A Lame-Show Game Show: The good and the bad of “playing the ‘Feud” as a class exercise

I tried a new exercise with my freelancing class on Thursday. It wasn’t an unmitigated disaster, but there were a few things that I would have done differently that might help you if you wanted to take a shot at this.

The lesson was on what people who hire freelance writers across all disciplines say they MOST wanted from the freelancers they hire. I’d looked through a couple books and about two dozen of the “Top 5 things” listicles that populate the internet to see if I could find any themes. The stuff broke down into three basic categories:

  1. Stuff they wanted to see in the product itself.
  2. Personality traits or personal habits they wanted in people they hire.
  3. Work-product failures or personal habits that made people unworthy of hiring.

So, I built several lists of these, based on what was most common in the lists and books and turned it into a “Family Feud” -style game show. Answers were assigned point values. The team with the most points won 10 extra credit points.

Since we didn’t have a buzzer, we flipped a coin to see who would answer first and decide if they wanted to “play” or “pass.” When someone guessed something wrong, I gave them an “X” like in the show, but wrote it on the board to discuss later in the lesson. The other team could “steal” the bank as was the case in the show after three wrong answers.

As you can see in these photos, they were clearly thrilled to be doing this:

After the “show” was over, we did the lecture and some of what they picked ended up being right on the money, which meant that they had a general sense of what people expected of them as freelancers. The ones they missed seemed obvious to me, but I also was the one who made the questions.

In the post-hoc analysis of this event, here are some things that went right and some things that went wrong:


  1. I didn’t try to get cute: I did not do the weird, lecherous Richard Dawson thing of kissing everything that moved, the hyperactive impression of Ray Combs or try to impersonate Steve Harvey, lest I get sent to HR for sensitivity training. I just did “weird me” which was more than enough weird for them.
  2. I incentivized play: They got a little more into it when they realized they were playing for something of value.
  3. I had a singular theme for the event that matched the lesson: This wasn’t a game for a game’s sake. It blended nicely into the rest of what we were doing that day.


  1. The categories weren’t concrete enough: A number of times, students guessed answers that were valid in the broader sense (stuff people want) but didn’t fit the exact theme. For example, they guessed “deadline” multiple times, but it only fit in one of the categories. That told me I didn’t describe what I wanted to see clearly enough to make it work.
  2. We hadn’t touched on the theme yet: It’s hard to guess answers for something you don’t know anything about. Maybe next time, I’d have them scout around online before the class for things that people wanted or hated in regard to freelance hires so they’d have some grounding in this concept. In any case, they had a confusion about them that wasn’t normal in that class.
  3. Practice: I should have worked on my script more and practiced it a few times. I figured I could wing it. I was wrong.
  4. It was damned early: I teach almost exclusively 8 a.m. classes, meaning that in most cases, these people need a defibrillator to stay alive during my lectures. Trying to be  all “Up With People” on them first thing in the morning didn’t work out all that great. In the future, they politely suggested, I might want to do some lecture stuff from 8-9 and then after their usual break, do the game while they’ve had time to caffeinate and come to life.

In the end, it could have been worse, but I know it could have been better. If you have more questions on how I did this, feel free to reach out. If you have suggestions on how to improve it, I’m all ears.

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