• Reese Morgan

Team Building

When it comes to team building, everybody is looking to get creative. Planners want activities that are impactful, effective and unifying. Attendees want to take part in something that’s fun, interactive and engaging.

The challenge is giving both planner and attendees what they want, and doing so in imaginative ways. Luckily, unique and exciting options for team building can be found at some very attractive destinations throughout the region.

For example, consider Spooky Nook Sports in Manheim, PA. The largest sports complex in North America, this facility is able to provide groups with a variety of amenities and offerings in its 700,000-square foot facility.

According to Mackenzie Bender, PR and communications manager for Spooky Nook Sports, the facility’s vast amount of function space and range of resources allows it to incorporate team building experiences, unique backdrops, as well as fitness into events that will get groups energized.

“We know it can take a while to generate trust and confidence between team members. Taking time to have your group participate in team building activities can help enrich and enhance this process. Using teamwork, communication, and creativity to get through a series of games will be a welcomed and exciting challenge for your group,” notes Bender.

Team building is important to any organization because it leans into so many aspects of collaboration, she adds.

“At Spooky Nook, we offer an experiential team building package called ‘Weekend Warriors.’ This one-of-a-kind obstacle course challenge takes place on 30-plus acres of field. What might seem impossible to overcome individually, suddenly becomes achievable when solved as a unit,” explains Bender.

“On this course, you’ll get to know about all the different areas of strength within your team while discovering how best to support one another,” she continues. “Communication and problem-solving will be at the forefront as you make your way through each obstacle your group is presented. It’s more than just team building - it’s an adventure.”

While Spooky Nook does offer standard team building themes and packages, each experience has the opportunity to be totally customized to the needs of each specific group. Whether the group is more active or sedentary, large or small, young or old, newly formed or have spent years together - Spooky Nook can craft a day to fit the team.

“You’ll find a generous menu of activities that can bring your team together at Spooky Nook Sports,” explains Bender. “You and your group can participate in just one activity, or you can make arrangements for the group to participate in several fun-filled adventures. Your group can boost their brain power with one of our puzzle-centric packages, or step up your game with a set of Office Olympics activities. Our options range from full-blown physical challenges to tests of the mind.”

Using teamwork, communication and creativity to get through a series of games can be a welcome and fun challenge for the group. In team building activities, everyone is responsible for pulling their own weight while also supporting the other members of the team. “It's a good way to help your group hold themselves accountable for a task, both at a personal and a team level,” observes Bender.

The AACA Museum in Hershey, PA is dedicated to the preservation and presentation of motor vehicle history in a way that provides education and entertainment for its guests. Nancy L. Gates is the director of marketing and communications for the museum.

Gates notes that inside the museum her staff is able to work with organizations to create a scavenger hunt type program where they can split into teams who then work together to find specific cars or items such as designated hood ornaments. “It’s a fun way to build teamwork and explore the museum at the same time.”

Another program the AACA Museum can offer is through a partnership with The United States Hot Air Balloon Team. “We are a launch site location for hot air ballooning over Hershey,” declares Gates. “This is a relatively new program that we launched last year... Part of the experience is working together to unpack and inflate the balloon, then enjoy the launch and flight followed by landing then re-packing everything. You get the experience of ‘crewing’ the balloon under the direction of the pilot and the United States Hot Air Balloon crew.”

Each summer, the museum also runs a Model T Driving program where they teach people how to drive a Model T automobile, and then put them behind the wheel to drive one of the museum’s Model T cars. “We also started ‘Behind the Scenes’ tours of our collection storage facilities last year that we hope to continue and expand,” says Gates.

According to Karen Mandel, senior business development manager at Normandy Farm Hotel and Conference Center in Blue Bell, PA, the average duration of a client retreat lasts between 2 and 3 days. During this time there are a variety of structured and unstructured activities arranged for them, depending on their agenda.

“Typically, there is a daytime schedule of meetings and breakout sessions, and by the time the late afternoon rolls around, attendees are suffering from ‘meeting fatigue’ and team building activities are by far the best energizer,” explains Mandel. “It is quite possible that they have been passive listeners during the day and are ready for some friendly competition with their managers as well as their colleagues. Team building levels the playing field and often new team leaders emerge in this relaxed environment.”

“Employees are a company’s most valuable asset and the addition of team building activities has been known to bring out the hidden talents of even the quietest person on the team. These activities also establish trust, promote creativity, motivate employees, and most of all, increase productivity back at the office,” she continues.

Normandy Farm has become known for its total guest experience, and team building activities are a critical component of the property’s success.

“Just as you would top off your pie with ice cream, our clients choose one of our many team building options to cap off their meeting,” Mandel explains. “We have the perfect setting for team building given our expansive indoor and outdoor landscape. In addition, we have a robust menu of activities designed to meet the interest and budget of our varied clientele. Best of all, clients do not have to leave the property to have an amazing team bonding experience, because we bring all the of fun to them.”

Normandy Farm offers several experiential team building activities and constantly monitors trends in team building to expand its already extensive menu of hands-on fun and learning.

“All of our events are instructor-led by our professional lineup of team building facilitators,” notes Mandel. “Each experience allows participants to become immersed in a totally different scenario, like a custom murder mystery, culinary team building, or an escape the room activity. In many cases, participants are not even aware that they are learning something new because they are having so much fun trying to solve the presented challenge.”

As a gourmet culinary retreat destination, Normandy Farm Hotel and Conference Center carries that theme throughout a number of its team building events, explains Mandel. “As a result, our culinary team building activity enjoys the number one spot in popularity. Everyone dresses the part in their kitchen whites and teams up to challenge each other to be the top chefs. Our Bake Shop team building is an abbreviated version of the culinary program, and is perfect for groups who are crunched for time - and maybe budget.”

“Our newest program, Mixology, is our winning recipe for a top-shelf bonding experience,” she continues. “It’s social. It’s casual. It’s interactive. And it just might go down in your company history as the best team building activity ever.”

Many corporate clients at Normandy Farm want to build some downtime into the itinerary for attendees so they can reflect on what they have learned and absorb new information the next day. “We find that our art team building options consistently exceed our clients’ expectations,” says Mandel. “We now offer two art programs; one is proprietary to Normandy Farm Hotel and is Mosaic Art. Each individual creates a mirror frame using stencils and letter tiles... The other is a Wood Painting Party, creating monogrammed or popular designs on stained wood ‘antiqued’ boards. Also included is a food and beverage package of wine and hors d’oeuvres.”

Individuals get to meet new colleagues as well as interact with coworkers in a way they often never have before, says Mandel. “We’ve heard comments like, ‘I never knew you were that funny’ or ‘I am so glad you were our leader, otherwise we never would have escaped the room.’ While spreadsheets and Power Point are essential to keeping the wheels of progress moving, so too is our appreciation and respect for one another as people. That is truly the value of team building.”

At Elmwood Park Zoo, Treetop Adventures operates with the belief that stepping outside the workplace for team building engages employees and ultimately increases productivity. Plus, who doesn’t enjoy a little spontaneous fun and adventure added to their workday?

According to Chelsea Nejbauer, marketing associate for Elmwood Park Zoo, Treetop Adventures features challenge games and zip lines that span up to 50-feet above the ground in the trees at the zoo. It is also Pennsylvania's only location where attendees can zip line over live animal exhibits!

“Team building at Treetop Adventures gives you and your fellow coworkers an opportunity to work as a team and one-on-one as you complete the courses amongst other various activities,” says Nejbauer. “Get your team out of the office and into the trees for a day full of adventure, team building and staff bonding. As an added bonus, Treetop Adventures includes Elmwood Park Zoo admission, so after completing the course, participants have the option to enjoy Elmwood Park Zoo. Treetop Adventures is the ideal destination for organizations, schools, camps, and teams.”

Treetop Adventures offers team bonding activities through which participants have the opportunity to complete games and then venture into the trees for zip lining and obstacles. Groups must communicate with one another effectively in order to successfully complete the course and challenge games. Through their experience at Treetop Adventures, participants learn how to work effectively as a team, explore new ways of learning, and improve on their decision-making skills.

Nejbauer further notes that Treetop Adventures’ group options are completely customizable depending on group size and participants’ age. “We offer different team activities and games tailored to fit your needs. Treetop Adventures provides team building for groups of all sizes, from organizations to birthdays to bachelor and bachelorette parties. Young adventurers can experience our Cub Climb course for children. For participants ages 21 and older, Treetop offers a Happy Hour special where groups can enjoy the Zoo Brew Beer Garden after they’ve completed the course.”

“At night,” Nejbauer continues, “groups can zip the zoo in the dark with Treetop’s Night Adventure. Groups can experience all the thrills of the zipline and ropes courses with the added challenge of darkness. Navigate through a section of our Treetop Zoofari course equipped with a headlamp. Young adventurers also can experience the nighttime fun on our Cub Climb course. After you return from the trees, your group will enjoy a delicious buffet. Guests age 21 and older can offer cheers upon their return with select draft beers.”

“We aim to create a fun and challenging adventure that allows group members to get out of their comfort zones,” explains Nejbauer. “Groups will need to use problem solving, group decision-making, communication, and teamwork skills in order to complete the different challenge games.”

Team building is important because it brings coworkers closer together. Sometimes coworkers may work virtually and not have a lot of opportunity for personal interaction with each other. Team building is a way to bring everyone together, have fun, build up relationships, and create a sense of accomplishment in doing so.

Brian Shields, director of sales for Peddler’s Village in Lahaska, PA, notes that his property is Bucks County’s largest corporate retreat destination. “Our hotel, restaurants, and 60-plus boutiques can collaborate to create a day that your team will find both productive and entertaining in a setting unlike any other.”

“Some of our shops offer really cool experiences for our guests, ranging from a ‘cupcake wars’-style activity to a group beer tasting. There is much to do and see,” he exclaims.

While team building differs for every group (big or small, young or old), each client has certain goals their group has set out to complete. “Some groups may look to accomplish a task while other groups are looking to bring a team closer together,” says Shields. “Also, time constraints vary for groups. They may do a meeting in the morning and team build in the afternoon, while others may have only an hour or two to engage in team bonding activities.”

Peddler’s Village offers murder mystery luncheons and dinners at Cock’ n Bull restaurant, and an adult playground at its Giggleberry Fair attraction. “Also, some of our merchants offer culinary team building through food (Sweet Occasions), beer pairings and tastings (Free Will), spirits tastings (Hewn Spirits), and terrarium building (Greenology),” Shields continues. “We also have organized scavenger hunts for groups throughout our 42 beautiful acres.”

“We learn a lot from our guests, often by observation in addition to their direct feedback,” says Ted Davis, chief sales and marketing officer for Benchmark Hospitality.

He notes that culinary team building just gets more popular every year. Whether in the kitchen with the chefs learning about flavor balancing and fermentation, at the bar with mixologists, in the dining room at the table, or outside for a picnic-like experience. Bringing groups together interactively and family-style as a culinary team is red hot, he says. But planners also are looking for entertainment to be included in team building, so learning needs to be not only instructive and flavorful, but also great fun.

“Examples are lip sync battles, live interactive dinner shows, wildlife tours, hiking excursions, skiing, mountain biking, petting zoos and go-cart races on property... anything that, in an entertaining way, teaches new life skills that can be used at the office and home. Planners today increasingly desire to enhance the lives - and life skills - of the ‘whole’ person,” explains Davis.

Creative team building can be an integral part of enhancing a group outing, meeting or training session, but also can have long lasting benefits that extend well beyond the session itself.

Finding creative ways to get people working together and interacting with each other can have great benefits that form lasting bonds and ultimately improve the quality of working and interpersonal relationships back at the office in meaningful - and often increasingly productive - ways.

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