I stepped away from corporate training for one major reason: It’s boring. Business people often take things wayyyy too seriously, and that is not me. I like to have fun, and I truly believe that most people do too at least before they get drowned in debt or so miserable in their lives that they feel they have to make everyone around them miserable too.

Fun Meetings from the Party Addict

However, I have been fortunate to meet some business people who actually are fun and want their employees to enjoy their jobs.

I recently conducted a training for one such person. I was hired for this job because of my background in corporate training, but also because the director wanted the retreat to be effective. She knows that in order to reach her employees, training should be fun and memorable rather than dry and boring.

When we were working on the planning stages, I suggested my one simple strategy for making events memorable: the element of surprise. Because of the way our brains are wired and our attention spans are shortened, if you want something to be memorable, it has to be surprising.

“So, how do we make a strategic planning session contain the element of surprise,” she asked.

I could see the strain I was causing on her brain, so I immediately calmed her by saying, “It doesn’t have to be extravagant.”

People are hard-wired to freak out when faced with change.

However, incorporating the element of surprise does not have to be extravagant. It can be rather simple.

I asked the director what she thought the employees would be expecting when they came into the meeting.

“Strategic planning,” she said.

I took this a little further for her, “They will be expecting to come in and have someone ask them questions and apply those questions to the planning, right?”

“What are they not expecting?” I asked.

“I don’t know,” she said, “fun?”

“Exactly. They are expecting a normal, boring meeting. They are not expecting it to be fun. That’s the element of surprise.”

It’s that simple. Think about what is expected and do something unexpected.

We wanted the meeting to be productive, so I suggested that we them the entire meeting around things that are fun while also having a strong focus on the purpose.

We used colorful markers. We provided colorful candy to snack on during the meeting. We provided street food for lunch. We got up and took selfie breaks. The group had to go outside and find the perfect spot to take a selfie during their scheduled breaks. Whenever we had made progress, we all stood up and gave ourselves applause with hooping and hollering.

All of these elements took the meeting to another level, and the group was very productive. Later, the director thanked me and expressed how surprised she was that the meeting was so successful just because of these simple things. I reminded her that that’s my job to think outside the box and make sure people have fun and that her job is to do the boring stuff! She said that the employees talked about the meeting for days.

The next time you are in need of an effective training, think about incorporating the element of surprise. It doesn’t have to be difficult. It is actually rather simple. Just remember to think about what people are expecting and try to do the opposite.

If you’d like to hire me to bring some fun to your event, check out my website: https://www.juliestillrolin.com


Disclaimer: Please excuse my pics! I was rushed by the short notice of my inspiration to create this post and did not “stage” them like the Muggles do.

Because I’m a lesbian and half of my family disowned me for such, I have to spend time with my remaining family members at different times for holidays. I have two adorable nieces that remain, so I try to plan things for them that are fun and memorable. (Mostly because I love them, but partly because I know they’ll go back and talk about it to my evil mother and it will drive her mad!)

When my daughter turned 16, she asked for a Harry Potter party, so I decided to put together a feast that included a house sorting ceremony and a visit to Ollivander’s Wand Shoppe. I wanted to be able to give her a great party while still having money in the budget for gifts after buying her a car, so I hit up Pinterest posts for inspiration.

There are so many different posts, which is why I decided to combine mine for the feast here.

Also, it was such a great success that I did it again this year for my niece’s who have just gotten into the series. This one was very last minute and thrown together, but they still loved it! My sister informed me a week later that it’s all they’ve been talking about.

  1. First, I constructed an invitation. I used some card stock paper and a calligraphy pen. Then, I burned the edges on the stove for a little extra authenticity. Be careful not to actually burn the paper. (Don’t be a Weasley!) Just singe it a little for the black edges. For my daughter’s party I actually printed invitations with downloaded authentic fonts, but for this one, I didn’t have time for all that! I even simply drew a crest-mark on the back rather than melting hot wax. When they received the letter in the mail, they excitedly reported to their mom that they had been invited to Hogwarts and inquired at what age she received her letter!

2. Next, I made the wands for the visit to Ollivander’s. I bought these Wilton Bamboo Dowel Rods becauseĀ IĀ didn’t have time to go eat sushi and ask for extra chopsticks! Plus, I plan to use the extras for other projects.

I took hot glue and made the designs. This was a little tricky at first, but once I got the hang of it, it was easy.

TIP: Go thick on the end with the glue and let it dry on each side before adding more. This will help form actual shapes rather than giant blobs on one side.

After the glue dried, I painted the wands with acrylic paint. I made a sign and put the wands in a jar with a battery operated light. (Like I said, please excuse the pic!)

The girls really enjoyed this part!

They immediately went around casting spells and charms.

3. I also made floating candles using toilet paper rolls and tea light candles. These add a little ambiance and a nice touch to the atmosphere.

Feast with floating candles
LED Tealight Candles

To make these, I used Celebrate! Tealight Candles from Wal-mart, hot glue, and white paint. I glued the candles into the toilet paper roll and then made “drippings” down the sides of the rolls.

I hung them using thumbtacks and fishing pole string.

4. Of course you have to have sweets from Honeydukes!

Chocolate Frogs & Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans

I picked up these chocolate frogs & Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans at Party City, but for my daughter’s party, I ordered a mold on Amazon.

5. And, a Platform 9 3/4! I used a sponge, a Dollar Tree table cloth, and brick red colored acrylic paint ($.50). I also used a round piece of cardboard to make the sign. This got torn down before I could take a picture.

6. For the Sorting Ceremony, I found a YouTube video that asked questions and sorted the girls into their proper houses. I did it too and ended up in Slithering!

7. Finally, the feast!

This cost me around $25 altogether. I picked up a whole roasted chicken at Wal-Mart, egg noodles, a jar of Alfredo sauce, cheese, canned croissant rolls, & brussels sprouts. I knew the egg noodles would be a hit with the young ones. They didn’t touch the green stuff!

Although it was thrown together and last minute, I think it turned out rather nice!