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Trainer’s tip: Virtual team-building


Adriana Ferguson asked on our Any Answers forum for ideas to keep people engaged whilst on a one hour virtual team building event. Some people will be dialling into the event, others will be based face to face and they’ll be using Webex meeting as well. Several trainer’s made helpful suggestions.

Alun Barrett had a 'murder mystery' in mind....

I am not familiar with Webex but have used this with a telecon. I have a paper based activity called Murder Mystery. The task is for a team to discover the murderer, the motive, the weapon, the time & place the murder took place. The information is broken down into 30 pieces which are distributed among the group. The exercise is based on communication to come up with the group outcome. The delegates are not permitted to show anyone their clues.
Clues can be organised such that remote people receive theirs via email at the start of the task and those present are dealt theirs randomly on cards.

If the group is too big for everyone to have 2/3 pieces of information you can run it in two teams for a fixed period of time and then get them to present their findings ‘in court’. Presentations can then get scored on accuracy, additional detail, entertainment value...

Facilitation wise - the exercise is overtly about communication and can be related to Rackham's verbal interventions and Tuckman's team evolution with ease.
In the past I have rewritten the task to reflect people and issues in the business. I think I have different versions for running multiple teams so that their conclusions will be different.

Time wise - the task needs about 30 minutes giving time for introduction and review to generate learning.

Tim Drewitt had some helpful suggestions to add:

Without knowing the underlying reasons for running a team-building event, I won't try to suggest things that may not be relevant, but here are some thoughts that did spring to mind.

For the last four years, firstly with Webex and most lately with Adobe Connect Pro, I've been producing events such as this, albeit with all the participants connecting remotely. And this leads me to my first point. Do be mindful of the fact that the dynamics (and therefore the team building impact) may well be different for the group who are together, than for the individuals connected via the web. I've personally pushed back against this sort of arrangement and have asked that everyone joins remotely. That way you can design the activities to suit just the one approach and everyone gets the same experience. It's also great to get people acquainted to working remotely in this fashion.
Now my previous sessions were interactive and engaging (but I'm not sure they could be described as fun, as that wasn't the intention), but to begin with, with a group that was spread around, I used to have them use the pointer/arrow marker in Webex to highlight where they were based. This works best if they are taking part from many different locations.
I also used to use the chat window to run other icebreakers such as letting others know about their hobbies and interests out of work. There was usually a lot of shared interests in every group, which helped to ‘bond’ people.
With a smaller group, make sure you only ask specific questions to named individuals too. This keeps everyone on their toes (and engaged) as they don't want to be caught off-guard when you ask them something.

As did Martin Schmalenbach:

You will get some great suggestions here. I'm wondering what else can be done...

Point 1 - think beyond a single event and one hour. So as well as the great suggestions you'll get to your specific question, think what could be done both before and after the one hr event itself to get people interested more in each other... for example, have each participant create a newspaper front page that highlights
interesting/fun/unusual aspects of their lives/hobbies/jobs etc, which can be shared before hand, and perhaps have some kind of discussion board where people can interact with each other about the contents of their newspaper front page...

Point 2 - repeat the team build - two x one hour sessions are better than one x one hour session - and have them quite close together.

Point 3 - have small groups, say in threes, work on creating a presentation on a key part of the project/team that they are a part of now, but do it in the style of a comic book, holiday brochure or poster for example... And then have each person vote for the most memorable or impactful presentation...

Point 4 - Have them collectively develop a shared, detailed and rich description of future success for the team - not just operational success but also success in terms of what it feels like to be successful, what people would think, feel, say and do... I found this exercise particularly engaging for people...
Good luck with it!

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Virtual team building event

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