In-person meetings and events strengthen respect, understanding and trust among colleagues - benefits that will endure long after a gathering takes place. When planners use team building experiences during their meetings, they also present positive networking and bonding opportunities that deliver substantially more value to attendees and to the host organization.
What's more, science has proven that attendees need periodic opportunities to step back and mentally refresh themselves during meetings.
Andrea Sullivan, president of performance-improvement firm BrainStrength Systems, notes, "The prefrontal cortex of the brain is what attendees use throughout their meeting sessions to concentrate."
When that area of the brain tires out, the result is reduced attendee performance. But Sullivan points to research substantiating the benefits of using the great outdoors to combat mental fatigue.
"The stimulation of being out in nature shifts the focus of a person's sensory receptors, which refreshes the prefrontal cortex," she says, "The findings show that being outside for some time provides attention restoration," a valuable benefit at any meeting.
At Kiawah Island Golf Resort, an oceanfront resort outside Charleston, SC, the conference sales and service teams understand how the power of the outdoors can be harnessed to create truly effective and memorable team building experiences. As a result, they educate each meeting client on the wide variety of team building activities that are available across Kiawah Island, which was just named "the #1 Island in North America" by the readers of Conde Nast Traveler.
With access to 10 miles of shoreline, plus a kayak landing on a protected riverfront, 30 miles of natural walking and biking trails, two tennis centers, five golf courses and numerous manicured lawns and other spaces set just beyond the resort's indoor meeting facilities, meeting planners can easily find an outdoor location that suits the unique personality of each group. Furthermore, most team building activities can slip seamlessly into a meeting's schedule.
Here are some of the outdoor team building events at Kiawah that can take place in less than 90 minutes:
Expansive pristine lawns with sweeping ocean views frequently host "carnival-style" team building receptions featuring games such as bocce (a form of lawn bowling), corn hole (where players toss beanbags at wooden targets set on the ground) and ladder golf (where players toss two golf balls attached with string at wooden ladders whose rungs have differing point values). Terry Treuting, director of conference services for The Sanctuary, notes that, "When a newer employee or client is partnered with a company executive to play one of these simple, enjoyable games, the value of the activity becomes clear."
At all five clubhouses on property, large practice putting greens can host miniature golf competitions during evening receptions. Even better, this activity works as a fun lunch break for small to mid-sized groups holding meetings inside the Turtle Point, Osprey Point or Ocean Course clubhouses. The Turtle Point Course is also home to the resort's golf school, where small-group instruction among attendees of similar ability allows everyone to learn the skills of golf in a quiet, scenic setting.
Night Golf — where teams of four to six people play two holes on either the Osprey Point or Turtle Point Course — uses glow-in-the-dark golf balls that players hit towards a green illuminated only by glow sticks and moonlight. For experienced golfers as well as those who have never even picked up a golf club, this star-studded activity is challenging and fun.
In these spaces, bicycle-building contests have been hosted, serving two purposes: 1) to get small groups of attendees to work together in a different way and 2) to support local children's charities by donating the finished products.
Other outdoor team building events at Kiawah that occupy between 90 minutes and four hours include:
Walking scavenger hunts that utilize GPS units to guide teams as they traverse the wooded nature trails that crisscross the island.
A bicycle version of the TV show "The Amazing Race." Teams of four to eight people are tasked with riding the nature trails, in search of spots where they will engage in a mental or mildly physical challenge. Upon completion of a task, the group rides on to the next destination and challenge.
A five-minute shuttle ride to the Mingo Point riverside recreational area brings groups to the resort's fleet of kayaks. They can enjoy a leisurely paddle down the river, engage in kayak races or even voyage to a designated location to pick for oysters they'll eat afterwards during a riverside cookout. Barbara Steele, director of conference services for The Villas at Kiawah Island Golf Resort, says that, "Among sales teams, this type of activity really makes an impression that lasts well after they return to their offices."
Groups interested in team building with a charitable or social-responsibility focus can partner with the local chapter of Habitat for Humanity to spend time building or refurbishing local homes.
Steele notes that, "At Kiawah, each team building activity is customized to a group's demographics plus the larger business objectives they want to achieve. So the meeting's themes will be reinforced through any of these challenges, while people enjoy the unique outdoor environment of our resort."