Putting people on teams for a team building activity seems like the easiest thing in the world, yet we have seen some very well-meaning people make a mess of it. So– if you are ever in the position of having to designate teams for a group event, please take heed:
- ALWAYS give teams a number; not a name, or a color. This is the easiest way to facilitate a group. This is especially critical for larger groups (50+). Everyone can relate to numbers. For example: “Team #1 should stand here, followed by team #2, then #3 and so on.” This is clear and easy for everyone to understand and will require very little repeating. Whereas– if you give teams any other designation, you will have to repeat yourself many times: “The Blue Team is here, then Red, then Yellow…” There is no set sequence for colors like there is for numbers. You can give teams other names, but they also should have a number first.
- Teams should be as even as possible. Some people like to divide the group by department, but the departments are not all the same size. It is not easy nor fair for a team of 15 to compete against a team of 5. Most team building activities are designed for teams that are nearly equal in size.
- For groups of 50 or more participants, consider having the team building facilitators count people off at random. This is the easiest way to put people on teams. AND– if others come late, they are simply assigned to the next team. For example, if people were counted off, and the last person was on team #2 out of 10 teams, then the next person to arrive (late), would simply go to team #3. You wouldn’t have to count or look at each team to see who has more or less people.
- IF you must preset the teams, it is easier to organize everyone if the participants know their team number ahead of time. We experienced one instance in which the meeting planner handed us 80 color-coded name badges– to read off and hand out– one at a time. This was very chaotic (not everyone could hear or was present when we started) and took a lot of time. This means people are standing around waiting while this is being done. If you email participants in advance, they will know what team they are on ahead of time. At the very least, it is a good idea to post multiple lists of the teams so people can look at them upon arrival.
- Do not preset the teams if everyone will not be together at the start. If people are going to be trickling in, it is difficult to get the teams organized and started on the activity if you have preset the teams. That’s because team size will not be equal until everyone gets there, and you have a much higher risk of confusion as people arrive and start looking for their team. In this situation, you should either start the event later, when everyone is there– or have the facilitators randomly count off people to make teams.
- When in doubt, please ask your team building facilitator what would work best.