Human bingo

Examples of ‘human bingo’ handouts, tailored for specific events

Examples of ‘human bingo’ handouts, tailored for specific events

This is a great way of getting a group moving, talking and learning more about each other, using questions which are related to the focus of the group or its agenda.

I’ve been using variations of ‘human bingo’ for years. The exercise is lively and energetic, and half the fun for the facilitator is tailoring it precisely to the group. It works best in groups of 10 – 30, and you need space for people to get up and move around to find each other.

How to run the exercise

Each person needs a bingo sheet. There are some examples here. The first example was used for a workshop run by Growing Communities for people who were considering setting up their own organic veggie box scheme. (Lots of them did! See Better Food Traders). The second example was for a group of employees of a large UK house builder, and prompted them gently to think about what makes a sustainable community.

You can come up with your own questions which reflect the likely interests and situation of the participants, and are relevant to the topic.

  • The questions need to be yes / no questions.

  • It needs to be ‘ok’ for someone to answer yes or no to the question – nothing scary or distressing.

I check the questions with the client team, focusing on: is there anything here which might make people cringe, or upset? Are you confident that for every question, there is at least one person in the group who can answer ‘yes’ to it?

Everyone has their own copy of the handout, and the exercise is simply to go around meeting people in the group and finding someone who can answer ‘yes’ to one of the questions. But watch out! They need to find a different name for each box.

You could introduce a competitive element, with a prize for the fasted completed sheet, but this isn’t necessary: it’s the conversations which matter.

If it feels useful and appropriate, you debrief the exercise with the group. You could ask ‘which questions was it easiest to find a ‘yes’ for?’ and ‘which were hardest to find a ‘yes’ for?’, to begin to reflect on some of the content of the event. This debrief is optional.

Why play human bingo?

Introductions of this kind build up a sense of being part of a group, rather than a collection of delegates from organisations, departments or from opposing factions: this is a useful prelude to decision-making. For example committees and steering groups are often formed of people from a range of ‘home’ stakeholder organisations. They need to gel as a group, so that they can put the needs of the project they are steering ahead of their own organisation’s needs. These kinds of exercises help induce a cooperative spirit, bringing ‘the whole person’ into the room.

With very diverse groups, the exercise helps people see both what they have in common, and the different experiences and perspectives which may lead to (valid) differences of view.

Over to you

What are your favourite icebreakers and introductions exercises?

Making the Path by Walking

This post was first published in my Making the Path by Walking newsletter, January 2019. For practical tips on facilitation, organisational change and sustainability to your inbox each month, scroll down to the footer to subscribe.