This team during the 2009 Maryland Driver Instructor Conference was called the Raiders.
Themes enhance the learning process
Building a meeting around a theme can create excitement, build morale, generate anticipation and increase attention spans. The best part is, it doesn’t have to be complicated. Coming up with an appropriate theme for an in-service meeting can be as easy as typing in “theme for event” in any search engine. By using this and other, similar searches, a plethora of ideas will be at your fingertips. The difficulty will be narrowing all of the theme options to just one.
Creating a theme for your next in-service meeting fits in nicely with the principles of andragogy. The employees will enjoy learning in an “adult-oriented, cooperative, non-authoritarian setting and climate,” according to material on Knowles from Gale Virtual Reference Library. With bus operators and assistants participating in theme-related large or small group activities, they will be glad they came and eager to come to the next meeting.
Themes work for conferences, too
In 2003, having a theme for the Maryland Driver Instructor Conference started off as a creative way to get attendees to the workshops on time, ready to participate and learn. Every other summer in Maryland since then, the driver instructors use a different theme to create excitement, build teamwork and have fun.
Once the theme is chosen, a conference program is developed; the program cover helps to visualize the theme. Participants are separated into four or six teams and given a name that captures some component of the theme. Name badges are then created for each participant with his or her name on it as well as his or her group name. Since the participants come to the conference from all over the state, they are mixed together with attendees from different districts to develop new friendships and encourage networking.
A little friendly competition
A group activity takes place on the first night, and subsequent games are planned for the second, third and last day of the conference. Visuals or props are made to help each team see how they are progressing through the conference-long contest.
For the 2005 “Survivor” theme, the winning team was the last one to have at least one of its tiki torches still lit (with a paper flame).
The 2007 “music” theme highlighted popular Motown groups like the Supremes and Temptations. The objective that year was to get enough points to reach the top of a jukebox. Each of the six teams also had platinum, gold and silver records awarded to them after each competition, which were displayed on the teams’ tri-fold boards. On the final day of the conference, each of the six groups got on stage and performed a pre-selected song that the singing group made famous. The rules for the activity only required that the performances be fun, but tasteful. Some groups sang with the music, sang over the music, danced to the music or made up new words for their song.
The 2009 “pirate” theme featured sails made out of burlap, with the team name on the top and a geographic area of Maryland on the bottom. Each map resembled a treasure map, with broken lines marking the path the teams would take through Western, Central and Southern Maryland, as well as the Eastern Shore. The culminating event required each of the four groups to enter two of their members in a “scallywag fashion show.” Each group was awarded points based on the outfits, script, walk and overall presentation.
Why has the planning committee for this conference put a priority on supplementing the customary workshops with theme-related activities and events? By creating and maintaining a safe and welcoming environment, attendees get out of their comfort zone and feel free to share with other attendees their struggles, triumphs and successes.