Last week we started a 4 part blog series about why team building events work, specifically in achieving your meeting objectives. Today we’re addressing one of the most frequently cited objectives for meetings: networking.
Interestingly enough, participants name networking as their primary goal in going to a meeting or conference. In this perfect marriage of objectives, your job as a planner is to provide avenues for people to connect at the programs you plan.
According to research and studies from the Convention Industry Council, the Harvard Business Review and Forbes, face-to-face interactions at meetings are critical to building trust, relationships and connections. These interactions lead to the effective sharing of ideas and drive business.
How as a meeting planner can you meet and capitalize on your participants’ desire for networking and the resulting benefits? While certainly you can do the usual cocktail hour and even a speed networking session, how can you allow people to connect in fun and unusual ways?
Let team building events do the dirty work!
Team building events provide a perfect opportunity. You can motivate the participants and generate enthusiasm around the organizational brand all while driving interpersonal interactions in a safe and playful setting. Team building activities level the playing field and allow participants with a wide variety of experiences, seniority and background to find commonalities with one another. Plus it’s fun!
One of our favorite stories is of two engineers who had worked three cubicles away from one another for three years and no one had ever seen them interact or speak. In the context of the team building event, they were chest bumping, laughing and high-fiving. That’s some powerful networking!
Stuart Brown, in his book Play, says “taking part in this play is a way to put us in sync with those around us. It is a way to tap into common emotions and thoughts and share them with others.” He believes and demonstrates play is a primal need just like food, water and sleep. Team building events can meet this often ignored but still basic need for your participants while achieving a key networking metric.
Interestingly enough, you are also allowing your meeting participants’ brains to rest and defer to their default brain – the social brain. Research shared by Matthew Lieberman in his recent book Social indicates that the more opportunities you provide to feed the social brain, the more likely your participants are to feel rewarded. Studies indicate that mutual cooperation in a social setting triggers our brains reward system and actually overrides our brain’s drive for self-interest. Connection is a key foundation of cooperation and communication and you can deliver it in spades by adding team building to the meeting experience.
So suddenly, team building seems like the agenda item you want to keep no matter what, not the bonus or extra “if there is time.” You’re giving the registrants exactly what they want, what they don’t even know they need AND achieving basic meeting objectives for networking.
In the next installment, we’ll talk about learning. In the meantime, we’d love your thoughts, feedback and questions. Will you include team building in your meeting plans? Are you confident about how it will help you increase effectiveness. Please share with us!