How to Run Your Own Team-Building Exercises

By Beth Buehler 

Team-building provides an important time to rally the troops, engage conversation and connection, and facilitate fun or community service outside of meeting time. There is team-building you can plan on your own, and then there is team-building that is best left to the experts such as destination management companies, companies such CBST Adventures, and attractions like Colorado Adventure Center’s new Colorado Sky Trek aerial adventure park in Idaho Springs.    

Colorado Adventure Center’s new Colorado Sky Trek aerial adventure park in Idaho Springs. Courtesy Colorado Adventure Center.

So what kinds of group team-building can be successfully managed on your own? Here are some ideas and tips about how to get started. 

What are you trying to accomplish? – This is the first question that needs to be addressed. Discuss with other members of your meeting planning committee or the person who assigned you the task of organizing a meeting or event. Is it an icebreaker activity, an exercise to help unify a team, a community service initiative, a way to reinforce the main points of the meeting or a company’s brand, or simply an opportunity to take a meeting outside or off-site with a purpose? 

Know your attendees – Before going too far in researching and thinking about options, it is vital to keep attendees in mind. Do you have a group of engineers, a sales team or a bunch of creatives to please? Also, what are the age ranges, interests, and appetite for adventure? What have they liked in the past and how well does your group know each other? How many people will be participating?  

Know your attendees to cater team-building that could even involve a visit from a school mascot like Chip. Courtesy University of Colorado Boulder Conference Services.

Involve others in the planning – It can be helpful when deciding on team-building activities, taking care of the action steps, making sure the activity goes off without a hitch and getting buy-in from the group. Perhaps have one person from each department or division of your company or association be on a committee or ask for volunteers. If a short team-building activity is part of each day of a three-day meeting, have three departments come up with activity and make it happen. But make sure it goes through the necessary channels to ensure it’s appropriate, doable and ties into the whole “what are you trying to accomplish?” and “know your attendees” considerations. Also ask speakers to see if team-building can be built into a presentation.   

It doesn’t have to be complicated – Just doing a quick internet search provides a lot of interesting ideas. One that caught my attention was grab-bag skits, which is kind of like chefs preparing a meal with ingredients they don’t know about in advance. With some simple costumes and other props placed in a bag, this could be a fun idea for groups of four to eight. If there is a nice lawn at the hotel or venue you booked, have an outdoor game night or mini Olympics with corn hole, croquet, bocce ball, four square, Frisbees, lawn darts, etc. Then donate all the games to a local school or children’s organization. Office trivia that takes place at each table during lunch also can be effective, or do something larger from the stage and give prizes to the tables that know their stuff.  

When my son and I recently traveled to Arequipa, Peru with a mission team, just taking the time to sit down each morning or evening in the living room of our hostel to discuss what we learned that day and write responses to a few questions in our journals proved effective in building a strong team of three families. 

Utilize local resources – Destination marketing organizations and hotels can be helpful resources for linking groups to local community service opportunities for team-building. Or do your own search for an organization that might tie well into your conference theme or your organization’s purpose or community service focus. 

I like the fact that a conference that I attend annually, the Colorado Governor’s Tourism Conference, is offering a “COmmitted day for Colorado” on Sunday, Oct. 28, 2018, a day before the meeting officially launches at Hotel Talisa in Vail. The Colorado Tourism Office/Leave No Trace Behind is teaming up with the Walking Mountains Science Center for a bike path clean up in partnership with the Town of Vail and restoration work on area hiking trails in partnership with the U.S. Forest Service and Adopt-a-Trail. While these tie into a CTO initiative, they also create goodwill between attendees and could be great team-building options.

Trail work is a great way to build teams and help local communities keep a local resource in great shape. Courtesy Vail Resorts/Jack Affleck.

Some hotels and resorts like Cheyenne Mountain Colorado Springs, A Dolce Resort offer team-building options. At Cheyenne Mountain, planners can choose from a menu of on-site choices like build a canoe, stacked facts (a giant Jenga game relay complete with Colorado trivia), geocaching, and charity challenges that address local needs like assembling wheelchairs for the Wounded Warrior Project, building beehives for the Pikes Peak Bee Keepers Association or sewing and stuffing dog chew toys for the Pikes Peak Humane Society.

Build a Canoe team-building at Cheyenne Mountain Colorado Springs, A Dolce Resort. Courtesy Beth Buehler.

Locate activities conducive to teamwork – Simply booking a venue like the Wild Game Entertainment Experience in Evergreen and Longmont and organizing teams to rotate through bowling, ping-pong, shuffleboard, darts, arcades and more is a fun team-building mixer. Escape rooms also require a good dose of working together to meet a designated time for solving.

Bowling in style at Wild Game Entertainment Experience in Evergreen. Courtesy Wild Game.

These six tips should get you well on the way to planning your own team-building activities that have an impact and create some memorable moments for attendees as well! Again, go to the experts for the more detailed and in-depth team-building. 

Beth Buehler is editor of Colorado Meetings + Events and Mountain Meetings magazines, has planned numerous meetings and events and enjoys exploring Colorado in all seasons.