The way you go about planning a team building event is the most important factor in determining your event’s success. There are many team building options out there and finding a great fit for your organization is vital. There are several key elements that go into finding a fit.  Good preparation is necessary to come away from a team building program with a feeling of satisfaction.

When I get an inquiry from a potential client, my first step is to ask lots of questions. I’m not so much about selling my program to every potential inquiry as I am about learning if a particular client will benefit and find success from my own team building program. Over the course of several years and many clients I’ve assembled a list of expert tips for planning a team building event. I’m sharing this now with the hope that it guides you through a process that can be time consuming and at times counter productive.

Ask The Right Questions

Why? What is your main objective for your team building event? Do you know why you’re willing to invest time to plan, execute and pay for a team program? Critical to success is to understand your foundational objective. Take time to discuss potential team building with your key stakeholders. Perhaps you need to bring people together after a merger or acquisition. Perhaps you’re launching a new initiative and need to get everyone aligned with mission and goals. Perhaps you need to build camaraderie or trust. And if your main objective is simply to have fun, that’s okay too!

Most importantly you need to be able to first understand and then communicate the why. Once you understand your main goal, you can begin to think about specific program options.

Who? There are two who’s here. Who is in your group and who should you hire to facilitate your event?

  • Always start with the first who; your group. Do you have colleagues with physical limitations? If so, you probably won’t want to go on a ropes course or white water rafting. Does your workforce skew young, old or in between? Different age groups have different expectations. While you’ll never make everyone equally happy, it’s important to rule out activities that will turn off a large part of your team from the outset.
  • The second who is your team building facilitator. Who will you find to help you accomplish your goals, provide something accessible to all and challenge you appropriately? Once you understand your ‘why’ and your first ‘who’, you can narrow down your choices when considering who to hire. I’ll give you more specifics once we get through the where and when.

consider the weather when planning a team building eventWhere? Do you need to stay at the office or can you go off campus? Is it 95° outside or winter in Chicago? Maybe you’re at a conference near the beach or in the mountains. All these factors can help you determine the where. For example: don’t plan an extended outdoor activity if you’re in the hot humid south during the middle of the summer. People will wilt and they’ll be distracted. That being said, if you plan a water activity in a hot climate that could be great. You get the idea. Make sure to carefully consider your team building locale.

When? There’s no exact right or wrong time for planning a team building event. But it’s still important to consider general time frames. For example, an accounting firm won’t want to do this during tax season and people in retail shouldn’t plan extra curricular activities during the holiday shopping season. Around July 4th, people are in the mood to check-out and chill, so that’s not optimal either. Think of the flow that your company has and try to plan team building at a time when people will be tuned in and ready.

If your team is having issues with performance, communication or trust you should do some team building as soon as possible. If you need a tune-up don’t worry so much about work flow trends or seasonal trends. Just get it done because a great program will be beneficial.

Pulling It Together To Plan The Best Team Building

Manage Expectations – I’m the first one to tell a potential client that a one time team program won’t drastically change their corporate culture or achieve miracles. However, a well planned team building event can be a strong catalyst for change. It can reinvigorate a stalled initiative and get positive feelings flowing. So there’s value. But don’t expect more than is realistic.

Align Outcomes With Goals – Once you understand your goals, your who, where and when you should begin the search for a program that will fit for you.

If your team members are having trust issues, then the classic trust fall activity may be just what you need. You won’t address specific initiatives here, but you’ll learn to lean on each other and you’ll form tighter bonds.

creative activities are great for team buildingIf you want to bring everyone together to unveil a new initiative, a program that allows you to talk about specifics in a fun environment will be a good fit. With my own team building programs, participants can better assimilate and internalize themes, mission or vision by writing songs together. This activity combines visceral fun, emotion, intellect and a bit of competition. Examples of similar programs include story telling, building with Lego blocks as a metaphor for creating your ideal team, or movie making.

If you want to combine dinner and lots of informal socializing with your team building then a cooking event would be a great fit. This involves team work, creativity and hopefully wine!

There’s not one best team building program out there. And yet you want to come away from your activity feeling like you’ve just had the best experience ever. So remember, properly planning a team building event will greatly increase the odds for success.

You have the right to expect that almost everyone in your group will come away feeling energized, enthused and engaged. With planning this is achievable.


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.