Fun is something that unfolds on it's own; it's tough to force. Forced fun isn't really fun at all, it's more like mild irritation beneath a fake smile. However, you can take steps to encourage people to loosen up.
When I was an inspirational speaker for a nursing conference, I sat at a table with several party poppers.
The other inspirational speaker engaged the audience with interactive activities and these moody misfits refused to participate. Throughout her motivational talk she tried to engage them but they wouldn't take the bait.
It got me thinking about overall strategies to keep in mind to engage moody people, here are a few:
Remember the Introverts
Sometimes people don't engage because they are introverts and they don't feel comfortable. These guests need to ease into interaction, so start slow. Engage in short interactions that solicit input and discussion and keep building on it. They may not engage in an outward way but that doesn't mean they are not listening.
Work the Room
As the inspirational speaker for the nursing conference, I was also a master of ceremonies for an evening event. We did short interactive icebreakers and blasted fun and inspiring music in between. I walked around the room and engaged certain extroverted audience members, usually laughter would result.
Laughter, music and interaction always forces people out of there own world and into mine.
Penetrate the Wall of Indifference
Some of the same grouchy delegates from the motivational talk the night before were present during my inspirational speech and again refused to engage. Interestingly, they all sat in the same formation- creating a wall of indifference that eminated throughout the room.
Seeing the afront from the front of the room, I knew seperating familiar faces would have been a good idea to diffuse tension.
Tables enlisting a lot of moody self absorbed types sometimes need some outside encouragement. I once recruited convention committee members to visit different tables and highlight some of the interactions at the tables, basically forcing participation.
Inspirational Speaker Event Blog, 4 Types of Conflict.