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Introducing the Mad Men Online Team-Builder

I’m proud to be ready to offer The Mad Med Online Team-Builder, where your guests click a link, and enter an episode of Mad Men.

These past few weeks, I’ve been obsessed with putting together online program components that tap into our shared narrative experiences.  After creating and hosting close to 200 online events since the pandemic yanked the collective rug out from under us, one thing that gets reinforced over and over again in my events is how powerful a narrative structure can be. Remember, this online medium tends to rob us of the engagement inherent in face to face interaction, the excitement of new surroundings and of course the subtleties of non verbal communication.

Without these elements, guests can easily feel a kind of social vertigo when they suddenly face a screenful of 2D postage stamp video feeds.  Who speaks first? Why does that guy keep interrupting? Is she actually paying attention to what I’m saying of reading an email? It struck me very early on while hosting online social events that I needed to provide my guests with simple “outward focused” social objectives what quickly give everyone on the link a clear social framework of priorities. I give them clear social tasks.

When online guests’ social objectives are part of the event goals, it immediately takes the social burden off the individual attendee. The online event hits the ground running. They know their way forward and don’t have to scramble for small talk and awkward questions about pets, pandemic and pyjama bottoms. The result is lovely conversation tangents as guests suddenly feel comfortable enough to share thoughts that pop up as a bi product of their social tasks.

So, again, these past few weeks I’ve been thinking more and more about how effective it is to use commonly recognized social tasks to open people up to some quality interaction. It occurred to me that the natural extension to this is tapping into shared narrative experiences – stories most of us know and share. Using these as an overlay to an online social networking or team-building event would give my guests the context they need to focus in on social objectives. This idea was particularly on my mind when my wife was watching her favourite re-run episode of Mad Men (“Guy Walks into an Advertising Agency”). “BINGO!”, I said. (I actually say “bingo” a lot). What a perfect narrative overlay for a team-building event. I actually staged Mad Men characters a few times in the Beforetimes for high-profile corporate events, so it was already in my wheelhouse. Even better.

So here’s the general concept:

  • guests click on their links and are greeted by Mad Men characters (top-quality character actors).  Each guest is immediately “recognized” as an employee of Sterling Cooper, Draper Pryce and brought into the world of Mad Men through banter with Joanne, Roger, Peggy and Pete.
  • As guests fall into their roles – it always happens – they learn that it’s a big day for the agency as they get ready to pitch magazine ad ideas to key clients.
  • Plot Obstacle: As we reach a quorum of online attendees, Peggy lets everyone know DON DRAPER IS DRUNK. Just then, the clients arrives (actors). When they hear Don is “indisposed”, they threaten to leave.

What will the creative heroes (your guests) of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce do to save the client and save the day? I’ll tell you in our Zoom meeting!  Drop me a line to arrange a meeting, and I’ll walk you through the rest of the event, and a super fun feature to tag on to the end of it!

A narrative overlay like this offsets the communication limits inherent in online events – it gives guests a social road map and a clear objective. If that sounds limiting, I promise you that it’s the opposite. It’s inside well-made frameworks like this that your guests feel less inhibited and more likely to be themselves. Plus Mad Men makes for an awesome opportunity for costume prizes!

Below are some photos from a few pre-pandemic Mad Men themed events where I first realized how much appeal the theme and era have.