The Evolution of Team Building: From Trust Falls to Cook-Offs

With more than 25 years working in the meeting and event industry, I’ve seen many trends come and go, but one thing that remains constant is the importance of team building to drive bonds and connections. In the past quarter century, team building has evolved from trust falls and obstacle courses to more thoughtful, mindful and experiential activities that showcase the local culture of the destination. Below are the most important, and what I consider to be the most lasting, trends I’ve noticed through the years.

Corporate Social Responsibility is Now Company Culture

Although corporate social responsibility (CSR) has been a part of meetings for a while, it has now become an interwoven piece of the fabric of any company meeting. Instead of a single breakout session to plant trees or build a bike, meeting planners are expanding CSR elements into the everyday programming. I’ve seen groups work together to prepare extra meals at a welcome reception which are then donated to a local food bank. Puppy breaks allow guests to play with dogs to benefit a local animal shelter. And more planners are drafting fully-comprehensive plans for minimizing the group’s carbon footprint with everything from no-waste programs to composting.

Related: Top 5 Outcomes of Philanthropic Team Building

When in Doubt, Incorporate Food

The most popular and impactful type of team building activities today involve food. Iron Chef-style competitions and team cook-offs are my personal favorite because they allow for friendly competition and showcase the local flavor and culture of the destination. For example, at Hyatt Regency Hill Country Resort and Spa, we provide everything from chili cook-offs and salsa showdowns, each incorporating delicious local ingredients, to margarita pour-off competitions featuring one of San Antonio’s most popular beverages.

Related: Team Building: Eat, Drink & Team Build

Utilizing the Destination

Another major shift I’ve noticed is the necessity of infusing the local destination into every aspect of a meeting. With team building activities in particular, planners have the opportunity to build out an experience showing off the destination that they thoughtfully selected for their attendees. For example, based on our resort’s location, we’ve seen groups take part in distinctly-Texas activities with everything from Armadillo races and Rodeo Olympics to local beer tasting from popular Texas-based breweries.

Getting Outside to Build Bonds

More events are being held outdoors and in unconventional spaces, and this is also ringing true for team building. For example, I’ve noticed that groups are hitting the golf course, but surprisingly not always for the purpose of enjoying a round of golf. Planners are utilizing the space for unique activities such as frisbee golf or glow-in-the-dark putt-putt, which are fun and interactive for every attendee, even non-golfers.

Related: Your Next Team-Building Event Could be at Summer Camp

The Importance of Wellness and Safety

Wellness continues to be one of the most important elements of any event. I’ve seen a major uptick in the popularity of relaxation days and pop-up spa experiences, or even group exercise and meditation classes.

One thing I find interesting is that with the growing trend of health and wellness, groups are straying away from more adrenaline-inducing team building and instead opting for safe and inclusive options. For example, I remember the days when a team outing had the potential of ending with a trip to urgent care with one slip off of an obstacle course. For obvious reasons, that is less common these days. Planners are taking more steps to ensure fun and interactive experiences while being safe for every skill and activity level.

Timeless Tips for Building Bonds

My biggest tip for meeting planners is to remember the overarching goal of creating an unforgettable experience that will forge lasting connections and bonds.

With that in mind, I recommend keeping it simple. It’s not necessary to go above and beyond in stressing the minor details, because what matters most is for attendees to have fun together. For example, you do not need the most expensive celebrity chef to judge your cooking competition when the goal is getting attendees to let loose, relax, and truly enjoy each other’s company.

John Hernstat is director of sales and marketing with Hyatt Regency Hill Country Resort and Spa. He has more than 25 years of experience working in the hospitality industry, where he has helped to coordinate countless unforgettable meetings and events for his clients.




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