Team Building Events (and specifically how to choose the best, most appropriate, team building event) for your group or situation can be extremely difficult because of… Hello?! Team Building Event Companies! If you Google “Team Building Events,” you will get results from every type of activity from classroom team training, to charity events, to outdoor scavenger hunts, to ropes courses. You will also get results from non-team building activities but fantastic shared-experiences that can be a fun way for teams to spend time together and can be a fun memorable event, but these types of activities are not really team building events — meaning that the results of the activity will be fun and memorable, but will not actually build teamwork unless the team atmosphere is already pretty high.
So how do you choose the best corporate team building activity?
There are three different, main, genres of team building activities or team events. I have listed them below along with the situations that each will be most appropriate.
1. Small Group Shared Experience Team Activities: These types of activities include any type of shared-experience whose primary purpose is to just let the group have fun with each other. As long as you have a small group and a pretty good atmosphere within the group, these types of activities are fun and very inexpensive. You are only limited by your creativity here, so you can do the old standbys like go bowling play golf (or miniature golf). There are neat places like Dave and Busters where your team can have dinner and play pool or arcade games, etc. You could take a day off and go to a theme park or dinner and a show. Pretty much, any type of fun activity will work here. There are lots of “non-team building” organizations who specialize in these types of events. (When I say “non-team building,” I really just mean that these organizations primarily do some other service as their main revenue stream, and team events are just a side revenue stream for them.) Organizations that specialize in these types of activities include big resort hotels, cooking schools, race tracks (racing schools), theme parks, bowling alleys, etc. Once your group size increases to more than 20 people or so, or if you have a specific challenge within your group that you want to improve like communication challenges, a new team leader, groups that have merged together, or other team issues, these type of team activities can actually be counter productive — so be careful unless you have a small group and a pretty strong team atmosphere already.
2. Classroom Team Building: Many people think classroom=boring, because for most of our lives, if we are in a classroom, we are being bored to death. However, good team building companies and instructors are enthusiastic and fun. Teams who have professional facilitators come in and lead these classroom events can really improve a lot of team building activities in a very short period of time. Since participants learn faster when they are having fun, a group can really get fantastic results and feel like the activities were time well spent. This type of corporate team building event is best for groups where a specific team result is trying to be reached such as if an organization merges with another company, and the leaders are trying to create a new team culture or if leadership has changed and the new leaders want to start fresh. If you are having quarterly meetings or annual meetings at your office or if you have breakout sessions at you annual convention, then these types of events work really well in those types of time slots. You can also have these facilitators come out and do keynote speeches that are fun and funny if you have an open slot at your convention or meeting. Unlike the shared-experience events, very few companies specialize in classroom activities, so they are harder to find. Be careful, because if the company specializes in big events and not seminars or workshops, you can end up with a bunch of rah-rah activities that don’t get you the best results. Try entering “classroom team building” or “classroom team building seminars” into Google, and you should get a nice shortlist of qualified companies.
3. Big Group Shared Experience Team Events: This type of event is very similar to the small group team events above, however they are much, much, much more challenging to pull off. For instance, if you have eight people in your group, you can go to a bowling alley and rent two lanes or have two foursomes at a golf course, and everyone will be active the entire time. However, if you have 100 people, or 1000 people, if you try the same activities, at any given time, a ton of people will be standing around watching (doing nothing and getting bored) unless the facilitators really know what they are doing. So if you have a big group and you want your team to have fun and stay active, this is where you really want to invest in a professional team building company. (Especially if your reputation is on the line.) DO NOT leave this decision to your event planner, by the way. Event planners are very good at getting great deals on hotel rooms, organizing complex events, making sure the food works for the group, etc., but many of them will do whatever it takes to please the customer (you). So if you ask them for a specific team building activity, they will give it to you, even if the event or activity is not the best result for your group. You will get a MUCH better result if you contact the professional team building company yourself, because these professionals will help you pick the absolute most appropriate event for your team. If you are making a mistake, the facilitators will tell you, however if you have an event planner as a go-between, and you are making a mistake, the team facilitator will tell the event planner. The event planner, because he/she wants to please you, will likely just find another company who will do what you want. Typically, you will end up with a group from category number one above. So be very careful when you have a lot on the line with a really big group.
The key to picking the best event for your group is to ask two main questions. Question number one is (1) Are you looking for a specific behavior change? If so, hire a team building company who specializes in classroom team training or hire a good team oriented keynote speaker. The second question is (2) Do you have a big group or a small group? If the group is small and you just want the group to have fun, some money and take everyone bowling. If you have a large group and you just want them to have fun, hire a company that specializes in big charity team building events or fun corporate activities and take charge of the hiring of the company and take their advice into consideration. They will save you a lot of money and make sure the event comes off without a hitch.
Doug Staneart is the founder of The Leader’s Institute Team Building and the inventor