12/04/2014 at 1:17 pm #3461RJ MontanoModerator
Picture yourself in a Café.
Can you tell me a bit about the environment during the first bit of time where teens are coming into the location, signing in, eating, etc. before the Café officially “starts” (or before the speaker begins)?
We are trying to drum up ideas on how to make the environment more social, fun, and engaging so that the teens are talking to each other and branching out of their normal group of friends. Icebreakers are tricky because if they aren’t really fun, they will be “lame” and could potentially put a sour taste in the mouths of the audience. The other obstacle is that a group activity is not really possible when students are slowly filtering in.
What is your atmosphere like?12/16/2014 at 6:34 pm #3468Michelle HallKeymaster
We have a sign in table with teen leaders welcoming their peers. I am wondering if the Welcome teens might be able to serve as connectors among the teen participants. If the Welcome folks were the most gregarious and well connected teens, they might be able to serve more as hosts and introducing people to one another and encouraging conversation from the start.12/17/2014 at 1:48 pm #3470Natanya CivjanParticipant
For us, I think that we are gradually changing mindset. I am trying very hard to set an expectation: it is the teen leaders’ role to promote peer-to-peer interactions, introductions, and a fun atmosphere in the time leading up to the Cafe. Currently, that time is very serious with cliques talking and eating, but also many attendees sitting alone, eating, and just waiting for the presentation to start. The teen leaders’ mindset until now is: some people come just for extra credit and some for the time to hang out with friends they already know, and that is how it is. I think that after many discussions we (the youth leadership team and I) are finally on the same page about livening up the pre-Cafe atmosphere, and now they are trying to find ways to facilitate this change. Some ideas that they will try are funny interviews of the attendees and playing games that attendees can join when they arrive. It has been difficult to find ideas that are received positively by the teens– the word “ice breaker,” for instance, makes them cringe– and present the ideas in a way that they accept and act upon. I’d value any suggestions and insight from the wider community.12/17/2014 at 1:58 pm #3471AnonymousInactive
Teens might not necessarily want to talk when they first arrive, but they will usually warm up to each other through non-threatening activities like batting balloons around or throwing a beach ball. The key is to find a simple non-destructive activity that immediately unites the group.12/17/2014 at 8:21 pm #3476Meghan McFailModerator
Creating a lively, interactive atmosphere prior to cafes has been a learning curve in Taos, NM. I can offer some suggestions that teen leaders and I have used to improve on the pre-cafe experience. First, playing music prior to the cafe is helpful. I have one of my teen leaders who is particularly familiar with music create an appropriate playlist. We connect it to the main speakers and turn the volume up loud enough to create a “club” beat but quiet enough to allow for verbal exchange. This season we’ve implemented a photo booth. We’ve gathered silly props, several related to science, and set aside a corner of the room for it. Our media committee takes on the responsibility of taking photos and sharing on FB. It adds levity to the overall experience. Third, and this may sound odd.. one of our speakers this year requested incense to add to his lecture of ecological expeditions in Mongolia. Feedback from attendees was positive and not sought out. I assume many cafes are held in rather stiff atmospheres such as college classrooms and libraries. The teen leaders and I are trying new avenues to alter the atmosphere so it is more relaxed and doesn’t remind students of a typical educational setting. From PR and sales experience I’ve found that stimulating the senses is key. Where possible and appropriate set a party ambiance. Stimulate their senses — visual, auditory, and olfactory. Add color wherever possible — signage, tablecloths, even consider the how the mixture and color of food adds to the look of the table. Pump up the volume, put your most outgoing and social teen(s) at the sign in table and stand back. My teen leaders don’t want their peers to have a lame experience. They know what’s cool — I don’t. If their classmates are coming and their reputation is at stake they’ll go the extra mile. Give them access to the program’s funding, let them make decisions to improve the experience and allow for them to learn from their failures.
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