Copyright 2006 Sandstone Limited

Organising a team building session for, say, 25 people is relatively straight forward. You have enough people to be able to choose from a wide range of activities without having so many that logistics becomes a problem. 40 people and one or two options start to drop out as the extra people can’t physically be accommodated at a specific venue or mean that a limited resource would need to be queued an unreasonable amount of time for. The majority of team activities really start to creak once you hit 50 people and 60 is an absolute upper limit for probably at least 80% or more of the options.

So what if your group size is larger than this? For example, if you are organising a team building event for the entire sales force of a large organisation?  Or even an entire company?  What are the challenges involved and how can you pick something that delivers the outcomes you want without making a Sir Elton John party budget seem tiny by comparison?

The challenges are probably twofold: space and logistics.

Unless your team building event is being held in guaranteed sunny climes, you are going to need (even if only as a

backup) something that can be run indoors.  For many options, you’ll also need enough space to run it for that number of people in addition to the space that they’ll take up just by being there.  So if you have, say, 300 people at the event, you could well need to book a venue with space for 900 just to add the extra space you need.

Alternatively, you could select an activity that can be run at the tables they’ll be sat at anyway.  There are very few good options that cope with large numbers of people, yet require little in the way of space or facilities. But they do exist.

Logistics as a problem increases exponentially with the size of the group. Most of the options that can handle large groups do so by using more people and/or equipment to increase the size of the bottlenecks. For example, if you choose to offer people something based on the TV show “Crystal Maze”, the suppliers will bring in multiple copies of each of the challenges (and maybe even the crystal dome

itself) and effectively run multiple concurrent smaller events. This can add to the cost considerably – and also feel like it isn’t really one activity.

If you have in mind definite objectives that include helping people appreciate that they are all part of a wider team, then you are best off with something that targets those objectives and has everybody working towards the same goal at the same time.  You might, of course, still choose to create a competitive spirit by organising the group into teams and offering prizes to the best performing.  However, it will be important to choose something that integrates with your key messages and makes people feel that they are part of the wider group and not independent of it.

Using technology as a base offers a great way of handling large groups within a single, integrated team building activity. Carefully chosen to meet the desired outcomes, technologically based activities don’t need to add large numbers of expensive people, large amounts of bulky equipment or multiple zeros at the end of the invoice amount. What they can add is a sense of fairness to all participants and teams and an extra dimension in terms of how believable the activity is. Some team building simulations really can “suck people in” to their scenarios and deliver amazing experiences.

Another option is to keep to a very simple activity that requires the whole group to work together to achieve it.

Your choice, as always, should be based to a large degree around what you want to achieve, how long you are able to dedicate and – of course – your budget. Simple activities have the advantage that they are usually priced accordingly.

Whichever option you plump for, make sure that the activity providers have a track record in handling groups of a similar (or larger) size to your own. Hundreds of people all moaning about an activity is an experience well worth avoiding. On the other hand, there’s nothing like the buzz of a successful large group team building session!

About the Author:

Alan is Managing Director of Sandstone, a leading UK team building company. He enjoys creating innovative activities that combine fun with genuine team development. In his spare time, he does voluntary work for the RNIB.

http://www.sandstone.co.uk

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