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By Rachael Cotton, head of trade and corporate sales, Alton Towers Resort

We all know children benefit from learning through play; it starts from the moment they’re born and continues throughout childhood. It’s quite simple: having fun leads to better engagement and better engagement leads to better understanding and learning. To quote the science, during ‘play’, you take in more oxygen and there’s more sensory input. This sees both brain hemispheres communicating with each other, providing the optimum scenario for facilitating learning and mind stimulation.

Learning through play doesn’t and shouldn’t have to stop at childhood. Over the past few years, experiential events have dramatically increased in demand across a wide variety of industries, right through from start-ups and SMEs to large companies. The challenge now faced by those organising events is bringing stimulating, interactive experiences to the meeting and conference room without running the risk of them looking severely out of place or the event losing its credibility.

Aware of this challenge, we commissioned post-graduate business students at Sheffield Hallam University to carry out new research into whether fun is a key influence of successful work related learning. In-line with our “Business with a Twist” approach to conducting corporate events, the research investigated the concept that ‘fun improves learning’ by combining academic theories with organic research. The report highlighted a clear connection between fun and corporate events with 57% of respondents saying they would be able to concentrate more on the work based task or activity in hand if there was an element of fun added.

For event planners looking to increase the appeal of corporate events and for employers wanting to maximise the effect of their events by increasing delegate engagement, a combination of fun and serious learning offers a solution.

Other key findings in the research report revealed that 52% of respondents found standard conferences boring, indicating they would be less receptive and engaged than the 60% of respondents who said they would be more interested in corporate events if there was an element of fun added to the learning process.

The demand for learning through play is present without doubt and already we have noted a decline in clients delivering straightforward presentations and have instead seen growth in workshops involving role play and creative group tasks over the past 12 months. Whilst we’re in a unique position at Alton Towers Resort to have a ready-made solution for group play that is the perfect antidote to stress − a theme park, just minutes away from our conferencing facilities − it is often our team building packages that event organisers opt for to inject an element of fun into their event. Team building games develop communication, coordination, cooperation and team spirit amongst people, pushing them to take risks and be spontaneous. Some of the best feedback from delegates comes from these types of events, where you’re disrupting the accepted norm and injecting the unexpected, or entirely changing the surroundings.

Don’t make the mistake and think that learning through play will cost a small fortune. Think creatively about how you can deliver your event and how you can add in elements of fun throughout the day. Speak to your venue and see what they suggest too. Finally, remember it’s not easy to coordinate having all your staff or delegates together on one day so maximise the time you have and consider combining your event with an activity your attendees will enjoy to keep spirits and engagement high – I can assure you it will pay off.