January 18, 2018

Using stories and cheap theatrics at your club meetings

There are lots of ways – other than just covering the business – to make your meeting more interesting and exciting. Using stories and what I’ll call “cheap theatrics” is just one of those. If you’re able to do something that catches peoples’ attention either at the beginning of the meeting, in the middle or at the end, it’s going to make the meeting much more memorable and they’ll be excited about coming again next week to see what you are going to do next.

Dave Kelly - Stories and cheap theatrics

It doesn’t always have to be the club president who leads this activity or makes it happen from the front of the room. You could ask/assign a different club member each week to share a story or come up with a way to entertain your members for a brief moment. Tie the activity to an organization event or theme and you’ve got a winning combination.

Story Time

Everyone responds to good storytelling and if you can find a way to use stories to make your meetings more interesting people will respond to it. With a little research you’ll find there are plenty of resources where you can find good stories to share.

For example you can use stories of success and encouragement from the history of your organization. Or how about short bits of wisdom – like from “God’s Little Book of Instructions for Graduates?” Or you could simply read stories from something like the “Chicken Soup for the Soul” series of books. I even worked with one student leader who would read short children’s stories at the end of a board meeting. It was their way to bring everybody together, finish with a little fun and make a point.

If you can find good stories, funny stories, poignant stories or stories that might relate to an activity or project that your organization is about to undertake, it could be a great way to motivate your members and get more participation.

Cheap Theatrics

If you can find a way to do something that is bold or big or positive that will get a good reaction from your members then I would suggest doing it.

For example, in one of my programs I end with magic trick where I create a fireball from a match. WARNING: If you’re going to do any tricks that involve fire please practice them first. That trick I do I’ve done probably 500 times in my lifetime. I don’t want to get a phone call saying someone burned down the student center because they were doing my magic trick.

If you’re going to try magic start out simple by turning a cane into flowers or something. There’s probably a trick shop somewhere near campus or you can search the Internet for easy to do magic tricks and spring a new one on your members with each meeting.

You can do activities where you create something and get everybody to do it with you – like origami -and they’ll be in wonderment out of just what they can create by folding paper or something. It’s a great way to connect everybody together and get them excited about that meeting and wanting to come to future meetings as well.

One year at a convention we had a “Magic” theme and as each member of our board was introduced they did a trick. Everybody did their own research, no one compared notes and none of the five members introduced duplicated another. The audience loved it and it was a great way to start the meeting and keep everyone’s attention.

As a last resort “stupid people tricks” can be lots of fun and get everyone involved. If you have a stupid trick you can do – and you’re not embarrassed – or some unique and entertaining talent it could be just the thing.

SERIOUS WARNING: Jokes are a challenge because if you’re not good at it jokes can fall flat. You also have to make sure the joke fits the tone of the organization and doesn’t offend anybody. I would be very careful and even steer clear of jokes. There are short humorous stories that would probably work better. Say the wrong thing it could end up on Facebook and in the Twitterverse much to your dismay.

I’ll end with suggesting that whatever you choose to do it should probably be screened by an advisor or someone to make sure it’s not dangerous or offensive and falls within any campus guidelines. Other than that – have fun with it!


Leadership consists of a set of skills, methodologies and ideas that can be taught.

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About the Author: Dave "Gonzo" Kelly (64 Posts)

Dave Kelly is the leading authority on student leadership and community service on college campuses today. As a professional trainer, motivator, and servant leader, Dave is an expert on all aspects of running and leading campus organizations and developing the character of a servant leader. Dave has 20+ years training leaders and advisors from student government associations, campus activities boards and campus clubs of every kind on organizational leadership and community service projects. He has trained students and advisors at more than 150 different colleges and universities and is the national coordinator for the APCA Serves! Initiative by the Association for the Promotion of Campus Activities.

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