Cutting loose with team building during dinner

Many teams find it difficult to make time for bonding and building trust. A work group that acquires shared trust will perform better, so working on team dynamics is vital. But unfortunately, most people’s agendas are jam packed and while team building is important, it often gets pushed aside.

With this in mind, I’m no longer surprised when I hear from clients wanting to know if I have any great ideas for team building during dinner. Whether it’s a local event for your group or part of your annual convention, dinner is always on the agenda. The good news is you can get two things done at once by taking part in team building during dinner.

Why Put Team Building On The Menu?

  • Easy – It’s easy to incorporate team building while you socialize and eat. You can find a DIY activity or you can bring in a professional team building facilitator. Yes, there are limitations to what you can do as a dinner activity since you won’t be able to go white water rafting or rock climbing! But there are still some very effective programs to choose from.
  • Frequent – If you’re part of a small high performing team that really understands the value of frequent team building this is a real win for you. Implementing ideas for team building during dinner will help you meet your goals for doing a  certain amount of team experiences each year.
  • Inclusive – Team building is the thing everybody loves to hate. It either intimidates, alienates or bores people. Even though I’m a professional facilitator, I get it that most people hate team building. So when you create a relaxed social environment around dinner and hopefully a few drinks, you’ll create a better chance for success. You won’t be lining everyone up for some weird scavenger hunt. You’ll be sitting down to share a meal and then get into the weird stuff, ha ha!

5 Ideas For Team Building During Dinner

  1. Peaks and Valleys – This easy DIY team builder is great for starting conversation. In this program, everyone will take turns describing their best work moment and worst work moment of the past month. Or you could make it the past year. People will find resonance with each other because you know that if you’re sharing a tough work moment, co-workers will be able to relate. It provides an opportunity to laugh at the tough memories. It also goes without saying that sharing the good stuff, revisiting those great accomplishments, is motivational.  Make sure each team member decides for themselves what they want to share, without pressure from others.
  2. Improv – Many people get intimidated with improv. However, it doesn’t take too much to break the ice and relax once everyone is warmed up. Improv is highly creative and still one of the best ways to build relationships as you work together at a slightly challenging out of the box task. There are great professionally facilitated improv team building programs. But if you want to organize and lead this yourself, here’s a source to help you plan and facilitate improv well. Some highlights are to emphasize a non-judgmental environment and choose a volunteer to start ahead of time to get the ball rolling. Pulling off a fun improv team builder will boost your confidence and add a lot of fun to any dinner. This can be done while everyone is eating, with groups switching off to perform.
  3. Making Music – Full disclosure; this is what my company does. Our team building events are all music, all the time. But honestly, for a dinner program you can’t beat a music themed program. Music is already an integral part of every social activity, be it a concert, a day at the beach or a sporting event. Through songwriting, you and your team members can create your own musical memories and party like rockstars! We’ve developed dinner team building that is fun and still gets real results. You can start with cocktails and food, then break into teams and write songs about your shared work experience. After more socializing, teams will take to the stage to perform their original songs for each other. Hand out awards, grab dessert and a nightcap and you have the perfect evening. You’ll literally come away from the event singing your own song. This is a program that needs a group of talented professional facilitators, hint hint. 
  4. Story Slams – Story slams are a way for everyone to learn more about each other. Similarly to peaks and valleys, story slams allows everyone to share a bit of their own experience. Through storytelling, you’ll learn something new about your co-workers as they reveal something about themselves they probably wouldn’t ordinarily share. As with improv, you can facilitate a story slam yourself or bring in a professional to lead your group. Here are some DIY tips: Start by providing categories for topics such as work meltdowns, a great or an awful sports experience, a worst or best date or the dream vacation. The possibilities are endless. Good stories always involve a splash of drama and usually a bit of exaggeration. People won’t be bored – typically the stories just get better and better as an evening unfolds. Story slams and songwriting are my two top recommendations for team building during dinner.
  5. Cooking – There are lots of culinary team building programs. In fact, cooking is a staple in the team building world. If your goal is a team building and a meal, cooking could be a great fit. This program feels a lot like the parties you attend in your personal life. Hanging out with people, preparing and sharing a meal is basically just a party. But here’s a caution about planning a cooking event. Make sure you balance the food and drink. I recently spoke with someone who told me they’d never do another team building cooking program because everyone drank so much before they ate that no one could remember much about the evening. Rules are okay – even at parties! Lastly, cooking works best with small groups.

How To Plan A Corporate Dinner

A lot goes in to planning a successful dinner as a corporate event; picking a location, deciding on the menu, and finding entertainment. All of that can easily turn into a whirlwind of stress, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. A crucial point to remember when planning your next gathering is to not over overcomplicate things and stay calm!

Once you’ve settled on a budget, here is how we recommend you start the planning process.

Agenda – Just like with any event, having an itinerary is a necessity. Start with planning out what you would like the night to look like. Write down the event start time, in detail down to closing speeches. Check out the sample agenda below.

5:00 PM – 5:30 PM – Arrival/Cocktail/Networking

5:30 PM – 5:45 PM – Welcoming Speeches

5:45 PM – 6:45 PM – Dinner/Networking

6:45 PM – 7:45 PM – Scheduled Entertainment

7:45 PM – 8:00 PM – Closing Speeches/Dessert

Having an itinerary will help keep the event running smoothly and on time. This will also help you make decisions about locations and entertainment based on the time frame you have available.

Location – Finding the right location for a corporate dinner involves taking a few elements into consideration —  availability, number of people, and type of cuisine. Depending on when you’re trying to make this unforgettable dinner happen, you may have to reach out to a few venues. Depending on group size, you’ll consider restaurants, hotels or entertainment venues.

Knowing the date, how many attendees, and what type of cuisine you want are all details that will help finalize the perfect location.

Menu – When planning a menu giving people less is more. Have you ever looked at an extensive menu and thought to yourself, “how am I going to choose just one thing?” Having too many options makes it hard to make a decision, and you don’t want that during a time sensitive event.

When trying to accommodate a large event, the best thing to do is to have a limited menu. This will make it easier on you, the caterer and all of your guests. Oftentimes, restaurants, hotels or conference centers will already have event menus for you to choose from depending on the size of your group. Dietary restrictions should also be taken into consideration when planning the menu. Your vegetarian, vegan, or gluten free attendees will feel appreciated when you have alternative meal options.

Being selective for your limited menu also includes alcoholic beverages! Having an open bar can be great for cocktails, but maybe select a few local beers and bottles of wine that pair with your entree choices.

So here’s what you need to do. Plan a dinner to discuss your next team building event. A dinner to plan your team building dinner will be a great start and actually…well you know where I’m going with this… that planning dinner is team building in and of itself since you’ll have to come up with ideas, parse through them and pick a winner!

To get your process started, here are some sources for team building inspiration from my previous blogs:

Start Planning Your Team Building Dinners Now

Don’t hesitate to reach out if you have any questions about team dinners, corporate dinners, or have any questions around team building!

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.