Event services professionals help meeting planners with all aspects of their events, from imaginative destination excursions to dynamic room setups that use every square inch of available space.
But that’s just for starters.
They can also serve as a valuable resource when it comes to creating meaningful team-building events.
As local experts, the services team can connect the planner with unique, interactive opportunities tied to the destination that they won’t be able to duplicate anywhere else and are designed to get attendees working together.
“If the client is unsure as to what activity to do, the service professional can share successes they have seen from other group team-building activities,” says Jamie Huckleberry, president of Event Service Professionals Association (ESPA) and director of event services at David L. Lawrence Convention Center in Pittsburgh. “Their event can be custom-built from these experiences. We are seeing more and more requests for unique and local.”
See also: Over-the-Top Team Building
The event services professional, or the in-house event manager at a hotel, convention center or convention and visitors bureau, can help meeting planners come up with creative team-building activities that can be done at the event location or off-site at a nearby attraction. That type of brainstorming typically starts at the earliest stages of the planning process.
A cooking challenge with a well-known regional dish, such as jambalaya in New Orleans, is one example.
“Our executive chef created recipe cards for a conference that split attendees into three groups,” says Denise Reid, an ESPA board member and event planning manager at Hyatt Centric French Quarter New Orleans. “Using the cards as a guide and the ingredients provided, each team prepared the recipe with their own little spin. We had hotel staff as ‘celebrity judges’ to determine which group’s jambalaya tasted best.”
Reid says groups have done mixology challenges, as well. Each event attendee went home with the recipes to make the local dish or cocktail.
Sometimes the destination itself sets the stage for a team-building activity. Visit Anaheim, which has numerous theme parks in its portfolio, leverages these attractions to get guests working together.
“Many attendees like to spend time at Disneyland, and we’ve found a fun way to get them together without it feeling like work,” says Brenda Wasnok, CMP, manager of destination services at Visit Anaheim and also an ESPA board member. “We purchase several varieties of iconic ear hats, such as classic black, movie- or princess-themed, and our hotel partners randomly place them in attendee guest rooms for a photo scavenger hunt. Guests with like hats work together to navigate the park and have laughs taking silly pictures from the list.”
Service professionals also encourage clients to consider turning their team building into a community- service activity that benefits a local nonprofit.
“We worked with a high-tech group last year that ordered build-a-robot kits and hosted middle-school STEM classes for a morning of robot building,” says Julie Brackenbury, ESPA president-elect and director of services at Greater Raleigh Convention and Visitors Bureau. “Not only did the kids take the robots back to school with them, but they also benefited by having time with professionals from this locally based high-tech company—and company employees enjoyed sharing their knowledge with the students.”
McCullough is ESPA executive director.