“So we will see you, or not, in 60 minutes or less. Good luck.” You hear those words, the door locks. What do you do now??
Survey the Room, AKA Take Inventory
Let's change the scenario for a minute. You crash land on a desert island. You have never been there before. You need to know what you have to help you survive. What is the first thing you do? That's right Sherlock, you take a few minutes to size up the situation. Didn't you see that movie? To find the treasure you need the map. To get off the island you need a plan. But before you get the map and the plan, you have to assess what you do have. Take a few minutes to make a checklist of what you have in both tangible items, such as tools, water, matches and the intangible in terms of the skills of the team members you are stranded with. You look around to see what you have got: equipment, food, personnel AND the dangers and obstacles to overcome. Machete - check, rope - check, poisonous viper - aaaagh!
Now take that same approach, that same focused attempt to organize the unfamiliar and transfer it to an Escape Room. Imagine the Escape Room as the same type of thing - with one significant difference (other than the fact that you did not have to crash to get there) - you have a time limit to get out.
What do you do first? Well most people go in with a plan. "We are going to do X, then we will do Y. What is the fastest time anyone has ever escaped?" Then they tell us they are going to get out a minute faster. But once the door closes it becomes every person for his/her self. They start picking up random objects, looking at things on the wall, moving from one bright shiny object (we'll talk about those in another posting) to another. As individuals they notice things, find them even, and may or may not remember it 53 minutes later. But as a group no one takes the inventory. And therein lies the problem.
Look around the room and let everybody know what you find:
Where are the locks?
What type of lock are they? Key? Combination? Numbers or Letters? How many numbers or letters?
Is the way to get out of the room a key or a combination lock or something else entirely?
Are there any impediments in the room - e.g. Monsters, handcuffs, jail cell bars, a glass box with no seeming way to get inside, etc.?
Are there clues or hints that indicate there is a puzzle to solve? What are those things? Are there more in other places?
This is NOT a waste of time, and in fact should take no more than a minute for your group to do. But it can and will save you valuable time later when you are wildly searching for, "What do we do with THIS?"
Answer Key: It isn't until you know what you need to solve, that you can move onto the solving.