How to Have More Interactive Meetings (When You Don’t Have Time)

Many planners would like to incorporate a team building event into their meetings. After all, people are taking the time to be together away from work, so you should take advantage of this rare opportunity and do what you can to have them interact, get to know each other better and bond as a team.  Unfortunately, a packed agenda often makes it difficult to find the time. Here are some things you can incorporate right into the meeting to create interaction and also help improve the meeting content.

  1. “Group Questions”

A speaker always asks if there are any questions, and sometimes people either can’t think of one or they are too shy to raise their hand and ask. After a speaker has finished his or her presentation, ask each table to talk amongst themselves for a couple of minutes—and come up with at least one question for the speaker. If the group is large and time is sort, just call on a few tables (who really want to ask their questions). Everyone else should write their question(s) on a card and these will be collected and handed to the speaker. These can be addressed later or even in a meeting follow-up. This gets people talking to each other and discussing the content.

  • “Presenter Feedback”

After each presentation, ask each table to write on a 3 x 5 card some concise feedback for the presenter. The two questions they should answer: 1) Would did you like about the presentation?; 2) What could the presenter have done to make it more effective? Presenters should not feel uncomfortable about this. It is done so that we all learn from each experience. Additionally, this gets people at each table to talk to each other about the meeting content.

  • “Common Bonds”

Before the meeting commences tell the participants to introduce themselves to the other people at their table. If seated in classroom or theater style, it is more difficult, but you can still do this. During the first day of meetings, they need to find out one rare or interesting thing that everyone at their table has in common.  The more rare the better. At the end of the day, they have to write this down on a 3 x 5 card—with all their names at the top. The best ones will be picked and read the next day. You can even give a prize to these “teams.”

The idea is that you get people talking to each other. You can see there are simple ways to incorporate it right into your meeting—without having to set aside a substantial period of time. No, it doesn’t take the place of a great team building event, but at least it is more than having people just sit and listen to speaker after speaker—without any interaction among the attendees at all.

Boost Team Performance and Morale- in Minutes

Remember this simple tip and make a big impact.

I had a boss that used to talk about the importance of “Psychic Income.” This is the simple act of recognizing people’s contributions. Unfortunately, many team leaders fail to recognize its incredible impact. There tends to be more focus on what needs fixing, what went wrong, how we can improve. But we need to remember and publicly acknowledge what went right and those individuals who contributed to the success. What does this cost? Absolutely nothing except some thought and time. What does it gain? People appreciate recognition—and the positive mental boost actually improves individual and team performance. Here are two examples of this effect…

The communications department of a large firm did its job without fanfare. Many of the other departments received recognition for scientific breakthroughs and other innovations, but Communications never got this kind of recognition. Moral was ok but not great, and turnover was higher than other departments. Employees worked alone on their various assignments; making deadlines 78% of the time. Results were reliable but unremarkable. Then, one day the vice president of the company gave a speech and during his comments mentioned the work of the communications department and how vital they had been in the success of a new product. People in the audience applauded their effort. The manage of the department made mention of this again and the next team meeting—and thanked the individual by name, taking a few extra moments to recap specific contributions. Just this little bit of recognition created excitement, energy and a spark to the entire team. The very next month, the group made 100% of their deadlines. Additionally, they started helping each other to make this happen. In the process, they became a more cohesive team.

In another case, a volunteer for a large park district was getting ready to resign from the Mounted Patrol—in which she had served for over 15 years. Not only had she patrolled large areas of the regional parks for them, she had also served as the group’s Secretary. This included taking minutes at monthly meetings and distributing them to the membership. She did all this aside from a full-time job. She was resigning because she was moving away from the area. She sent the manager a nice letter of resignation, saying how she had enjoyed the volunteer opportunity. She attended her final meeting with the patrol group in December—also their traditional holiday potluck. Upon arrival at that gathering, she was asked if she had brought her ID card and patrol shirt to turn in. And that was it. No thank you or farewell remarks—at all. She left before the party ended—feeling invisible. How simple it would have been to say “thank you for your years of service.”  This dedicated volunteer will probably not have great things to say about this organization and left feeling demoralized.        

As members of many different “teams” throughout our lives, please remember to share your positive thoughts about others either publicly or individually. It does much more than you know.

New from Corporate Games: Game of Crowns

If you’re a fan of “Game of Thrones” and seek an adventurous team competition, this is the event for you. Control the fate of your house by using your forces to diminish the armies of others. Teamwork, wit and creativity will allow you to tame dragons and win this spirited competition. Game of Crowns provides extraordinary group problem solving challenges to which there are multiple solutions. Can you “Escape the Dungeon,” “Rule the Nightwalkers,” or “Protect the Castle?” These are just a few of the creative challenges found in this entertaining and meaningful series of events. Winter may be coming, but it is always summer in Corporate Games’ Game of Crowns.

Innovations in Team Building- Turn Preconceived Notions Upside Down

You’ve done Boat Building, Team Olympics, a Scavenger Hunt, Cooking, Bocce Ball, Ropes,  Murder Mysteries, Escape Rooms and more. So what now?! Yes, most team building providers still offer these options, but the most creative and forward thinking companies are moving beyond the standard offerings. Here are some of the latest ideas and possibilities:

  1. Make team building fit your meeting schedule by doing short team challenge breaks rather than one 2-3 hour event. Things that offer a series of challenges that are either stand-alone or build upon each other are great. An excellent example is “Engineering Minutes-to-Win-It”—a series of fast-paced design and construction activities. Each one takes about 15 minutes, and includes constructing things like a Table Top Hover Craft, a Rocket that will fly over 100 feet in the air, a Ping Pong Catapult—and many more. These are great energizers, and can easily be accommodated into any agenda.
  2. Escape Events—they are not limited to small groups and to brick and mortar escape rooms. These can be done anywhere for any number of participants and in any time frame. The essence of an escape room is figuring out a number of puzzles and the meaning of various objects in order to open a lock and “escape” a room. This sort of scenario does not need to last an hour and can be recreated in any meeting space. This means your group could experience an “Escape Break” that lasts for 15 minutes. Or, if you have more than 200 participants, they can all experience an Escape activity together. They don’t need to be broken into small group.
  3. Company Trivia Challenges– not Jeopardy or Trivial Pursuit, but a series of interactive competitions that rely on company or meeting information in order to win. The series may use familiar game concepts like Pictionary or Charades, but all require specific company knowledge. For example, in Company Pictionary– instead of telling people what to draw, we ask them a question. The two people doing the illustrating for their team—must know the answer and draw it—hoping to get their teammates to say the answer. Corporate Games offers a series of six different Company Challenges like this. Great variety, fun, and a learning event too.
  4. Don’t just paint. There are plenty of places where your group can go to paint already-illustrated canvases—and color them in. But that’s not very interactive nor is it really a team exercise. Consider a “Collaborative Team Painting” event instead. Starting with a blank canvas, each team of 3-4 people needs to actually paint part of a scene. This is usually a landscape or still-life. The canvases from all the teams will eventually be one large painting.  There is an art lesson before each team decides what they will paint, how their canvas will match up with the team’s canvas next to theirs, and what color palette will be used. Team must talk to each other and coordinate their efforts in order to make this happen. Many unique twists include having teams leave their painting halfway through the activity—and  finishing another team’s canvas.
  5. Make better use of a unique venue. If you are holding your meeting in an interesting place, like a ship (for example, USS Hornet Aircraft Carrier), an amusement park, an art gallery, or museum—do more than just walk around and look at it. Yes, there are tours and things to see, but many creative team building events can utilize the unique features of the venue. Scavenger hunt types of events are a great way to explore these venues, but you can also do Mysteries, Escape Events, Creative Movie Making and more. We’re only limited by our imagination.

Find Out How Your Team Is Doing

Every so often (every 12- 18 months), it’s a good idea to assess how your team members feel about the team’s effectiveness. Here’s a very good survey to use in order to determine this. Copy and distribute or email to each member of your team. Ask them to complete it and send it back by a specific date. Remember that if you don’t ask, you will never really know.

Team Performance Survey

Talk Like Spock– to improve your communication skills

When you “talk like Spock,” the iconic character from Star Trek, you are:

  1. Taking emotion out of the conversation.
  2. Listening carefully and analytically to what others have to say—with an open mind.
  3. Stating facts, not feelings.
  4. Realizing that conflict can spur growth.
  5. Coming to reasonable conclusions that are supported by facts.
  6. Agreeing to work together to solve problems.
  7. Treating others with respect even if you disagree.

Talk like Spock—who was good at listening carefully and saying few but very accurate words. This article is a continuation of our New Year’s Resolution suggestion to become better communicators. Are we talking to “the other side’ yet? Are we even trying? It’s unfortunate when we won’t communicate at all on some subjects. Some feel compelled to shut down conversation, because we simply “won’t change each other’s minds.” Discussion over. That is what goes on in some businesses and in our government today. That—and the fact that some people just want to undermine the “other side” –no matter what. Remember that leading a team and governing starts with all of us, and we need to be good examples. We need to hire/vote in people who want to work together—not against each other. You can hire someone who has the same basic beliefs as you, but if that person cannot communicate well and work with all others, nothing will happen. Progress gets undermined by a constant tug of war. Welcome problem solvers who are eager to listen to all ideas, not just their own.

Spock was half human and half Vulcan, which is why he would not let emotion take over reasoning. We are perhaps too human, acting on feelings and aligning ourselves only with like-minded people to the detriment of everyone. As nice and easy as it is to think that everything is just black and white; right or wrong, that is a simplistic view of a very complex society.

So before you lash out at someone who has a different opinion– think. The ability to reason is what sets us apart, so we should do it more often. Set aside differences. Start learning about other points of view. Gather facts and make your own decisions. Then communicate ideas to solve problems instead of perpetuating or escalating them. Never resort to name calling or swearing. This just sets everything back even further. Try talking to the “other side.” And keep trying even if you get shut down.

 

The Good and Bad about Escape Rooms– the hot trend in team building

If you have not experienced an Escape Room, it’s a new form of entertainment for small groups, dates, or a family outing. It entails going to a facility that is built out to support an entertaining theme (Pirates, Zombies, Sherlock Holmes, Time Traveling, Break out of Jail, etc.). The premise is that your group (of up to 10 people) needs to figure out how to “escape” the room(s) in one hour or less. In order to do this, your team must look at and manipulate objects in the room and figure out what they mean. It is essentially a series of puzzles that are designed to go along with the theme—and eventually yield the numbers, letters or directions that will unlock many different types of locking mechanisms. If you succeed at figuring it all out, your team will be able to exit the room.

It can be a great team building experience for a small group if the right escape room facility is selected. They are definitely not all the same. Here are the pluses, minuses and how to select what’s best for your team…

Pluses

  1. The cost is pretty reasonable. It amounts to about $30- $50 per person, depending upon how many participants. We would recommend buying out the room for your group. This would be about $275- $500, depending upon the facility.
  2. Many facilities and scenarios to choose from. Escape Rooms are springing up everywhere, and there is probably one right in your city.
  3. Entertaining and fun. Some facilities have built some pretty elaborate sets for these rooms. There is a wide variety of scenarios to choose from. Most escape room facilities offer two or three different escape room experiences. This means your group could certainly do more than one of these experiences if they like them.
  4. Great for small groups of 10 people or less. Not all team building events work well for a group of 5- 6 people, but this does.
  5. All indoors, so bad weather is never an issue.

 

Minuses

  1. You have to be there at an exact time and be done by an exact time. There is little to no flexibility, because other groups may be in the room before you and after you.
  2. Not everyone enjoys solving puzzles that are not straightforward. Some escape rooms can be very difficult, and usually within a group some of the participants will be more into it than others. Some may actually disengage.
  3. You have to do your own observing and debriefing, which is an important component of team building. If you do not relate the experience back to what happens in your workplace, you are missing out on a great deal of its value.
  4. It can only accommodate 6-10 people at a time, depending upon the facility. Larger groups would either have to divide up and experience different rooms—which can defeat the purpose of doing something together.
  5. Some escape rooms are not very big, and having 10 people in a relative small room (about 12’ x 12’—some even smaller) can be difficult for some. Yes, people can leave at any time, but you certainly don’t want people to be uncomfortable.
  6. If you don’t “buy out the room” (usually $275- $500) for your group, you may be sharing your experience with people you do not know (“the public”).
  7. If you do not choose the right facility and theme for your group, they may finish too soon or not at all. We know of one group that was done in 15 minutes and wanted their money back. In other cases, the hour expires, and the group is not even close to getting out (succeeding).
  8. Some people prefer outdoor events for team building. Escape Rooms are all indoors and most of the rooms do not have any windows.

 

How to choose the best Escape Room Experience for your group

  1. Ask friends, colleagues about their experiences. Read the reviews.
  2. Go and check it out. You and some friends can experience one of the escape rooms at a particular facility before you decide to bring your work team there – to experience the other theme offering.
  3. Reserve early in order to make sure you can get a date and time that works with everyone’s schedule.
  4. Review the facilities rules and ask about contingencies. What if you have to cancel or change the date? What if you arrive late? Are there penalties? Can you get your money back if needed?
  5. Consider who the participants are: level of sophistication, physical fitness, tenacity, sense of adventure. Make sure you match the right experience to the group. Some escape room facilities offer challenges that are a bit more physical. Ask questions!
  6. Does the escape room facility provide a person who guides the group through the experience? There are many levels of employee involvement offered at these places. Here are some that we have seen:
    1. No one from the facility is there to help or guide the group, nor are they monitoring the group’s progress at all. The participants can call (on a walkie talkie) to get one clue during the hour. That’s it.
    2. There is a “guide” that physically stays with the group and provides hints if the group seems to be having trouble making progress.
    3. There are video cameras so that employees of the facility can see what your team is doing. They communicate with your team through a TV monitor that will provide written hints, notes or cautions. Your team can wave at the monitor and ask (specific questions) for clues at any time.

 

How larger groups can experience an “escape room” adventure…

Several team building companies, including Corporate Games, offer “escape room events” for larger groups (20 to several hundred participants). These would take place at a venue of your choice. If the venue is unique (like a museum, aircraft carrier, mansion, etc.), elements of the venue can be incorporated into the theme and the game itself.

An intriguing scenario is provided to support the venue or even the industry of the group. Participants are on teams of about 8 people. Each team attempts to locate clues, find mysterious elements, figure out codes and puzzles that will ultimately let them unlock a series of different mechanisms to succeed at the challenge. Facilitators are there to assist and provide hints if needed.

It’s a one-hour challenge that offers the best elements of team building: group problem solving, time management, creativity, resourcefulness and more! Plus, these customized events can be done anywhere—even outdoors.

Contact Corporate Games to get complete details on this extraordinary activity: Call 800-790 GAME (4263) or email us at Info@corpgames.com

 

 

 

Best New Year’s Resolution part 2

All about team building—and more…

LISTEN—fully and with intent to understand. This is one of the hardest parts of communicating. Normally we listen only partially, because we are thinking about so many other things. Or—we listen with intent to respond. This also takes away from our ability to fully understand, because we are listening with a “filter”—formulating what you will say next—not concentrating on what is being said. Active listening seeks to comprehend and empathize with the speaker. This means trying to put yourself in the other person’s shoes and allow their point of view to be validated—no matter what your own personal feelings on the issue. It does not mean we will agree in the end, but hopefully that both sides will have an opportunity to share –without emotion—very different perspectives. In doing so, you may surprisingly find some commonalities.

This is not easy to do if the person you are listening to is combative and passionate. But allow them to speak without interruption and usually, the rhetoric and tone will eventually start to be less argumentative. After all, an argument takes two people. If you are listening without responding, there can be no argument.  Here are some tools that can help:

  1. Think of the other person as your “friend” who is willing to share their ideas with you. You may not feel like it, but put on a pleasant face and smile. A wise person said that “Peace is not the absence of conflict; it is the absence of physical (or emotional) aggression.” Conflict is actually something that can move us forward.
  2. Intermittently use understanding words. This will encourage the person to keep conversing. These are words like “ok” or “sure” or “I see.” Again—not combative, but demonstrating an effort to understand and empathize.
  3. If the other person does not ask for your point of view, don’t launch into a counterpoint speech. Instead, ask if you can share your view also. You might hear “There is really no point. We can’t change each other’s minds.” Then say, “But it would be good to talk and have the conversation. Non-communication is what gets us (and indeed the world) into trouble, because then we are just guessing and making up what someone else thinks.”

Watch for “Talk like Spock” in our next post.

The Best New Year’s Resolution –does not cost a thing.

Resolve to improve your communication skills and reap wonderful, positive results in personal and business relationships. It’s the best thing you can do for yourself and everyone around you.

The past year has uncovered unfortunate divisiveness in our country and even among friends and family. For some, it has gotten to the point that people who had good relationships just avoid conversation –or each other. Name calling, bullying and telling people they are wrong is counterproductive. Nasty tweets, yelling and fighting will solve nothing.

We are all Americans and want our country to succeed. We want our businesses to thrive and our personal relationships to be rewarding. We must talk to each other in order to move forward. And it all comes down to good communication skills.

Where do we start? First, learn to reach out without malice. This means asking for other people’s opinions and honestly wanting to hear them. There may certainly be some reluctance from others to share, but if people don’t think you are just waiting to pounce and bite their head off, they may start to open up. If someone just says “no” and puts up a wall, it is ok. But explain that you are interested in knowing what they think—and that is all. Don’t let a conversation escalate into something negative. Will cover some tips on how to do this in our next post. In the meantime, think about and practice “reaching out.”