Special Halloween Meeting Ideas
Hopefully you try to have fun themes for your Toastmasters meetings. But how can you go above and beyond that, for special meetings like the one closest to Halloween?
What a great time to get everyone to dress up! This can be especially fun if there is a connection between the speeches and the costumes the speakers wear. Also consider a theme for the costumes (monsters? Historical characters? Characters from classic literature?). A prize can help motivate people as well. Don’t forget to take lots of pictures to share on social media and your website!
Storytelling is a vital speaking skill, one we can all use more practice on. Why not practice a type of storytelling that is unlikely to come up in an ordinary meeting? Consider providing some education on storytelling or telling scary stories (possibly bringing in a guest speaker to teach), and then having people share scary stories. Have a few prepared speeches, or let people practice their skills during Table Topics, giving each one just enough of an idea to get started.
Prepared Murder Mystery
Murder mysteries are popular dinner theater and party games. You might consider doing some research, or even buying a prepackaged game, and then having people prepare in advance, learning their characters and acting them out during the meeting. Of course, the problem is that everyone needs to prepare quite well and in advance of the meeting.
In 2013, I ran a meeting based on the board game Clue. There are many ways to do this. I recruited volunteers for the different characters in advance. Dressing up was easy; Professor Plum wears something purple, Colonel Mustard wears something yellow and so on (we even had colored hats from a party store). We even had props for the different weapons (no real swords or guns, of course!) At the beginning of the meeting we flicked off the lights and “killed” the Toastmaster, who spookily ran the rest of the meeting to uncover her murderer. Everyone that would be doing Table Topics was dealt a more or less even number of cards from the game. Just as in the regular game, a random card was withheld secretly from the room, suspect and weapon sets, those being who did it, where and with what. Each Table Topics speaker only had a few cards; they described what they were doing at the time of the murder (their alibi), making sure to work in any object in their cards. Our audience members had been briefed to this and paid careful attention; afterwards they were allowed to make guesses on the facts of the murder, based on what cards were NOT mentioned. Then we revealed the answer. Of course, this idea could easily be tweaked for smoother gameplay or fewer plot holes!
Mad Libs Murder
In 2014, I helped devise a last-minute plan for a murder mystery meeting. The meeting theme was officially “Scary Stories.” (Another fun approach for a mystery meeting would be to not distribute agendas, or to have agendas with question marks instead of details or blacked out sections—leaving the details of the meeting a mystery).
At the beginning of the meeting, a sheet was passed around the table. This was a standard mad libs list. The sheet instructed each person to fill in the first available line (an adjective, a girl’s name, a body part, and so on) and keep passing it around the table until the list was full.
I gave a “scary story” speech. Before it was over, the lights flicked off. A shot rang out (courtesy of a soundboard app on a smartphone). I dropped to the floor. The lights flicked on, the Toastmaster announcing that there was a MURDER, and everyone was a suspect!
(Remember: most of the members had no idea the meeting was going to be a murder mystery meeting until this point.)
For our Table Topics, the Toastmaster (doubling as Topicsmaster) had a sheet of questions. She called up people randomly (drawing slips of paper with the names of those present on them), and explained why each one had a strong motive to have committed the murder (using the mad libs sheet to fill in some blanks to humorous effect), asking them to tell the story behind that AND to explain why they were not the murderer. The last one was the exception; the last person called IS the murderer, and is called upon to explain why they did it.
Well, that’s how it was supposed to have gone. In practice we had some logistical issues because we were trying to prepare mere moments before the meeting! Also, I think it can be handy to explain what Mad Libs are more clearly; several people wrote their names down on the Mad Libs sheet instead of coming up with suitable words! Feel free to tweak the idea as you like, but I think with just a little more preparation it can be great fun for any club.
Here are the sheets I created and used. Feel free to alter them or come up with your own.
The good members of the Toastmasters International Members Group on LinkedIn have more suggestions as well.