As most of you that have seen me live at a conference have noticed I use dance a lot to start of a talk or to get the energy moving in the room. The reason I started doing this was actually a man snoring in the audience, just before I was going on stage at the Gamification World Congress in 2014. I basically said to myself, that I wouldn’t have anyone snoring their head off during my talk. At that point in the day, I think everyone had suffered death by powerpoint all the same. Hence me running back to the AV guys and asking could they find the “Happy” song by Pharell Williams in a matter of urgency and put it on when I gave them a sign and off also. I asked the whole audience to stand up, and move along with their devices in the air or their empty hands to the music. It became a great fun and memorable experience for all and I kept up the fun dance to introduce talks at a lot of events.
Now here is the reason why it helps: neurologically it breaks the state of sitting with your mind tuned out to standing, movement and actively engaging your brain in the process. Music stimulates and movements stimulates. For most people it is a leap of faith outside their comfort zone to dance at a business conference, yet it also sets them up to open up their mind for further information.
I used to volunteer at events for motivational speakers and one of the consistent things they did was use a come-back song to anchor coming back into the room with positive upbeat music. Then on stage to bring energy into the room dance was used to have people warm up and feel energised to take in more information. The movements started low down and easy and over the period of warm up they would move from low down to actual known power poses like hands up punching in the air.
This year at the Gamification World Congress (#GWC16) as the host I was adamant about using dance to energise people in between big blocks. We looked for dances that could be learned easily as well as work inside seating rows. We considered salsa or even free movement to modern songs, the organisers also suggested a rather difficult routine based on Justin Timberlake. But because there was two hosts doing the same thing in each auditorium, we had to find a simpler way, hence we settled on the old Macarena. It did originate in Spain and whether you liked the music or not it still allowed us to break it down into five levels with increasing the moves and create a bit of movement and a good laugh at the same time.
From a gamification perspective, looking at breaking state from one to another is a great mechanic, whether you use dance or other mechanics to achieve this. It is a powerful and fun technique to play with.