Facing this daunting task, how do you go about finding the right type of event and the company that will deliver a high quality team building event? Here are some suggestions to help you make the right choices. That’s right… choices (plural)… because you actually have to make several decisions to insure the perfect event. Here are the three steps:
1. What is your goal for the event? If you are the decision maker, ask yourself, “If this event is great, what will I expect my team to be doing differently? What do I want to change?” If you are not the decision maker ask him/her these questions. The answers often fall in to one of these categories. First, there may be a specific change in team behavior that needs to be addressed. Examples might include integrating two departments or groups that have been merged; working through some communication problem; addressing some change in the workplace that is troubling the team; or any other specific improvement in team functioning. A second common goal is desiring your group to have fun and get a break from the plenary sessions. Finally, it may simply be traditional for your company to have some kind of team building program at your conferences.
2. What is a suitable team building activity? Once you have established the goal for the event, you need to consider the type of activity that addresses the desired outcome. There are three broad types of team building activities:
- Indoor Team Building: If you have serious or complex issues to address, a classroom setting is best. Weather is another consideration. You may just want the group to have fun, but if it’s August in Florida or February in Oregon your team is not going to function well outside
- Outdoor Team Building: If the weather cooperates, it can be refreshing for participants to get outside for an event. Ambient noise, less control of surroundings and the need for visual aids can be limiting factors. However, if the goal is fun, being out and about can help make it happen. I strongly recommend a back-up plan in case the weatherman has a surprise.
- Charity Team Building: A philanthropic bonus adds emotional impact to your event. Many corporations are making a dedicated effort to be socially responsible. Giving back to your community is an excellent way to demonstrate corporate concern for your neighbors.
3. Which company should I trust to meet our goals? Your final decision is deciding which training company can successfully get you where you want to go. With literally millions of options how do you narrow your selections and create a “short list.” Before we cover the specific selection criteria let me show how what we have covered so far can help narrow your search. Let’s assume step 1 has indicated your team needs work on strategic planning. In step 2 you determined a charity-oriented event was important. If you Google “charity team building strategic planning” you would get 2.7 million hits. That is a reduction of over 99%. Your search is still large, but it is much more focused.
Now that you have narrowed the field considerably use the following checklist to make your final decision:
a. Use a consultant or company you have worked with before. Most good training companies have multiple programs. If you liked the last event, ask them if they have a different program to help you reach your new goal.
b. Stick to the first few pages in your Google search. If you are looking to use a new company, stay with the first several pages of Google. The companies with the most Internet traffic will be found there and this implies popularity and satisfaction.
c. Ask them for suggestions as to how they would resolve your problem. Ask each of the selected companies what they propose to meet your needs. Even if you have a specific program in mind, find out what they suggest. This let’s you know if they understand what you are looking for and how they can deliver.
d. Determine if they have worked with companies like yours previously. If your workforce consists of advanced degreed professionals you don’t want a company that usually works with delivery drivers.
e. What business experience have they had? Determine if the trainer you will be assigned has actual business experience. Advanced degrees are nice, but has your trainer ever been a manager?
f. Get a written proposal with the details of how their event flows. Insist on a detailed written proposal. This allows you to compare across companies as to what services are offered at what cost.
g. Contact references. This may seem obvious, but I have sold many programs in the past where the decision was made on how I sounded on the phone. You may find you have hired a company with a great sales force and poor trainers.
h. Have a phone conference with all decision makers “meeting” your top two prospects. This allows your management team to participate in the decision making process. The phone conference allows for questions to be resolved and for everyone to get a feel for how the trainer presents him/herself.
i. Make sure they supply a contract for services that addresses pertinent issues. All quality team building firms provide a contract that delineates who is responsible for what. Having this detail helps prevent confusion later on.