Virtual Team Building in The Time Of Coronavirus

Reconnect virtual team build video
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Beach and Bush Team Building first opened it’s doors in 2001, the year after the millennium celebrations. From humble beginnings it has grown to become South Africa’s busiest Team Building Company.

Product development and creating exciting and innovative new products has always been part of our DNA.

So with the onset of coronavirus and the resulting disruption being experienced in the eventing industry, the answer for us was simple: let’s take our class leading products online and create an entirely new market addressing this deep need to ‘reconnect’.

At first it was tempting to ‘sit out’ the current unpleasantness, perhaps shut down and mothball everything until the air cleared. Then we could pick up the pieces and go back to the old way off doing things in 2, 4 or 6 months time. The time scale involved and the foreign technologies we would be working with to develop a new online product seemed a bridge too far.

Then we started getting calls from clients:

Many of our loyal customers were battling to adapt to the new reality of remote working. Teams were breaking down under the stress of trying to adapt to the new ‘digital normal’. The most common challenges seemed to be loss of connection and collaboration.

So our team came together one early April morning for a Zoom conference that would change everything. We threw a few ideas around as we usually do at product development meetings and quickly saw the opportunity: ‘Remote Team Building’

Some initial skepticism was quickly overcome and we put our heads down and basically worked day and night for 3 weeks, our goal: to create the world’s best 90 minute Virtual Team Building experience. The idea was to create a core product that would blow attendees away and address the need for connection that we knew was out there.

Our starting point was international best practices, we booked an online team build with the ‘market leader’ in the industry, based in New York. We discovered that they could only accommodate us 2 weeks later. We couldn’t wait that long …

So we just went for it … many late nights and long days later we were ready for our first trial event. The product we developed ticked all the boxes and we believed went beyond just a ‘fun experience’ (fun has always been a cornerstone of all of our products) and addressed the core need for collaboration and better communication. An added bonus … valuable online meeting skills would be learned by delegates.

We were careful to ensure that the experience contained all of the hallmarks that Beach and Bush was known for: excellent structure, carefully timing, professional facilitation and most importantly … fun!

The first test session wasn’t perfect, a few technical glitches and timing issues resulted in valuable lessons learned. The folk from our partner conference agency ‘Joburg Conferences’ were however very excited about the product and were full of praise at how quickly we had developed this new concept.

Then we were ready for further testing with 2 top corporate groups. After applying the lessons learned from the first session, the events went off flawlessly and both test clients raved about the experience.

The most encouraging feedback was that the teams thought they had bonded and become closer as a result of the session. The feedback was in line with what we were  used to from our on-site events.

Then it was time for our session with the Team Building Company from the USA. The session was run by a New York based comedian and was very much more about entertainment then bonding and team building.

We had fun and benefitted as a team. However the smiles in our private Zoom room after the session were mainly due to the realization that our product was better, way better.

A few important lessons learned: 1. Make sure your team is adaptable, resilient and agile, we are blessed with a team of free thinkers who love a challenge. 2. Don’t be afraid to reach out to your industry partners, the support we received from clients and partners was humbling and heart warming.

And so as we prepare to go to market during this crazy, sad, topsy-turvy, exciting time, here’s a message for other companies that are stuck in the old reality … innovate, pivot, do whatever you have to do … you just might surprise yourselves.

Sean Uys is a qualified Attorney and Motivational Speaker who has worked in the team building and group dynamics industry for over 20 years. Sean is the owner of South Africa’s largest national team building service provider, Beach and Bush team Building.

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