Live vs Virtual Team Building
Prior to the pandemic the answer would have been a no-brainer. I would have recommended live, hands down. The new reality is that we live in a hybrid work world which makes it more difficult to connect and engage our teams to one another and your company culture. I know that you are probably thinking, if I have to sit through one more zoom happy hour, I will scream! With the advent of improved technologies over the past two years such as real-time polling software, enhanced group features on platforms like Zoom and MS Teams, speed, graphics and clarity it has become a toss-up. Determining which is right for you and your teams is a simple process of analyzing efficiency, price vs total cost and effectiveness. Let’s take a look at each one.
If you have an employee population under 150 people in a single location, live team building would be the most efficient and cost-effective solution. For companies and teams over 150 in multiple locations or working remotely you should strongly consider a virtual solution. This is not to say that a special gathering of all employees for an event like a town hall, conference or celebration would be an excellent opportunity for a live team building activity for groups under 500. If however, you are looking to connect on a more frequent basis and sustainable results, virtual is without a doubt a more efficient solution.
Companies with large employee populations often give departments, locations and teams the autonomy and budget to host their own events. The same 150 employee rule of thumb would apply which we will detail in the cost section.
Another consideration for efficiency to consider would be the purpose or goal of the event or activity. If the goal is purely for employee recognition, celebration or “fun for fun’s” sake then live activities or events are the best solution. These are referred to as “one offs”, not to be repeated. If however, your goal is more purposeful such as communicating a consistent message in a fun way, bringing company values to life or having long term impact then virtual team building would be the most efficient solution. Studies show that fun enhances the learning experience by 300% and is a very efficient way to communicate a consistent, purposeful message across an organization in a short period. Virtual team-building activities can be built around company values such as teamwork, inclusion, excellence and others.
Price vs Total Cost
You would think that the cost of a virtual event would be a fraction of the price of a live event. While that may be true for a prerecorded, off-the-shelf experience it would not be the case for a custom, live facilitated virtual activity. I have yet to see or experience a prerecorded activity that did not look contrived, nonprofessional and left me underwhelmed. For purposes of our comparison, we are going to compare the difference between a custom-facilitated virtual event vs a live event. The true cost comparison lies in the total cost and not the cost of the activity itself.
If your company population is in a single location with under 250 people the price of a live event vs a virtual facilitated event will be very similar. A 60-90 minute live event would range between $3500-$6000 depending on the level of customization from most team building companies. The price would be similar for a custom, live facilitated virtual event lasting up to 60 minutes. Virtual events tend to be shorter in duration because there is much less time for transitions and our limited attention spans to stay focused.
Other major costs associated with a live event include: venue cost(if offsite), transportation or gathering time, food(if provided), potential liability, music/av equipment, extended business interruption and others.
In summary, after weighing all the costs involved, virtual team building is considerably less expensive than live, especially for employee populations over 250 in multiple locations and or time zones.
After 16 years of delivering live events in the workplace, I would never have imagined this to even be a question. Over the past 5 years, we were tasked with developing virtual solutions for our clients with large employee populations. The pandemic accelerated our efforts and many of our long-term clients made the switch from live to virtual to keep their teams and culture connected. Interestingly, as many are now returning to the office they still want virtual in addition to some live events, they have experienced the benefits of virtual along with the enhancements of technology and video production capabilities to make the effectiveness and experience so appealing.
Live human interactions are irreplaceable as a means to connect, engage and foster relationships.