How To Plan A Team Building Event That Doesn’t Suck

event management Jul 09, 2020

As employees begin heading back to the office you may be tasked with planning a team building event to boost morale after months of working from home. 

Team building events can get a bad rap, so to help you plan an event that doesn’t suck, here are: 

  • Seven factors to consider BEFORE you start planning
  • Popular activities for groups large and small, and 
  • Two ways you can seamlessly incorporate team building activities into larger programs 

What are the main considerations that should be considered when planning a team building event? 

No matter the size of the group, here are seven factors that must be considered BEFORE you start planning your activity: 

1. Who is the audience and what type of activity will they enjoy? (i.e. Not everyone is an athlete and others aren’t artistic)
2. When and where will it be held? Will it be onsite at the office or offsite at an external venue? If offsite, is the venue easily accessible? Will everyone make their own way there or will you need to arrange transportation? 
3. Will it be indoor or outdoor and, if the former, does the weather need to be considered?
4. How long will the activity take? (i.e. Should F&B be a factor in the budget and schedule. If it’s more than 2 hours long and/or during a traditional mealtime the answer to that is yes.)  
5. What is the budget for the event? 
6. Do you want to hire a professional team building provider or are you going to try and DIY it? If you plan to DIY, do you have the resources to plan and deliver it successfully?
7. What is the event aim/objective?

What types of team building activities are popular for large groups? 

A recent trend, in the best way, is philanthropic activities where companies support a local disaster relief, charity or nonprofit. In addition to factoring into their overall Corporate Social Responsibility programs, this allows companies to divide and conquer, allocating departments and teams to strengthen through work within their group while still helping a great cause - not unlike how it should effectively work at the company itself. 

Examples include a clean up, renovating a property, planting gardens etc. While these types of activities need to be a coordinated effort, the organizations that benefit the most typically have a lot of tasks that need to be completed so the larger the pool of volunteers the better. 

More traditional team building activities for larger groups include:

Scavenger hunts or Amazing Race-style events that enable large groups to be broken down into smaller more collaborative teams, and then geographically spread across a city or venue. To ensure an organization's goals/objectives are met, teams should be strategically pre-selected. 

In a similar fashion, activities like trivia and game nights are also great for large groups, especially of the non-athletic variety, still allowing them to get the benefit of smaller, more concentrated teams but without the space required for physical activities. 

If you’re looking for a team building activity that works for audiences of any size in a conference-style setting, interactive African drumming is a great option. Attendees enter a room to the sounds of African drummers in colorful costumes beating vibrant rhythms. They think they’re witnessing an entertainment act until they get to their seat and find a drum. Once everyone is seated, the performers split the room into sections, assign each section a portion of a rhythm or beat, and guide them to play their part. Within minutes, the entire audience is transformed into a percussion orchestra, and feeling uplifted and more connected to one another than ever before.

For larger groups, when is it best to break the group up into smaller numbers? What are some of the best ways to do this? 

I believe all groups should start and end as a whole. To begin, while everyone is together, the host can explain the activity and the organization's goals/objectives and then break the group down into smaller teams. For larger groups, the easiest way to do this is to pre-tag their registration badge and then assign each tag to a specific meeting location within the venue (e.g. those with a green star should meet on the front lawn, those with a yellow circle go to Breakout Room A, etc.) 

Bringing everyone together at the end to share their experiences while they’re hopefully on a high is an opportunity you don’t want to miss. Depending on the activity, a happy hour where individuals can continue mingling with others in a casual, fun setting is a great way to keep the momentum going and encourage even more interaction.

What types of team building activities are popular for small groups? 

Smaller groups tend to go for activities that are more “hands-on” and combined with a meal afterward to keep the party going. The fewer the people, the faster they will typically complete an activity, which can be beneficial for races, but also has a downside because teams are built with time.   

In these cases, selecting a more involved or detailed activity can help ensure your team spends a sufficient amount of time together to enable them to break down barriers and get to know each other outside of the office. Examples include escape rooms, painting classes, cooking classes and wine/whiskey tasting/pairing lessons. Depending on the demographic and group preferences, sporting/activity centers are also popular for smaller groups like go-karting, bowling, laser tag, and trampoline parks. 

Since smaller groups involve fewer people, does that mean they are easier to plan? 

Smaller groups tend to have a higher touchpoint and expectation of individual attention, therefore they are not necessarily any easier to plan. With larger groups, you would typically engage the services of a team building company who manages the delivery of the activity therefore most of your time is spent liaising with them, working with in-house employees to create the teams and managing the more big picture operations/logistics tasks like shuttle transfers, the venue and F&B. Planning for smaller groups is all about the fine detail. There is no room for error as any delays are going to be obvious to the group. The program needs to be delivered seamlessly.

Can team building activities be incorporated into larger event programs? 

Absolutely! Company Kick-Off events are the perfect time to incorporate team building into a larger program. There are typically two ways to do this:

If you're hosting a multi-day event, have all company-wide components delivered by C-Suite on the morning of Day 1. This can include the company's vision, mission and goals for the year ahead as well as any employee-wide company/product training and education. 

After lunch, teams breakout and spend the afternoon focused on departmental goals. Led by senior management, each team learns how they will impact the business and attribute to the wider company vision they heard earlier in the morning. In many cases, employees will have to work on a presentation or project that has to be delivered the following day so once the departmental presentations have concluded, employees should be given time to work on their deliverables, enjoy some downtime and get ready for an evening company-wide event. 

The morning of Day 2 is the perfect time for presentations and then teams should switch gears for an afternoon of strategically planned fun aka a team building activity. 

If kick-off is a single-day affair, the company update still needs to occur first as it sets the tone for the year ahead. After this, teams should definitely still break out to learn about their department’s goals but presentations and deliverables should be removed from the program. The afternoon should be spent enjoying time together as a team still providing enough time for employees to have a little downtime and get ready for the evening events.

Now it's your turn! Tell me about the best or worst team building event you've ever participated in.



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