Betty LeDoux-Morris, CMP Great Group and Teambuilding Activities

Teambuilding: An Essential Part of Meetings

February 23, 2007

By Betty LeDoux-Morris, CMP

Teambuilding – a term sometimes loosely used for what may be considered “down” time, while others consider it in the true sense of the words - - building a team.     I look at it in all ways - - we are fortunate to have a five-acre Executive Challenge Course on property, complete with Climbing Wall, two Leaps of Faith (Pamper Pole), Zip lines, etc.;     a creative “outward bound” type set up for those groups wishing to step outside of their comfort zone and travel across a wire 30 ft in the air, while team mates hold the safety cords below.      

I mentioned in my first article how teambuilding and group activities are fast becoming an essential part of meetings and that it is something that can generally be taken from an educational budget provided that the right content is included.     Dr. Hall, our in-house Challenge Course facilitator, often comments to groups how this is not only stepping out of the box or out of one’s own comfort zone, but is also a great learning tool as any time there is an emotion attached to an experience (in this case, a learning experience),  – it sticks.    Much like everyone can remember where they were when the planes hit the World Trade Center or on a positive side, details surrounding events at the birth of a child are vividly recalled while one can’t remember a home telephone number.      The Executive Challenge Course helps us to help groups provide the scenario for establishing that “foot print” for the attendees.   We often encourage groups to have a portion of their meeting out in the woods at our Challenge Course and proceed right from their meeting to either the high or low element exercises.   If this is not an option, we recommend that the group do their teambuilding first and then proceed to the meeting (if only one time slot is allowed for the teambuilding).  This accomplishes the set up for the information that is to be given to the attendee to stick, and also allows for the members of the group to get to know one another on a very different level.

We have had many groups who incorporate three days of our teambuilding program into their meeting – which would include half days of activities at the Challenge Course, Canoeing on the Hillsborough River, and a more light-hearted event at our Sports Village. Dr. Hall includes a wrap-up or debriefing wherein he recaps to the group what was learned over the last few days.  Most of the time, we make sure to capture these events on camera so that the group will have a DVD of the event to take home with them, or at the very least a picture that can be used for a mousepad or monitor screen saver.   Seeing these pictures instantly brings a recall to the events of the trip as well as the material covered during the meeting sessions.

In the event the group dynamic is such that the Executive Challenge Course is not a good fit, similar activities can be arranged at our Sports Village.  The low elements of the Challenge Course can be reconstructed at the Sports Village with portable equipment and the group can participate in those activities as well as combining the ever-popular Build-A-Boat event.    I think many properties offer the Build-a-Boat activity, but we offer the event with several “twist” options.   For example, if working with a group that is concentrating on building Leadership;    we would interrupt construction of the building process about half way through and ask all the team leaders to come forward and get more equipment.   At that time, that group of Leaders would be told that they are forming yet another team and have to start the construction process from the beginning.    You can imagine the temporary chaos that is created by this change. . . and another lesson in Leadership and Change is learned.

Light-hearted events poolside or at the Sports Village are also very worthwhile - - either just for fun or with a “message” incorporated into the event.     The bottom line in all of teambuilding is – as I mentioned in my first message – is to listen t o the client to understand what they are seeking to gain out of the teambuilding event and be creative to make their message come through all while providing a fun experience for the guests.

"Spa" is the Word

February 22, 2007

By Betty LeDoux-Morris, CMP

A growing favorite in the group activity world is the Spa.   While this certainly is not considered a “Group” activity, it is a great alternative to those non-golfers and non-tennis players and offers a great way to recover from the possible stress from sitting in meeting rooms all day.   

It is truly difficult to ignore the benefits of a spa service. However, one of the challenges I have faced with meeting planners selecting spa services for their group is making sure that we can accommodate everyone. CEO’s and planners truly have their groups interest at heart in allowing their attendees some “down” time, but can’t afford to allow too much time as they must certainly cover the material for which the meeting is held. So, the biggest challenge is to schedule all the appointments within what becomes quite often, too little time.   

We recently had a group inhouse that offered their attendees spa services and the response was overwhelming – however, the time was not. We were asked to accommodate in excess of 120 appointments in a four-hour time frame – the majority of which were one hour massages.  Not a problem if you have a spa that has 30 treatment rooms……however, most properties do not have that much space allotted for their spa. But we were encouraged by the challenge and secured several of our two bedroom suites to serve as a ‘remote’ spa. The bedrooms were stripped of the furniture (stored in the adjoining third bedroom), the living room was set up with fresh fruit, wine and candles, lights were dimmed and we created a spa ambiance that was relaxing and did not compromise the experience they sought to have.

This transition is certainly not an easy one for most properties, but with proper planning, it can be accomplished in a relatively short period of time (a couple of days) and the guests leaving the property relaxed and appreciative of the effort and service generally secures a return visit to the Resort.      

Working Creatively with Groups

February 19, 2007

By Betty LeDoux-Morris, CMP

Group Recreation/Team Building and Spa seem to be on the rise again for corporate groups and associations. Unfortunately post 911, groups had to watch their extra dollars and were essentially eliminating the “extras” from their meetings. However, with the growing awareness of the true value that Group Recreation/Team Building and Spa have to offer, more and more groups are now arranging for their attendees to experience some recuperative time during meetings…which is great news for me!!!   I have often said and would argue with anyone at Saddlebrook, that I have the best job at the Resort. As Director of Group Activities and Spa Sales, I have the good fortune of helping Planners schedule some fun time for their group…Director of Fun!!!

One of the challenges most groups have is selecting an activity that fits their group. This can be quite difficult when the dynamics of the group are so varied. However, with some continued dialogue with the Planner and thinking out of the box, a customized event can be planned that will ensure success of the event and kudos for the planner. For example, we have customized our “regular” events to meet the needs of the client by including two or three-day programs that include a leadership aspect on our Executive Challenge Course (Teambuilding), a more light-hearted event at our Sports Village followed by regenerative time in our spa.  Because this is considered a true “teambuilding” event with very clear objectives, obtaining funding for such activities from the educational budgets works very well.  It is a legitimate expense for the company, the attendees have a good time – while learning some valuable lessons and tools that they take with them to the workplace – and they leave the meeting feeling that they were able to truly experience the property all while accomplishing the goals of the company. In times past, it was not uncommon for groups to come to Saddlebrook and not allow their attendees to experience all the beautiful amenities that we have to offer. Consequently, they would leave in a more negative state of mind than when they arrived. Fortunately, companies are getting away from this line of thinking and seeing the value in such exercises.

In my opinion, the essential element that helps to make me successful in my role of planning with the groups is the unique ability to work creatively - - basically because we have such an option-rich property. I’m sure that many planners run into a situation where the client wants to be on the beach. While we can not miraculously create a beach for the group, we can certainly create a beach atmosphere right in our sports village area with the lake, sand volleyball courts. Add some tiki torches, hula hoops, beach balls along with the sand, and you have created the atmosphere they were looking for. Of course, the key in my area is to add the fun events – the tug-of-war in the sand, the super duper sling shot event with the water balloons, limbo contests, etc., and a good time is had by all.      

More to come…….Wednesday Spa / Friday Teambuilding

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