Tuesday, December 9, 2008 by Dave Blum

Here are my Top Five Clue-writing Tips for creating excellent treasure hunt clues:

1. Use wordplay: I love playing with words when brainstorming scavenger hunt ideas.  Anagrams are great — you can send someone to a statue of Ben Franklin, for example, by writing, “Head to the mixed-up ‘Neb Flanrink seatut”.”   One of my first corporate team building activities, in Golden Gate Park, asked people to find the street of the “breakfast cereal liquid, missing an eye.”  Can you see how you’d get “MLK” Boulevard out of this?

2. Employ puzzles: There are so many great puzzles to choose from when looking for treasure hunt ideas:  crosswords, wordsearches, sudokus, acrostics, jumbles.  Do a survey Online; many puzzles are available for free, with self-generation software.

3. Pursue trivia: Pick a topic you have some passion for, and ask some trivia questions.  Give some of the answers as grayed-out letters, and there’s your secret message.  Our buddy Trent once topped a scavenger hunt list with a wonderful trivia puzzle he wrote about Monty Python, his passion.  Right on Trent!

4. Code it:  Our world is full of languages that make terriffic codes and ciphers.  Why not make a clue using Morse Code, or Braille, or Sign Language?

5. Get physical: Don’t confine your treasure hunt clues to the written word.  I’ve seen clues written on origami swans that you have to fold to read.  One year, my wife Jen and I wrote a clue in Cracker Jack boxes; another year we used Animal Crackers. We get all sorts of treasure hunt ideas from pop culture!

The sky really is the limit in clue writing.  And when it comes to team building exercises, make sure you cater to the different learning styles.  Combine visual clues with kinesthetic.  And don’t neglect audio clues (on CDs for example).  Just Have Fun!

What are the most memorable clues you’ve seen?