5 Considerations for Group Activities
I’ve been on both sides of the group activity fence, both as an organizer and as a guest. Along the way, I’ve had my share of wonderful experiences, plus a few I’d rather not repeat. I am, however, grateful for the less-than-stellar ones as they’ve shown me which activities may work better in theory than in real life.
Next time your client wants to add a group activity to the schedule, ask your client a lot of questions up front and consider the following:
1) You have the technology, so use it.
Meet face-to-face with the people who will actually be leading the activity, not just the sales person. Interview them, either in person or via Skype, FaceTime or video conference. A face-to-face (live or virtual) meeting will give you sense of how well that provider communicates and what your guests are likely to experience. Think of it as a “chemistry test,” and an opportunity to find out if the activity leader’s personality and presentation will mesh well with your group. Then, take it a step further and request a video clip of the activity for further verification.
2) Take the tour leader for a test drive.
I’ve been on spectacular walking tours and I’ve been on others which could best be described as forced marches. What makes the difference? – the quality of the guide’s commentary and the ability to deliver even the driest material in an entertaining way. If your tour guide is book-smart but lacks a dramatic streak, your guests may wind up loosing interest faster than they can say “Siri, get directions back to the hotel.” But how to know if your tour guide gives a good tour? Simple. Go on one of their tours, or hire a friend or local contact to vet the tour for you. Another thing to keep in mind is tour length. Walking tours in the 2-to-3 hour range is plenty for all but the hardest-core history fans.
3) Select an activity that’s appropriate for the group – not just the boss.
Skydiving, bungee jumping, helicopter rides? For some, they’re exhilarating and exciting experiences and for others, they’re potentially terrifying. As a planner, you’ll need to find out if these activities are likely to appeal to the whole group or just a select few. Try to get a true sense up front about how adventurous your guests are (or aren’t) and what their abilities are. Not long ago I was a guest on an afternoon bike tour in North Africa led by a man who we later found out was one of the top mountain bikers in the world. He led my colleagues and me on the most strenuous, high-speed, half-day bike ride of my life, complete with steep mountain passes, hair-raising drop-offs, rivers to cross, plus a brief chase by a small pack of feral dogs. This way-too-wild ride was a startling reminder to always consider what a guest will actually enjoy vs. simply survive, with PTSD to follow.
4) Give alternatives to non-participants.
It’s a planner’s job to be conscious of guests who may have physical or emotional issues that may make the activity difficult if not impossible for them. Sometimes, clients can lose sight of such things. Be sure to offer an alternate, low-adrenaline activity, or a variation on the group activity that still allows them to participate from a safe distance, without causing embarrassment. On a zip-line tour, non-zippers can be the documenters shooting photos or video of their airborne colleagues which can be just as engaging as actually flying through the air. On-site, keep an eye out for those who may try to bully colleagues into doing something they’re not comfortable with – and be prepared to shut the behavior down.
5) Keep boat trips brief.
When it comes to boat excursions, better to leave guests wanting more than have them heading for the lifeboats, as I did years ago when I was a guest on 8-hour, company-sponsored booze cruise. At hour number four, feigning illness, under cover of darkness (and with the full permission of my very understanding boss), a non-drinking colleague and I convinced one of the boat staff to whisk us back to shore in the ship’s dinghy. The lesson? Cocktail cruises can be lovely, but a full evening of dinner, dancing and hours of drinking with a boatload of colleagues may not be everyone’s idea of a good time.
Ultimately, the goal is to create a memorable bonding experience for all. It’s up to the planner and client to make it memorable for all the right reasons.