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Blackout Bingo for Priming Participants

In this post, we'll have a look at why and how to use Blackout Bingo to prime learners for new information to come.

Why Use Blackout Bingo?

How do you prepare workshop participants for important information to come? A common way to prepare participants is to take them through an agenda on a slide or flipchart. So, you’ve welcomed people and blah-ed your way through the agenda. How involved were your participants while they sat there and listened to your blahs passively? Once they've listened, did any of it resonate with them? Who knows? Did they engage with the content and make it their own? There’s an outside possibility.

Another way to prepare participants is to provide a handout. You distribute the handout while giving a spoken overview of why the handout is important. Perhaps you even ask the participants to flag certain pages and they do just that. Or maybe they didn’t. Rather than pay attention to you, they totally ignored everything you were saying as they flicked their way through the handout. Maybe they flicked through the handout and thought, “I can go back to sleep now.”

What’s the problem with these 2 scenarios? While you as a trainer are active, the participants are passive. Undeniably, there’s nothing in these 2 approaches which turns the passive listener into an active participant. How can we fix that? Blackout Bingo is one way.

Using Blackout Bingo

A popular activity we use in Sharon Bowman‘s Training from the BACK of the Room! classes is “Blackout Bingo”. You can read Blackout Bingo in Sharon’s books The Ten-Minute Trainer (pp 128) or Using Brain Science To Make Training Stick (pp 225), however we’ll have a look at it here too.

What is Blackout Bingo?

The game of Bingo is a popular in many countries around the world, so it is hopefully familiar to you as a concept. Briefly, Wikipedia describes Bingo as “a game of probability in which players mark off numbers on cards as the numbers are drawn randomly by a caller, the winner being the first person to mark off all their numbers.”

Blackout Bingo uses this same idea, but rather than using numbers, it uses important concepts that will be covered in the workshop session.

How to Play

So let's look at how Blackout Bingo works …


  • A standard size piece of paper (A4 or Letter) per participant
  • Marker pen per participant
  • List of concepts on slide or flip chart
  • (Optional) Prize per participant


To play Blackout Bingo, follow these steps:

  1. Hold up a piece of paper and ask participants to copy you.
  2. Fold the piece of paper lengthways along its centre and wait for the participants to do the same.
  3. Fold the piece of paper widthways along its centre and wait for the participants to do the same.
  4. Fold the piece of paper one more time. You should have a small square of folded paper. Wait for the participants to do the same.
  5. Open the paper to reveal the sheet with is separated by folds into 8 boxes.
  6. Invite the participants to draw lines over the folds to divide the sheet up into 8. (see image below)
  7. Explain that you are going to be playing a game of Blackout Bingo over the next little while.
  8. Tell them that in a moment, you will show a list of concepts that you’d like the participants to review and select the 8 that sound most interesting.
  9. They will then write each of these down on their sheet of paper. 1 concept per box. This means that each learner’s Blackout Bingo sheet will be different from the others.
  10. Tell them that as the session progresses, the first time that you mention a concept on their “bingo card”, they should cross the concept out.
  11. Once they have crossed out all 8 of their concepts, they wave their sheet in the air and shout “Bingo!” (Demonstrate this as explaining it). Highlight that it doesn’t matter what is happening at that moment, they just shout out.
  12. Ask the participants to demonstrate this back to you – if they don’t do it with much energy, joke with them about it and invite them to try again with a little more enthusiasm!
  13. Say that when someone shouts “Bingo!” then everyone should give a round of applause. If you have some prizes to hand out, then let participants know that they will then come to you to receive their prize.
  14. Reveal the concept list and ask the participants to review them and choose the 8 that sound most interesting and write those down on their bingo sheets.
  15. Check everyone has their Blackout Bingo sheet filled in and continue with the session.
  16. Wait for the inevitable shouts of “Bingo!” Be sure to pause for applause and prize-giving!
Making a Blackout Bingo Card
Steps to make a Blackout Bingo “Card”


I hope you can see how Blackout Bingo piques the interest and curiosity of participants. The activity “primes” learners for the learning to come by inviting them to review the content list and then to decide what concepts sound most important to them. Participants chose and write down their most important concepts. As a result, participants pay greater attention to what is being discussed in case one of their concepts is mentioned. The bonus prize for everyone? Blackout Bingo is a lot of fun!

Find Out More

For variations on Blackout Bingo look at Sharon Bowman's books The Ten-Minute Trainer or Using Brain Science To Make Training Stick.

Alternatively, you can read more about Blackout Bingo in this PDF article from the Free Articles area of Sharon's website: Drawing a Blank.

If you would like to learn more, consider attending one of our Training from the BACK of the Room Practitioner Courses.

Thanks to Sharon Bowman for providing improvement suggestions for the instructions and conclusion.

Further Reading

More about Training from the BACK of the Room!

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