Pre-pandemic, we were well prepared to handle requests for team building or engagement initiatives. Be it a short team-building event or an intense outbound program – you had your preferred vendors picked and onboarded, contracts in place but then the world went all virtual and you had to grapple with the new normal.
After the lull when budgets were frozen or businesses were busy re-organizing and making survival plans, you’re now flooded with requests for virtual engagement events. And why not?
Your teams have been slugging without boundaries, between work and home, weekdays and weekends; and they deserve a little bonding time together where they can connect as friends and not only as colleagues working together.
And you find yourself searching for all those emailers that you received in the last few weeks from various companies extolling virtues of the new virtual team engagement activities and platforms.
Now you found a host of those emails with a million options and you’re scratching your head trying to make sense of it all.
In the following paragraphs, we hope to provide you with a few important points to consider or questions you should ask the vendors before you engage one of them for your next virtual team-building event. Here goes:
1. Ask your Vendor to ask Questions, before you provide the information
A good way to judge the quality of a vendor is to let them ask you questions for the information they will need to design your event. How they go about this process and the nature of questions they ask will give you a very good indication of the organization’s experience of conducting events in the virtual world.
Do they ask you for information about the virtual meeting platform, the last virtual team building event you conducted, or nitty-gritty like whether people will log in from their laptops or mobiles, or if people will have their cameras on or off during the session and so on. One of the important conversations to have is regarding the objectives of the program and the profile of participants. For us, this is the question that we usually lead with. This determines the course for the whole session.
If these questions don’t come up, then it’s an indication that that vendor doesn’t have enough experience in conducting virtual events as these are common issues one would have dealt with in going from concept on presentation to actual delivery of an event.
2. Specific instances for each of the options provided
As virtual team-building events are relatively a new space, everybody is scrambling for new ideas, and one is tempted to often do a cut-paste job of something that they find on YouTube or an international website.
In these cases, the vendor will often think “Let them choose, we will figure out a way to deliver”. If you are confident with the vendor’s ability to do this, you’re golden. But the reality is quite different. However sincere the vendor’s intent might be in delivering a good event, the virtual world involves the use of links, apps, and websites that are fraught with unknowns.
Also many times several options are presented, many of them might still be on paper as they might not have had any takers so far. But this need not mean that the option is not viable for you. If you are not the risk-taking type, then you should insist on your vendor providing specific experiences with clients or instances when a certain option has been deployed by the vendor and the feedback that was received.
3. Platform Compatibility/Breakout Rooms etc
One of our biggest learning in the past year of conducting virtual team-building events has been that just because an event works well on Zoom, doesn’t mean it will work equally well on Webex or MS teams or BlueJeans or Google Meet.
Each platform has its peculiarities in the way breakout rooms are formed and permissions that are possible as a co-host or permissions that the company has access to based on their contract, access available to break out room participants, and the list goes on.
A good vendor would have had experience across multiple platforms and will offer you events based on the platform that you use. They should be able to give you enough caveats on a particular choice that you might have, depending on the platform that is used by your organization.
If the vendor is not seeking enough information about your web meeting platform then they might have limited experience in the virtual team building event space.
4. Real pictures real footage from real programs
The pictures might be crude the videos might be even cruder but this usually means it’s authentic footage from actually delivered programs because we know from experience that is not possible to get classy pictures from screengrabs while a workshop is on.
So if your vendor offers you only a promotional video with one or two people acting in an animated manner knowing well they’re on camera, then you should ask your vendor to at least share some pictures from their last couple of events to know that they’ve had actual experience in delivering such events.
5. Test Links of games/weblinks used to check firewalls/compatibility
Every organization has its unique security protocol and firewalls. In fact, we found even within the same organization two different divisions sometimes have different levels of security and firewalls.
You should insist that your vendor shares demo links – before the event – that are similar to the ones that will be used during the actual event. Have them opened on a few computers or systems in your office to know if those links will work. This will ensure that you can change the activity or work with your IT team to white label certain links before the event if the need be. Ideally, this suggestion should be put forward by your vendor.
6. Conversation with Actual Facilitators
Facilitating a virtual team-building event is a whole different ball game from a physical one. And the facilitator with a few virtual programs under her belt would have made those adjustments to drive engagement and interaction even when the cameras are off. ( The bane of virtual workshops!!).
So as pre-program prep work, you should ask for a short conversation with the facilitator who is going to be the one delivering the program for your organization. This allows you to set expectations, create alignment and also have a sense of comfort that your program is in good hands.
If you’re new to this, it can be a little nerve-wracking to organize a virtual team event with several unknowns. But if you choose a good vendor who is professional, has enough experience and options to offer, then you are in good hands.
And more importantly, if you are well prepared to ask your vendor the right kind of questions, then you will set yourself up well to choose a partner.
Happy exploring and hope you have fun in your next virtual team-building event!
We at BlueSky learning have been designing and delivering high-impact virtual-first teambuilding programs for our clients. If you are looking for fresh ideas for remote team-building programs, talk to us at BlueSky Learning. Our activities for small and large teams can meaningfully engage teams, and help you take the right step towards building high-performance teams. Talk to us today