By Doug Staneart
If you are looking for a fantastic team building idea or a secret to conducting a great team building event, the best piece of wisdom I have ever come across is the importance of creating and maintaining energy and enthusiasm during the team building activity. Often times, event planners or people who are organizing a convention or annual event will hire a professional team building expert to facilitate some type of team building activity, but if you have a smaller group of people, how can you get the same type of results without breaking your budget? The key is to create a team building activity that does three things. First, the activity has to insert energy into your meeting. Second, you have to facilitate in a way that everyone stays active and involved the entire time. And finally, the activity or event must create some type of emotional response from the participants.
Team Building Events Must Insert Energy into Your Meeting
The easiest way to insert energy into an event or meeting is to get the audience involved in some type of physical activity. The longer that participants are standing around (or worse, sitting down) doing nothing or listening to the facilitator speak, the more bored they will become and the less energy will be in the room. Many facilitators will try to use questions to the audience as a way to get them involved, but this can backfire pretty quickly (especially in a larger group). The reason why is that only one participant at a time will be able to respond, so most everyone else is still just listening. One of my favorite ways to push energy into the team building activity is to use the dividing into teams as a way to get people moving around and communicating. For instance, if you have a huge group of people, instead, planners will often put team numbers on nametags, etc. so that dividing into groups is much easier. Most often, the planner will then number all of the tables so that as participants enter the room, the organizer themselves by table numbers. You can do something similar, though, and insert a lot more energy by hiding the numbers and just letting people know when they enter the room that they can move to any table. Once everyone is in the room, just announce that their first challenge is to find their group, so, “Go find the team mates that have your same number.” The energy in the room erupts immediately, and the group is now more open to doing more activities.
Keep Everyone Involved and Active
Once you have the energy up in the room, you will want to keep everyone involved in the activities in order to keep the energy (and fun) high. This is absolutely the hardest thing to do throughout the entire program, but it is also the most critical. The key to making this happen is to create activities that require the participants to work together. For instance, philanthropic team building is very popular now, and one type of team building event is where participants build bicycles for needy kids. Quite often, organizers will think that the building of the bikes is the most important part of the event, but they mistakenly forget that building bikes (or really doing any type of physical activity) by itself is not much fun. If you just organize your teams into small groups and tell them to build bikes, one or two people in each group will jump in and start putting the pieces together, while the rest stand around and watch. So, at any given moment in the event, two-thirds to three-quarters of all of the people in the room will be standing around doing nothing. Instead, you’ll want to combine activities that involve more people such as adding in some type of task that groups need to complete to earn each part. The key to making this work is to scan the room during the event and look specifically for people watching versus participating. If you have a lot of the former, make sure and add additional tasks to the activity.
Create Some Type of Emotional Response from the Team Activity
Interestingly enough, the type of emotional response doesn’t really matter as much as the presence of the emotion. For instance, in the charity team building event mentioned above, the giving of the bicycle to the kids at the end of the event creates an incredibly emotional and memorable ending to the event. However, sometimes the emotion that facilitators are trying to create is pure competition. A race or a contest can add energy to an event. (Although, this is tricky because competition among teammates can often hamper team building versus building teamwork.) Sometimes, anger and frustration can increase the energy in a surprisingly positive way. For instance, in some team events, the rules are not always known to every participant so as teams keep trying and not succeeding, the frustration builds. But just like any challenging puzzle, once it is conquered, a feeling of pride and satisfaction replaces the frustration.
Think about the old Rubik’s Cube from the 1980’s. That one puzzle caused a lot of frustration, but once people started to solve it, they got fantastic pride out of sharing the “secret” with their friends who were unaware of the solution. Every time the secret was passed from one person to the next that pride of accomplishment passed with it. The same thing can actually happen in a good team building event as well.
Regardless of what type of team building activity you decide on, make sure to focus most of your time on keeping the energy high throughout the event. Use activity to insert energy into your meeting. Organize the activities to try to keep everyone involved all of the time. And finally, create some type of emotional memory during the event so that at the conclusion, participants say, “That was a lot of fun! I’m glad I participated.”
Doug Staneart is the founder of The Leader’s Institute Team Building and the inventor of many world-famous team building events like the Build-A-Bike Charity Team Building event and the Camaraderie Quest High-Tech Scavenger Hunt. His team of expert facilitators conduct events for groups as small as 20 people and as big as 10,000 people. Visit the Team Building Event website for details about his programs.