I am writing this blog post from the Dominican Republic where I have arrived a few days early to prepare for the arrival of one of my clients for its annual President's Club. This got me thinking that, as groups evolve and company demographics shift (e.g. from singles to young families), so does the shape of their events. Too much mandatory socialization can feel forced. There is a need to re-think a one-size-fits-all approach and come up with a customized approach that is tailor-made for each client.
Here are a few approaches that have grown directly out of the need to be flexible to some of my company's clients.
All-Inclusive with Core Group Activities and Flexible Free Time
Initially, the group consisted of individuals who had been working together for quite some time. Accommodation at a family-friendly resort consisted of villas with private bedrooms and ensuites and a shared living area and pool meets their needs. Families with children stayed in hotel suites. To ensure maximum flexibility, the only scheduled group activities were a welcome lunch and orientation, reception on the first evening and a group dinner on the second night. The company paid for a dedicated tour desk and guests booked and paid for off-site excursions.
As the company has grown and there are many new team members, we have opted for the privacy of individual guest rooms. The itinerary has remained basically the same but the concierge is handling all bookings as the group is smaller this year.
Menu of Activities
With other clients, a menu of group activities that are paid for by the client has been provided. Team members have been able to choose, for example, between golf, horseback riding, ATV tour and shopping.
Free Time Plus Overnight Team Building
With some clients, often the free time is up front. For a corporate event taking place in Dubai,for example, one client preferred to dispense with the arrival lunch and orientation .The first day was allocated for family time as spouses and children were invited. The guests preferred to go immediately to the Dubai Mall for relaxation. One member of the party proceeded to the resort and all luggage was held with the bellmen for check-in in a special area that had been allocated for the group. Shuttles were provided so that guests could proceed to the hotel at their leisure.
On day 2, while there was on-site team building for employees, families had time to relax. An optional cooking team building event and shopping were arranged for the spouses after lunch and the children were free to participate in a supervised children's program at the resort.
Employees who had an interest in paintball were taken to a location to enjoy that activity in the middle of the afternoon. Some team members opted to go shopping. In the evening, the entire group including children gathered for a group dinner at a family-friendly location.
Team building was originally scheduled to begin first thing in the morning of Day 3 but departure was postponed until after lunch as the group expressed a need for more family time. Off-site team building, consisting of team challenges and more facilitated exercises, took the team to the dessert.
The original plan was for the families to spend time on their own that night (and go to the waterpark if they desired). A last minute adjustment was made and we arranged for the families to depart in a few hours for their own desert safari and join the group for dinner. Spouses without children were invited to participate in the off-site and overnight team building. The team members stayed overnight in the dessert and the families with children were taken back to the hotel. Including the wives greatly enhanced the team building and served as a model for future programs.
Incentive trips used to involve itineraries with shared activities and excursions. This is changing. Finding the optimal balance between team, family and free time requires carefully listening to clients and the flexibility to enhance corporate events in a way that is highly customized to the needs of each client.
For more event design tips, also read Designing Family Friendly Conferences, Retreats and Incentive Trips and 40 Fantastic Family Activities for Conferences and Corporate Events.
Photo Credits: Executive Oasis International