Team Building is not a Meeting Plus a Social Event

I’ve been noticing a trend for some time that is becoming so common that it will soon be  the order of the day. It’s a new twist on the old theme of substituting recreational events for team building. It goes like this. A company calls and requests team building. With some probing, it turns out that the company:

  • is planning an off-site meeting (with or without an overnight stay)
  • needs help in finding a venue if overnight stays are involved
  • has allocated a few hours for “team building”
  • requires no facilitation….just some “fun”

Often the meeting is not interactive. It involves parking participants in a meeting room and subjecting them to “death by Powerpoint” as  one presenter after another delivers a boring presentation. At the end of the day, after participants are exhausted, there is a short recreational activity and this is supposed to make up for a day of boredom.

I am not sure where companies got the idea that this was team building but this approach is becoming increasingly common.

With companies assigning the budget for “team building” and meetings directly to small work teams rather than to a VP or director’s entity, group sizes are shrinking. As a result, there is sticker shock when the per person cost for recreational activities and event planning is high.

One scenario that sometimes plays out is that, once quotes have been obtained from venues, the company falls off the face of the earth and then books directly with the venue so that they don’t have to pay a fee for event planning. There are a number of venue search portals on the Internet that companies can find by entering “Event Venue Searches” or “restaurant events” into any search engine. So there is no excuse for this. It’s time to cry foul when organizations misrepresent their objectives in order to get team building or event planning firms to do their location scouting for free.

There is nothing wrong with a meeting and a social or recreational event. Sometimes it’s all that a team requires. Care should be exercised to make the meeting interactive and of  real value rather than a snoozefest. Unfortunately, all too often the “meeting + social activity scenario” is yet another example of the trends towards substituting recreational activities for real team building. It’s yet another sign that executives are missing the mark for team building.

For more discussions about how to avoid the common pitfall of substituting recreation for team building, also read: 

Photo Credit: Nate Grigg, Dana

Executive Oasis International Website


For team building that’s enjoyable and that also delivers real value for employees and clients, check out:

Visexecutaries: Apprentice Inspired Team Building

3 thoughts on “Team Building is not a Meeting Plus a Social Event

  1. Lead by Adventure says:

    Anne –

    Great post! It is becoming all too common place for fun activities to replace true team building exercises. These take time and experienced facilitators to do well.

    As you said, there is a time and place for fun, but companies should be more up front about their goals.

    Could more questions on the front end help dig down to the real purpose behind what a company is looking for?

    Will R.
    Lead by Adventure

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