team building trends 2021

Put it back the way it was. Ah, if we only could. But, as I’ve been counseling clients for years now, the only thing truly constant is change. Organizations adept at meeting change thrive during periods of uncertainty. And since you’re reading this article about team building trends 2021, you must be part of an organization that wants to thrive!

If your plans for team building went back burner during the pandemic, you’re not alone. When in crisis mode, it’s hard to think about strategic initiatives. But with 2021 upon us, now is the time to make time for strategic planning and work. 

What Was Hot Is Not

The early part of last year was one of our busiest periods ever. Flying across the country delivering our music team building programs was a weekly occurrence. We were rockin’ face to face, in-person events, without a thought of anything else. 

We all know what happened next. Organizations reacted to it differently. Companies who have continued to thrive, or continued to strive to thrive, have adjusted well to living in a virtual world. As you’d imagine, team building trends 2021 are reflective of our new virtual world. Right now and for the foreseeable future, one category of team building activities is hot; virtual. And there’s another trend growing; hybrid events.

Considering it’s only been a year, the quality and variety of virtual team building offerings is sort of astounding. My dad used to say, “necessity is the mother of invention”, and have we ever invented. Companies like mine who specialized in on-site team building had to do a lot of ideating, creating and testing in a very short period of time when the pandemic hit. 

My team’s personal challenge was to create virtual offerings that kept the essence of what makes us unique and good. Free flowing, real time interactivity is a must for us and we managed to bring that to the virtual world. But not just for us – I believe the most successful virtual team building trends in 2021 and beyond offer as close to F2F as possible. 

Hybrid events are just beginning to trend as I write this. And we expect to see more clients planing hybrid events. What are they? I’m glad you asked! Just as you’d expect, they offer programs for virtual attendees and in-person onsite programming too. 

We recently facilitated a virtual program in which some of the participants were together in the same space while some were at their homes. I guess you could consider this another subset, the ‘virtual but you have the opportunity to hang out together option’. The point here is that this sub-set of programs allows you to choose 100% virtual delivery and still encourage in-person gathering where and when it’s appropriate.

Automated, Live Facilitated, A Little of Both – Ideas You Can Use

Live Facilitated but Virtual – My favorite type of programs and a team building trend for 2021 and beyond are virtual events with live facilitators delivered in real time. Team building companies like ours that offer creative, interactive programming have done well at transitioning to virtual but real time events. 

Here are some program ideas

  • Story Slams: A favorite for a while now, story slams are easy to deliver online. Choose an experienced, talented facilitator and you won’t go wrong. Platforms like Zoom work really well for story telling since one person at a time can be the focus of attention. You can spice this up with post story Q&A and competition.
  • Improv: Who doesn’t love a little improv? Actually I used to hate improv, being scared to death of it. But as with most things, it’s all about who is leading the session. There are great improv companies out there delivering virtually and providing a level of comfort for the improv shy like me. Everyone will laugh, engage and learn more about each other. 
  • Team Building Through Song: Yep, that’s us here at Kidbilly Music. Our virtual programs are a great mash up of entertainment, problem solving, team work and performance. We’re with you live (via zoom or your platform of choice) collaborating, and creating in an open mic’d back and forth with your participants. In addition to being designed for everyone to speak in real time, chat and pre-planned Q&A create opportunity for participation from all. We’ve found that our virtual song events really rock; at a level surprising even to us, for online interaction. 
  • Painting Programs: Makes sense, right? Painting is a personal experience so it translates really well to virtual. Again, the key will be hiring an experienced facilitator who has lead corporate groups through these wonderful, creative events. Make sure to plan this ahead of time. You’ll need to make sure the art supplies have arrived at everyone’s home or office before the event. 

Automated – The variety of quality, computer driven team building offerings expanded exponentially in the past year, as you’d expect. These go way beyond the old formulaic online scavenger hunt. 

  • There are programs with space missions that demand teamwork, offer challenge and keep you on the edge of your seat with simulated danger. 
  • There are automated city tours, step by step competitive brain teaser challenges and nicely evolved virtual versions of the popular escape room team building. 

When you’re shopping around for automated virtual programs, you should be able to do a demo to try it out before you purchase the event for your team. If you don’t see a demo on a supplier’s website, ask them to provide one.

Hybrid Conferences – Hybrid events will be the team building trend 2021, into 2022 and beyond. Here’s how the two components will work together. 

  • On-site component: Hybrid events will have convention floors with trade shows, live speakers and social activities. So basically the pre-pandemic convention we’ve all loved and/or hated for years. 
  • Virtual component: People who choose to stay home can see your keynote speakers on a virtual event platform. They can visit a virtual trade show floor and visit virtual vendor booths. Interactive programs, like team building, will happen virtually. Some of these interactive programs may also be offered live and in-person. But interestingly, people who attend the live events, can still take advantage of the virtual offerings. You might sit through a live keynote presentation and tour a trade show floor. But then you’ll go to your hotel room (or poolside on your laptop!) to take part in a virtual team program or to view the dreaded, but compulsory, powerpoint data presentations.

Team building trends 2021 equal choices you couldn’t have even dreamed of in 2020. The variety of programs and the engagement is so good that these trends are here to stay. From here on out, virtual will most likely be a part of every team program experience. 

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.