Hit songwriter Dave Hiltebrand leads IRI Worldwide through a songwriting session and performance


Every city has a unique personality that influences what it offers to both visitors and it’s local workforce. When we opened our office for Chicago team building programs back in 2013, I was convinced that bringing musical programming to the Windy City would be a good fit. It has been a good fit and our Chicago crew has grown steadily along with our client base.

I’ve also met other Chicago team building facilitators who do great work, offering everything from trapeze programs to sailing, improv and more. Here’s a guide to some of my favorites.

Team Building Favorites

  • Singing the blues and more – Chicago has a rich and dynamic music tradition. It’s the home for urban blues, jazz, and it’s the formative location for many famous pop/rock bands. I think that’s why we get so many requests for our music team building events from organizations planning programs in the Windy City. Both songwriting and performing are highly collaborative, great ways to have fun and build creative confidence.  There are song programs for small teams, large teams, conference sessions and even musical keynote speaking programs. Music brings people together and invites everyone to connect in authentic ways. You’ll have genuine fun as you contribute, share ideas and work toward a memorable group performance. You’ll collectively tap into the power of music while you create and record your original songs.
  • Drumming it up – One of the best things to happen to me when we opened our Chicago office was getting to meet master drummer, John Yost. With John, we created a program that combines our concept of group song with the high energy fun of a drumming program. This is a drumming program that goes beyond just banging on a percussion instrument. Yes, you’ll be able to bang away and have fun! But along the way, you’ll experience a step by step collaborative process that serves as a foundation to improve teamwork, increase motivation and engagement. Everyone gets involved as small sections with percussion instruments and drums learn group parts. Then the different sections join together to create a unified performance. The event models individual contribution, small team work and the power of how your organization can excel when all the parts (teams) come together in a unified and powerful collaborative performance.
  • Cooking something up – You can plan a cooking event any time of year, but when the midwest winter sets in and the temperature drops, a bottle of wine and making a meal becomes one of my favorite Chicago team building programs. The Chopping Block in the Lincoln Square neighborhood offers culinary team building that’s fun and that also strengthens your team’s ability to solve problems and collaborate. After all, you will want to succeed at creating a great meal you all can enjoy.
  • Hanging by a thread – You won’t really be hanging by a thread when you choose The Trapeze School in Chicago for a team building program. But the metaphor is there for risk-taking and challenge, but with a safety net…literally. What could be better than that? This is the kind of team building that matches challenge with accomplishment and helps build trust. This won’t be for every team, but if you can convince your crew to try this, you wont’ regret it.
  • Improv –  World famous Second City Comedy offers wonderful corporate programs. Play with one of the most famous comedy organizations anywhere. Improv and comedy will take you out of your comfort zone and allow you to fine tune collaboration skills and fast thinking. This program would be a great fit for a sales team who wants to work on their pitch. That being said, any group will have fun and find benefit with this activity.

Seasonal Chicago Team Building Programs

  • Finding wind in your sails – The company, Chicago Sailing, offers corporate events that promote teamwork and collaboration with a bit of challenge. You’ll definitely have to work together to sail a boat. Make sure you plan this during warm weather. We recently led one of our music team building programs for a client who had booked the sailing adventure in late October, only to cancel the week before due to windy and cold Chicago weather.
  • Take me out to the ballgame – Is going to a baseball game valid team building? I think it most definitely can be! And it’s especially rewarding when the game is at Chicago’s famed Wrigley Field watching the Cubs. While going to a ball game with your work crew is definitely not the traditional team building event, there’s real value in the bonding that will most definitely occur. Hot dogs and beer, sharing with your peers, creating memories and forging better bonds. What’s wrong with that?

Consider Goals To Help You Decide

The first thing I ask potential clients is to think about why they want to commit resources for team building. Both time and money are valuable so it’s important to understand your goals to help you decide what kind of team building will be a great fit for your organization.

Some groups have members who are intimidated by physical activity and that will rule out strenuous physical activity for team building. If you’re planning a Chicago team building program for January, you probably don’t want to be outside. So narrow your choices by understanding who your group is. And then develop your objectives for your program.

Here’s a list of what clients most typically describe as their goals. They’re all valid and worth considering as you decide what to choose.

  • We just want to have fun
  • We need to mend fences and get back in sync
  • We’re celebrating a successful year
  • We’re planning for the future and need to get everyone aligned on goals and strategy
  • We want an activity that will help us understand our mission and who we are
  • We’re bringing new staff on board and want them to feel part of our already established team

Whatever your goals are, take time to understand them and find a program that fits. And if you think music might work for you, learn more here about our own Chicago team building programs.

About Billy Kirsch

Billy is a Grammy & Emmy nominated, CMA & ACM award winning songwriter with numerous Top 10 hits to his credit. His team building programs and keynote speaking presentations help people tap into their creative abilities to become more innovative and engaged in their work. Clients include Fortune 100 companies and organizations throughout the world.