Digital team building has been one of the toughest challenges for event organisers. Because a trade show or virtual conference can be run according to fairly familiar parameters: online panels are not a recent invention and long-distance video-calls have existed for many years. Team building, however, is based on direct interaction, on the pleasure of spending time together to improve group dynamics. How can these feelings be recreated if each participant is forced to remain isolated in their own home? One of the most successful formats we have explored, in this respect, involves “sensory” team-building activities, which allow members of the same team to share a physical experience in real-time. One of the most entertaining versions of this team building is what we call the “cocktail challenge“: a fun game that allows the whole team to relax, enjoy an informal atmosphere, and at the same time exercise creativity and work together as a group.
Cocktail challenge, phase 1: the Mystery Box
To begin with, we drew inspiration from some popular TV cooking shows and sent each participant a personalised Mystery Box, branded with the company logo and containing all the necessary ingredients to complete the cocktail challenge. The instructions were clear: the box was not to be opened until the day of the team-building event so that everyone would be on the same page. This is also an important part of the experience: sharing the moment of surprise, excitement, and challenge among colleagues provides an essential element that brings people together and makes them feel part of the same group.
The online event: presenters and professionals
To make the event more professional and official, we hired a presenter to coordinate the proceedings. The participants logged on to a digital platform, where they were welcomed by a professional barman, who offered them a crash-course, revealing some tricks of his trade. The first challenge consisted in the preparation of a classic cocktail, which the participants had to reproduce in the best possible way, after observing the process illustrated by the barman.
Teamwork: the essence of all team building
After the first stage, which was primarily intended to be an ice-breaker and to allow the participants to familiarise themselves with the digital platform, it was time for the actual cocktail challenge. The contestants were divided into virtual “rooms” to work in teams. Their challenge was to create a completely new cocktail, to be invented and mixed from scratch, using the ingredients provided. Of course, in a traditional team building, the next stage would be tasting, so that the judges could vote on the best cocktail. As social distancing made this option unfeasible, we chose to base the vote solely on the cocktail’s visual appeal, thus forcing the competitors to be particularly creative in the presentation of their creation. Of course, the quality of teamwork and the ability to share ideas to arrive at the final product also counted towards the final judgement.
Cocktails are a metaphor
Why did we choose to set up a cocktail challenge? Because cocktails are a perfect metaphor for what should happen in team building. The different members of a group, just like the different ingredients in a cocktail, have very specific individual qualities, which do not work in the same way on their own or in combination. It is only when a perfect and balanced mix of different ‘flavours’ and characters is achieved that a new and unique taste can be created.