How to Engage Your Employees

Train-the-Trainer Boot Camp | By: The Bob Pike Group

Starting any meeting or training session with an opener will set the meeting up for success by engaging your audience right away.

A Great Opener Does the Following:

Breaks Distraction. We’re all guilty of showing up to a meeting with our mind on a million other things. An effective opener breaks that distraction and focuses your audience on the content at hand.

Creates Camaraderie. When we’re more comfortable in our environment, we’re more engaged. Openers get people talking to each other, creating a relaxed and friendly environment for learning to take place.

Introduces the Content. Your opener doesn’t have to be directly related to the content of the session, but the best openers lay groundwork for a key concept that the instructor will elaborate on after the activity.

Openers can be used throughout a training session— whether 3 hours long or 3 days—to break up the day, re-energize participants, transition to a new topic, or generate brainstorming. When used in the middle of a session, we call these activities “energizers.” They are especially useful to refocus and reengage participants after lunch or a break, long periods of sitting, or a lecture portion—any time when you feel the energy in the room is low.

On the following page is an example of a good opener to use for annual meetings, or other occasions when attendees have some familiarity with each other but don’t interact on a daily basis. This activity will help break the ice, allow people to refresh their memory of everyone’s name, and create an atmosphere of friendly competition to energize the meeting.

Blanket Drop

• When to Use
This activity is most beneficial after team members have had a chance to socialize amongst themselves. It’s helpful for everyone to know a little bit about each other beforehand.
• Room Setup
This game involves some movement, so make sure there’s enough space to move around.

• Class Type and Size

This exercise can be used in any kind of meeting or training, and with groups from 10-100 participants.

• Time

Allow 5-15 minutes, depending on class size.

• Materials
One blanket or bed sheet

Blanket Drop Method

1. Begin by dividing the class in half. Each half should form a group and then turn to face the opposing group. Leave a few feet of space between the two teams.

2. As the facilitator, recruit a partner to help you hold the blanket. To give everyone an opportunity to participate, we recommend rotating your helper each round.

3. With your partner, raise the sheet to separate the two groups.

4. Instruct each team to choose someone to be their “champion.” The two champions will stand face-to-face on either side of the blanket.

5. Explain that you and your partner will drop the blanket. After it falls, the two champions will compete to see who can shout the other person’s name first.

6. Raise the blanket again and repeat, with each team selecting a new champion for each round.

7. Before starting, briefly summarize the instructions again and ask the teams if they have any questions.


Every opener and energizer should be followied by a short debrief, during which the facilitator leads the group in reflecting on the activity. This is an opportunity to ask questions that help focus the group on the learning points from the activity that can be tied back to the session.

Some questions you can ask after the Blanket Drop activity include:

• What was difficult about the activity? What was easy?

• How does this activity remind us of our daily work?

• Is there any way that we could have altered the game so that we were one cohesive group rather than two competing teams?

• How are you going to tap into the resources and experiences in this room as opposed to treating your fellow team members as “competition”?


The Blanket Drop is a versatile activity that serves equally well as an opener or an energizer. Here are some suggestions for how you can adapt this activity for different groups or points during the session.

• Ask the winners of each round to share something about themselves

• Have champions answer questions about course materials instead

• If used toward the end of a session, have winner share one key takeaway they plan to implement back on the job

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