Recreational Trivia vs. Facilitated Trivia Team Building – Is There a Difference?

Recreational trivia is a lot of fun and it brings teams together. Here is how trivia can also be used for team building.

Recreational Trivia vs. Facilitated Trivia Team Building

by David Jacobson, Founder/Producer, TrivWorks

As anybody who has ever been assigned the task knows, there is usually very little guidance when it comes to planning corporate team building. The directive typically comes down from on high to “do something as a team”, and it can be for any number of reasons: to boost morale, as an annual tradition, or simply “just because.”

Regardless of why, the fact is it’s now your job to put something together. If your experience is like most others, this probably means you’re left wondering: what the HECK am I supposed to do??!

It’s no secret that the term “team building” has a negative stigma attached to it – utter those words to any group, and you will see a noticeable slouch as they envision a long and dreary day of cheesy activities and forced enthusiasm, all in the name of group bonding. Even though I produce corporate team building and live trivia events in New York City (NYC) for a living, I hate the term. As such, for the planner it can seem far more appealing to try and fulfil the “team building” request by planning a fun yet unstructured, strictly recreational activity. This can run the gamut from taking everybody bowling or to the local pub, right up to a baseball game, whitewater rafting or a Broadway show.

At it’s core, such recreational activities are absolutely fantastic for team bonding – as far as I’m concerned, anything which creates a positive shared experience is going to be both highly appreciated and fondly remembered by the group, giving your team a well-deserved reward.

It all comes back to your goals and objectives. If you are simply looking to take a group of hard-working staff out and show them a good time, then a recreational activity is going to work perfectly. However, this is a one-size-fits-all solution; what if your unique situation requires something a bit more?

What if, like so many other companies in the current economy, you have recently undergone a round of layoffs? Are the people still working with you now doing their jobs as well as somebody else’s, for little to no additional compensation? What if you’ve been through a merger and you are facing the challenge of bringing 2 separate teams together? Do you now have a raging culture issue on your hands as you try to merge 2 corporate cultures? Is morale heading south? Has there been an increase in inter-departmental friction? Has there been a recent loss of a company founder or key executive, which has thrown everything up in the air?

How then, can  structured & facilitated “team building ” improve upon this?

Live Trivia Events vs. Trivia Team Building

A good example of the difference between recreational events and facilitated team building is the trivia events my company produces. There are times when a client simply wants to do “something fun” for a group, and not go beyond that; in this case, we can craft a trivia entertainment event which is designed to be just that – fun. In some cases, they don’t even want a “professional” element at all, and simply want to recreate a traditional pub quiz setting.

On the other hand, if a company has specific team challenges which they would like addressed, we will work with them intensely throughout every phase of the event process: customizing appropriate and trivia questions specific to those goals and the attendees, ensuring that the entire group is broken down into teams which are in line with those goals, and facilitating any team building elements through the course of a high-energy trivia contest, which is designed to get diverse groups to work more effectively together in a short period of time.

As Anne Thornley-Brown of Executive Oasis International has stressed many times on this blog, setting the business context and links to team realities before the trivia exercises, debriefing and business application exercises after the trivia, are important ingredients to transform a interactive and engaging game into “real” team building.

There are so many different dynamics when it comes to teams; in order to truly identify and address your company’s unique challenges and team building goals, it will take a professional with the experience and expertise to provide ongoing counsel on every aspect of the initiative – development, execution and follow-up.

If you truly wish to select the most appropriate approach for your group, it is first necessary to ask the question: why are we doing this in the first place? The answer will help you determine whether an informal recreational activity or facilitated team building event is the right way to go.


David Jacobson, Owner/Producer, TrivWorksDavid Jacobson is the founder of TrivWorks™ @TrivWorks, a New York City-based corporate entertainment and team building company specializing in customized live  trivia events. A veteran event planner/team building professional with over 10 years’ experience, David is regarded as a leading national expert in using live trivia for team building, having produced over 500 public and private trivia events.

A prolific blogger with a passion for creating memorable experiences, David holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Tufts University, a master’s degree in music & entertainment business from New York University, and a graduate certificate in professional organizational leadership from Columbia University.

Follow TrivWorks on Facebook.

Photo Credits: Super Duper Photographic

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