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How to Not Suck at Planning a Team Building Event

How to Not Suck at Planning a Team Building Event

If your employees roll their eyes every time you mention team building, it’s high time you do something about it.

Team building is one of the most important investments you can make, but lifeless team building activities achieve nothing. Follow these simple steps if you don’t want to suck at planning team building events.

Know Your Audience

If the Office, Mean Girls, or SNL have lampooned your team building ideas, you need to find some new ones.

You cannot come up with a great idea if you don’t know who you are entertaining. Not every team is the same. While one group of workers might enjoy an indoor problem-solving activity, another may prefer something active and outdoorsy.

Planners often get very excited, and that’s key for this to work, but they don’t stop to think, “What’s the group dynamic?”, or even “Who’s in the group?” Not everyone has the same definition of fun.

Also, when they’re out of ideas, some managers think they can’t go wrong with “beer meets.” For most of us, free booze is a great perk, yes, but not persuasive enough, so you should have a theme.

Take the time to find out what kind of activities your employees like, and get creative! The event management company Kevin Rowe shared a story on how Applegreen asked them to help organize a “Lip Sync Battle” for one of their team building events in Ireland.

The company provided coaches to help the Applegreen staff and suppliers prepare for the event. The contestants got to perform on a proper stage with a huge LED screen as a backdrop. A lip sync battle is sure to engage millennial and gen Z employees better than a karaoke night. 

Know What You Want to Achieve

Many offices organize team-building activities just because they think they’re supposed to. Your employees may think it’s a waste of time unless you give your activity a purpose. 

Whether your goal is to repair tense relationships, promote bonding, get employees to meet new people, or practice leadership skills, you need to communicate your goal to your team clearly.

But first, ask yourself, and the management, “Why?” Your course of action greatly depends on the answer. Here are a few potential answers:

  • Morale has started to suffer because the team had to work weekends the whole season.
  • There is a new product launch coming up and the company needs a universal buy-in for everything to go well.
  • A few new members have joined the team.
  • It’s the perfect time to announce a major year-end bonus.
  • New management has introduced big changes, so the employees are fearful.
  • Thanking the employees for breaking a sales record.

The answer will help you determine the right activity, venue, and timing. Once you have this one answered, you need to move on to these questions:

  • Can everyone participate? How inclusive is the activity?
  • Is there a psychological risk? (i.e. potential for anger, conflict, or humiliation)
  • How will you evaluate success?
  • When will the employees want to attend the event?
  • How much time do you need to prepare for the event?

Mix Up the Teams

If you group participants according to the department they belong to, your event may not be any different from a normal day at the office or Friday night after work. You can make your team building event more exciting and interesting by throwing different types of people together and mixing up teams.

You’d want to make sure each group includes a few employees from different departments, so don’t hesitate to assign teams before the event.

You may also let employees choose their own teams, but make it clear that they must choose coworkers from a different department. Your team building event can be much more memorable if people get to hang out with colleagues they’ve only met in passing or via email.

Last-Minute Changes

Team building events that suck the most are the ones that get canceled. And they often get canceled due to poor planning. According to Printroom, it’s a good idea to have a Plan B, and perhaps even a plan C, for every unlikely scenario.

If something goes wrong before the event, postponing will kill the enthusiasm. Mishaps during the even can also kill the mood.

The weather might ruin everything, the entertainment might get canceled, or the power may go out. But with the right backup plan, you can become the office hero that saved the day.

Make sure to prepare for common mishaps like food and beverage shortages and lack of parking. You can also ask the venue about their contingency plans.


Event planning requires an array of true skills. Like with all other proper skills proper skill—practice makes perfect. After each team building event, make sure to ask for feedback.

To find out what you can improve next time, you can send out an anonymous survey. Stick to these essential event planning tips to bring eye-rolls to a minimum.

Brian Brown

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