Expert insights

Team-building experiences just got better – here’s why

15 March 2017

Team-build experiences are more immersive and pack more of a punch than ever – upgrade yours now...

Sophie is trapped. She’s in a locked room and doesn’t know how to get out. All she knows is that she has 60 minutes to work out her escape route. Luckily, five of her workmates are in the room with her.

Welcome to team building, 21st-century style. In recent years, out-of-office bonding activities have become increasingly immersive as we look for compelling, real-time thrills when planning our team-building activities.

“Now that everything’s at the push of a button, people want events, parties and themes to be at another level. They want to feel like they are actually in movies, allowing them to take the best selfies and have great stories to tell,” says Jenna McCartney, marketing executive at Off Limits, which specialises in team-building and corporate events.

The firm recently introduced an ‘escape room’ challenge in Nottingham to its portfolio – something McCartney says is “more physically and mentally intense than a lot of team-building events”.

It’s a growing trend – the original Escape Room experience has so far taken more than 500,000 people ‘captive’. Adrenaline-boosting activities like these can be traced, in part, to the popularity and increasing sophistication of the games industry, where players feel central to the action.

Another company answering this demand is events specialist Chilli Sauce. Among other adventures, it gives participants the chance to solve a murder, train as stuntmen or women, try Dragons’ Den-style business pitches, or unleash their inner Bear Grylls with an outdoor ‘survival academy’. The latter was devised by the adventurer himself and his team.

As head of corporate events at Chilli Sauce, James Diment notes: “With the experiences we’ve developed with Bear Grylls, people actually get to learn from the experts. It’s not just applied theory; participants walk away with hands-on experience.”

Part of the action

Technological advances that allow us to hunt creatures in real time on our phones, à la Pokémon Go, also mean that we demand more of our leisure experiences. Mobile data and GPS tracking can now turn whole cities into playgrounds for so-called urban gaming experiences. These include ‘geotagging’ (hiding clues or treasures for players to track down) to live-action games with hundreds of participants.

In the team-building realm, expect GPS-enabled challenges and treasure hunts with live scoring updates sent direct to your devices. Meanwhile, fast-developing virtual reality tech is also set to shake up the events world, promising whole new levels of immersion.

TV-inspired team building

Other thrills are more nostalgic. A big hit in the events world has been The Crystal Maze, based on the TV show. Teams test their skill, and mental and physical ability across four adventure zones in order to win the crystals. So far, more than 120,000 people have joined the fun.

Co-founder Tom Lionetti-Maguire puts this down to the fact that: “People are no longer content to be passive or merely spectators of entertainment. They are more adventurous, more discerning and want to be part of living, breathing worlds.”

Such adventures can be the starting point for great team-building opportunities, says McCartney: “We believe these immersive events enable delegates to really see team members in a different light, as they are placed into situations they would never expect to be,” she says.

Diment agrees: “Team building is all about pushing people outside of their comfort zone, without pushing them into their fear zone. They’re in a different environment and get to know people in a different way – their strengths and weaknesses.”

The insiders agree these kinds of experiences are brilliant for raising delegates’ energy levels and honing problem-solving skills.

“Some delegates tend to stand back,” continues McCartney. “But once they see the outstanding theming or get drawn into the event, you can see the change straight away. They begin to get fully immersed and involved in completing the task. It’s always great to see the amount of effort everyone puts in to succeed.”

The best team-building adventures

Join the hunt

James Diment and his team at Chilli Sauce have developed a spin on the Channel 4 series The Hunted. Participants become ‘the hunters’, learning surveillance skills (but “still with the fun element – it’s the fun that breaks down the barriers!”). The team is also working on a ‘Ninja’ experience.

Plan your escape

The trend for ‘escape room’ challenges shows no sign of slacking. Expect locked rooms, clues and puzzles to solve – and lots of team bonding along the way. Off Limits’ Escapologic experience in Nottingham is one of Britain’s most immersive, while Chilli Sauce can arrange escape rooms in a host of European destinations as well as the UK.

Relive top telly

You can now relive the legendary The Crystal Maze TV show in London or Manchester, while both Off Limits and Chilli Sauce offer similarly themed packages. Fans of The Apprentice, It’s a Knockout, I’m a Celebrity… and Total Wipeout will also find plenty of events loosely based on the celebrated TV shows.

Star in the movies

Secret Cinema offers film lovers the chance not just to watch a film, but to be part of it. Experiences have included a zombie-populated 28 Days Later and Stormtroopers galore at Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back. This spring’s extravaganza is a totally immersive spin on Moulin Rouge.

Interested? Let’s have a chat about your company’s travel, meetings and events objectives - from the stuff that keeps you awake at night, to the everyday experiences of your employees! Call us on 0330 390 0340, or submit your details below.