, do we have the special music for Name That Tune?” And he will play the music theme song from The Price is Right. This will get a nice laugh if you handle it correctly.
Similarly, you can also make your game show more exciting and engaging by using visuals.
You can use PowerPoint to show the score during a game or to display a logo that incorporates the name of a company.
Sometimes the internal designers within a company can craft a game show logo that integrates elements of the company logo with the game show logo. For example, I have worked for Insperity a number of times, and I created a game show for them called “Disparity.”
It’s Game Time! – Game Show Ideas
Now that we’ve talked about how to host a game show, let’s talk about the different kinds of games you have to choose from. The following are some examples of popular game shows your audience may know and love:
- Name That Tune
- The Price is Right
- Family Feud
- Minute to Win It
- Hollywood Squares
Name That Tune
This is one of my favorites to present onstage because people love music. The props are minimal, and you can have a ton of fun with them.
Here’s what I do: I preselect about 15 songs using Spotify.
When putting together a playlist, you’ll want to consider the demographics of your audience and choose songs accordingly. You don’t want to pick songs that most of your attendees won’t recognize.
For example, I will choose categories like movie music genres (Rocky, ET, Star Wars, et cetera). You can also go by decades (big hits from the 60s, 70s, 80s, and so forth), or by genre (popular dance, country, hip hop songs, or classic hymns– you get the idea).
The staging is simple for Name That Tune. I have two small stands on the stage and two concierge bells (or desk bells, which can be found at Walmart or Staples for about four dollars). This is a very minimal setup for a high-impact game.
I call up participants with my voiceover assistant: “Representing the southwest division, let’s welcome Hugh Smith!” He runs up and I introduce the other contestant. Music is playing, I’ll have them fist bump, and then I say, “Your category will be holiday hits!”
Once the game begins, I have the AV tech person play the song and then stop it as soon as one of the contestants rings their bell. Remind the audience not to shout out answers.
You can give out points for each correct answer and even deduct points for every wrong answer to amp up the stakes. I like to start at 50 and then go to 100, then 200, all the way up to 500 points.
The thing I love about this game is that you can keep the drama high by making the final round as many points as you want, so either one team or the other team can still win!
Another thing I like about this particular game show is that you can keep calling up new contestants and switching the categories, so it’s a great way to include a lot of people.
For example, if you find you have a group of people in your audience who are in their 60s, you might play well-known hits from The Beatles or The Rolling Stones. Similarly, if you have a lot of millennials or younger people in attendance, you could play Taylor Swift or One Direction.
Whatever music you choose to include, keep in mind that you’ll want to end the show with wonderful, feel-good songs. I have found that playing songs like “YMCA” and “Sweet Caroline” is a fun way to send contestants off on a high note.
The Price is Right
The Price is Right is a fun game show to host because most people have grown up watching the show and it can be physically engaging. You can have the participants spin the fortune wheel and bid on an item and follow the format of the popular show until someone is declared the winner.
Family Feud Game
Or a “Friendly” Feud! You can play around and customize the name of the game show according to the organization that hired you to emcee their event.
Most people are familiar with this popular game show, and it’s an easy way to involve a number of different people within the organization.
You can use a PowerPoint for this game to change the display for each category and mimic Steve Harvey (“Survey says….”) as you reveal the answers.
Minute to Win It
Minute to Win It is always a blast because it’s so much fun to watch participants compete in this game, and all you need is a 60-second timer to build suspense and add an extra element of excitement.
This game is a classic that involves nine people. I used this one for Insperity and they are still talking about it 20 years later!
Here are my final thoughts on game shows.
Remember to avoid anything that might be offensive to your audience. This means no politics. Stay away from religion or anything the audience members might prefer you to skip. The most important things are fun, participation, and engagement. Let the show begin!
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This is an excerpt from Adam Christing‘s forthcoming book, “How To Be A Great Emcee: The A to Z Guide to Hosting Events” by America’s #1 Master of Ceremonies. Follow along as new chapters get posted to this blog category each week.