Get with the programme – to see its value

Teambuilding is back in business – but choose your event wisely

To internet search engines, the word ‘Teambuilding’ means 387m responses. Clearly there is a lot to say on the subject.

For Baby Boomers it may not mean more than a drink at the bar and a fancy term for networking, while for Generation X (those in the 34-54 age group) the connotation may involve an awayday of activity and fun.

For those under the age of 34 the term is more likely to mean something involving an iPad and taking a mix of physical and mental challenges with some a measurable result.

The first point would seem to be, know your demographic and select a programme, and agency to deliver it. The whole process should fit the culture of your company.
Resurgence, ROI and inclusivity.

After some years of belt tightening and the banishment of the idea of fun without demonstrable ROI, economic positivity is growing and teambuilding, in many forms, is back in business.
Such activities done right have been proved by studies to affect problem solving, interpersonal relations and overall team performance.

Received agency wisdom is that good teambuilding works best when participants are away from their comfort zones.

There is, however, an unwritten rule that no individual is challenged so far that they cannot participate and benefit.

A team will likely consist of analytically minded and more physically minded individuals, so the best activity is one that incorporates all members of the team.
As with any corporate event, teambuilding needs to have a positive impact on the bottom line, generating more value than it costs.

Pinning down exactly what you want a team to do differently following a teambuilding event is key. So, if you want your team to listen better to the opinions of colleagues, then your event needs a sequence of listening techniques, appreciative inquiry or such like.

Choosing a venue and destination that fits with the kind of event profile you are running is advisable. Tasks should be appropriate to the setting.
If the idea is to have a shake up and reinvigorate the team, then maybe you should be looking at one of the more physical programmes deep in the countryside. If the challenge is problem-solving in a fast-paced environment, then maybe an urban setting with iPads might be the call.

Full immersion and gamification

The Wildgoose agency says challenges work best when every participant is fully engaged in the process.
The agency tells CN it is crucial the content and theme stretches a team; gets them to communicate with each other; raises the bar on their creativity and brings out their competitive spirit.

A training and development exercise doesn’t mean it can’t also be fun, and Wildgoose is one of the pioneers of using gamification in events.
“Getting the challenge right for each event and each group is key to success,” says Wildgoose. No use blaming the agency for a poor result if it’s the client who has set an impossible or ill thought-out brief.

While some companies may opt to express their values, others are looking for customer insight, or it might be a breakout challenge for a conference where people who don’t usually work together can connect and bond.

Simon Hunter, head of venue and brand at Chelsea FC, worked with Wildgoose to expand his venue’s teambuilding offer and said the collaboration produced fun and memorable content that could be “shared and learnt from for years to come”.

On offer
An idea of what you can do for your money can be seen at Center Parcs, where a Conferences and Events Teambuilding Summer Special Offer of £89pp, including VAT, is valid until 29 September for its sites at Elveden Forest, Longleat Forest and Sherwood Forest.

That offer includes half-day meeting room hire, breakfast rolls, refreshments and a two-course light lunch for delegates, and a choice of one of the following teambuilding activities: Back to School, International Pipeline or Orienteering.

Ryan Gray, head of corporate sales at Center Parcs, says: “Getting time together as a team away from the office is so important. It is where new ideas are born and visions created. We have been focusing particularly closely on teambuilding in an inspiring natural setting.”

Off Limits, off TV
Teambuilding agency, Off Limits corporate events, is reporting its biggest year, with its team doubling in size over the past 12 months and profits up 25%. The agency has identified a resurgence in corporate spending and the return of the corporate away day.

Martin Stephens, Off Limits corporate director, says: “Corporate away days in 2015 are about creating something you can enjoy together. We’re seeing a new type of requirement from clients looking for really rewarding events.”
Another trend is demand for bush craft days, teaching groups how to survive in the wild. Bear Grylls is just one celebrity that has leant a name to a teambuilding product (at five of the De Vere Venues sites).

Other popular TV shows having an effect on corporate events include The Great British Bake Off, which has spawned an Off Limits Bake Off event. There are also away days themed on I’m a Celebrity: Get Me Out of Here! and Stephens adds that films provide great inspiration for themed evenings (superheroes are apparently big now). Stephens says: “Watch out for a big increase in Bond evenings as the premiere of Spectre draws closer!”

Beaumont Estate in Old Windsor also offers Bear Grylls challenges and says bookings for teambuilding events at the hotel has increased by 15% since 2013 and enquiries up by 5% compared to 2014.

Steve Jones, general manager, says: “Client budgets are returning and exciting teambuilding events are back on the agenda. Organisers are looking for engaging, original and fun activities which challenge participants physically, mentally, and emotionally, as well as bonding teams together.”

Jones says organisers can select off the shelf solutions to fit budgets but groups must have a minimum of 20 delegates.

Instant pricing, through a bespoke matrix, allows for each activity to be priced for the numbers required instantaneously, and bespoke company values and objectives can be incorporated into the packages.

You can learn how hot air balloons work at Ellenborough Park near Cheltenham. Learn to assemble the balloon’s ‘bottom end’ (basket and burners) then compete against the clock and colleagues to see who can re-assemble the basket and burners the fastest.

The venue claims it offers the only balloon-related activity available for company away days. Prices start at £55 per person and are based on a minimum of 15 delegates.
Of course, venues will use their own USPs to offer activities that show off their strong suits and if you look hard you will find pretty much any pursuit, hobby, pastime or profession can be incorporated into teambuilding.

Fun in the moment
Research tells us when we have fun in the moment, like children, we are more open to learning. African drumming, archery, tree climbing, learning to be a chocolatier or cocktail mixologist and even human sheep herding are certainly activities that can shed stress and open up the learning chakras!

Butlins is a great British institution where fun was always a focus. Its Meetings & Events team has been steadily increasing revenues and now delegates can don their dancing shoes and line up with former Britain’s Got Talent dance champions, Diversity.

Ashley Banjo, Diversity’s head of choreography, offers classes to build relationships through dance and, ultimately, “to have a laugh with the people you see and work with every day, outside of the sometimes stifled office environment”.

Simon Jones Butlins M&E national sales manager says: “We are always trying to think outside of that box to bring our delegates something new.” Jones says Waitrose, MG, Elizabeth Arden, and Sky News have all done a bit of teambuilding at one of the three coastal resorts, which include Bognor Regis, Skegness, and Minehead.

Brainiacs at Sundial

At Sundial Group there has always been an emphasise on brain as well as brawn in their teambuilding philosophy, and the Teamscapes concept has been developed over years.

Animate from Bluehat Group, meanwhile, has challenged clients to produce a unique digital animation film short.

The advice is to pin down exactly what you want a team to do differently following a teambuilding event. If you want them to allocate work among themselves according to what people do well, your teambuilding may need a MyersBriggs type indicator exercise to identify the preferences of team members.

Return on applause is possibly a more usual, albeit less scientific measure of success.
Hopefully ROI can meet WOO-HOO!




Conference News resides at the heart of the conference industry examining the issues affecting organisers, venues, destinations and suppliers. Published monthly, Conference News features the latest news, interviews and industry analysis from market influencers.

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