How to Incorporate Meaningful Team-Building into Meetings

By Beth Buehler

Modern team-building has gone way beyond ropes courses and games that make people hide out in their hotel rooms until it’s over. In Colorado, there is an abundance of ways to tap into a destination’s local experiences and scenic surroundings resulting in a large menu of team-building options that are both fun and meaningful.

Instead of going it alone and hoping for the best, work with a venue or supplier that makes team-building both a priority and approaches it strategically. Destination Colorado connected with Jay Irwin, CEO of CBST Adventures, for insights about team-building trends, tips for success and thoughts about how to incorporate what the state offers into activities. With offices in Denver and Summit County, CBST Adventures works with groups meeting in all regions of Colorado from Denver/Boulder and Grand Junction, Vail and Aspen to Telluride, Winter Park and Steamboat and many other cities in between.

“At CBST Adventures, we have gone full on with adding in a higher level of sophistication into our team-building events over the last few years,” Irwin notes. “They continue to be fun, but with a deeper meaning and a theme or guiding light that the teams can take back with them.”

Getting on top of a mountain together is where big things can happen. Jay Irwin, far right.

What kinds of groups are ideal for team-building?   

We like to work with companies that are or aspire to be the best companies to work for. We work with senior leadership teams and also mid-level teams that want to become their very best.

Would you say that number is up or down over past years and why?   

We have seen a huge increase in the past few years. And we’ve also seen a huge number of repeat clients that continue to come back for the success that they see out of their first events.

Which team-building activities are especially popular as Colorado experiences?   

Having adventure-based experiences in Colorado just makes so much sense. Why would you want to do the same thing you could do in Des Moines, Iowa or Peoria, Illinois when you could truly experience the wonder and nature of Colorado and the incredible surroundings and views?

Why is Colorado a great destination for meetings that incorporate team-building?

The transformative power of nature is such an amazing phenomenon. When we bring people into nature and out of their comfort zone, it opens them up to the excitement, engagement and communication that will assist them in being part of high performing teams.

Taking a break from daily routines and exploring the Colorado outdoors is a good first step when going beyond the norm with team-building.

What types of team-building activities does CBST Adventures offer? 

We focus on impactful adventure-based leadership development and team-building events that utilize the science of experiential learning to unlock the true potential of leaders and teams. We offer events like the Lake Dillon Eco-Challenge, River Ventures, Executive Summit Series, Backcountry Skills Challenge and Winter Rescue Challenge events. They are applicable for all fitness levels and team sizes. The challenges are only limited by client budgets and our imaginations.

Team-building activities should be unique and have a specific purpose.

What are a few things that meeting/event planners need to think about when booking team-building activities for their groups?   

Planners should contact us as early as possible so we can incorporate the themes of the conference, the mission and vision of the company, and the values of the team into the activities. As an example, we worked with a group that was focusing on “Reaching Higher Summits,” and we utilized our Wilderness Skills Challenge adventure to incorporate their messaging. It cemented the learning for the teams, and they all agreed it was the most incredible team-building experience that any of them had ever done.

Aerial adventures with Colorado’s sunny backdrop are the new and improved version of ropes courses.

What sizes of groups can you provide team-building for?

We have worked with groups from 6 to 800. Our average group size for most team-building is 57, except for Experiential Leadership Development it’s 24. Experiential Leadership Development definitely incorporates team-building, but we also add in a curriculum and a high-level facilitator to completely match a group’s learning objectives into the adventure-based events that we deliver.

Why is team-building a worthy item to include on a meeting itinerary?   

We have found that the return on investment (ROI) of providing team-building can be immense. When we survey before and after, we see a huge rise in employee engagement, employee retention, alignment of communication and overall employee excitement. It makes no sense to come out to Colorado and not allow the team to work and bond in our incredible environment.

Being “on belay” while rock climbing takes trust and prompts conversation.

How can groups take what they learned in team-building back to the office?   

We make sure that teams set an intention before they start off and bring back a reminder of what they’ve accomplished and how far they’ve come. It’s important that the experiential activities a group participates in are things that will benefit participants when they go back to the office.

One great story was two supervisors for a construction company were doing some rock climbing together, one supporting the other “on belay.” During that experience, they were talking about how neither could take a particular training because they were both too busy. They made a pact to help support the other (as they had while on belay), and the next year they both were able to take the training while the other supported from back in the field. Really powerful connections were made.

Forming a bond during CBST’s Scrabble Scrambler.

Scrabble Scrambler involves strategy and rock climbing.

All photos are courtesy of CBST Adventures.

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