How to Avoid a Team-Building Nightmare

How to Avoid a Team-Building Nightmare


You’ve been given the challenge of planning the next big company event. The location is booked, the agenda is set and the meals are selected. You just have one more decision to make.

What will be the perfect team experience to top everything off? This can be a frustrating situation to have to deal with as there are so many options to choose from. Teambuilding programs, keynote speakers, guided city tours, golf – how can you be confident that you’ll make the right choice? If you get this right, you’ll be celebrated for finding a unique way to get the participants interacting and experiencing something memorable and meaningful. If you get it wrong, you’ll be blamed for wasting people’s time, making them feel uncomfortable, or not being original. It’s a make-it-or-break-it decision for your event. Rest assured that by getting the answers to two crucial questions, you’ll have all the information you need to make a confident and winning decision.


There is wide array of team experiences to choose from and each one falls on a different place along the spectrum of being active vs. inactive. It’s crucial for you to find out the expectations of your group when it comes to the activity level of their team experience, as it will determine if your event is appropriate or inappropriate, and ultimately, loved or loathed.

For some groups, getting outdoors and tackling a high-ropes course would be the best thing imaginable, resulting in team bonding and lots of high-fives. For another group, that exact same high-ropes experience could be way beyond their comfort zones and ability levels, leaving participants embarrassed and frustrated at you for putting them in such an awkward situation.


Learning and fun don’t have to be an either/or option, and many team experiences will deliver on both fronts. However, it’s crucial for you to know what is the highest objective for your group when it comes to these two options, as this will determine the type and tone of event you need to arrange in order for everyone to feel satisfied. An interactive classroom experience where participants learn relevant business theory and then apply it to their unique organization could be the exact thing your group needs to foster team alignment and collaboration. As a result, they’ll leave optimistic and appreciative of time well spent. To another group the exact same classroom experience could be viewed as a snooze-fest, making people feel annoyed for being robbed of their “fun-time.”


Once you have the answers to these two crucial questions, you will immediately begin to gain clarity on the type of team experience that will be appropriate for your group. You can see on the team event matrix where a variety of popular options fit:

LOW ACTIVITY / HIGH FUN • Plan a stand up reception with appetizers and drinks and time to socialize. • Give the group free time but encourage them to take part in some planned events such as a wine tour, spa experience, city tour or theater performance

HIGH ACTIVITY / HIGH FUN • Explore fun and “gamey” team challenges such as mini-olympics or a scavenger hunt. These are often offered in-house at hotels and resorts. • Organize sporting event such as bowling tournament, softball game or 9 holes of golf

LOW ACTIVITY / HIGH LEARNING • Arrange for a dynamic keynote speaker • Bring in a facilitator/trainer to lead a leadership development workshop around topics such as personality types, relevant business models, or work/life balance.

HIGH ACTIVITY / HIGH LEARNING • Explore outdoor adventure options such as a high-ropes course or paddling, where participants are learning new skills. • Arrange for an experiential team-building session so the group can learn new skills while being interactive and having fun.

THE PERFECT TEAM EVENT : Choosing the perfect team experience will be the icing on the cake for your next corporate event. Long after people have forgotten about what they had for dinner or what they heard in the meetings, they’ll remember the unique experience that they shared with their team. They’ll rave about the experience to their friends, they’ll share pictures on social media, and they’ll remember and respect you for being the person who totally delivered in finding the exact thing that the group needed. Finding the right team experience for your group is a hard thing to be responsible for, however, taking the time to find out the answers to two crucial questions will give you what you need to make a clear and confident decision, and ultimately, deliver an enjoyable and unforgettable event.

Tim Arnold

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