It’s a classic problem for office managers, corporate event planners and human resources professionals in the 21st Century. You have been tasked with creating a team building activity to help boost morale & foster goodwill amongst the disparate groups which make up your office or department. The only problem is, while you and the majority of staff are at the company’s Mother Ship in one city, a critical team works off-site, and interacts primarily via email & conference call. Do you fly the outside team in, for the sake of a group bonding exercise?

If your budget for employee entertainment is like most companies in this economy, I think we both know the answer to that. However, thanks to virtual meeting technology, team building events no longer need to exclude those who don’t work at headquarters. This past fall, one of our clients, MTV Networks, faced this exact problem, which we were able to solve using technology.

In this case, the department wanted to hold a fun live trivia party as a reward for hard-working staff, following a particularly arduous project. However, while the majority of the team was in the New York City office, several crucial team members were stationed down at the Nashville office. What to do?

For starters, we decided to hold the event on-site in MTV’s largest conference room, re-configuring the space to make it usable for us. Next, we set up the satellite video conference system, and established a live video & audio feed directly to the Nashville conference room, making sure to run our host’s microphone through both the local sound system as well as the video conference channel. With the Nashville team now proudly represented on the huge screen – and the NYC group displayed on theirs – we proceeded with our live trivia, just as we would at any other event.

Teams usually write down their trivia answers on sheets provided at our events, however we had Nashville send theirs in via email. Once all the answers were collected, they were scored, announced and the next round read out, just like normal. An “iPod Round” was easy to do- just played the music through the audio input, and Nashville could hear the tunes in realtime just like the NYC group. When it came time to do our “Picture Round” – a sheet with celebrity faces, which teams must identify for points – we fired off an email attachment. Moments later, we watched on screen as someone came into the Nashville conference room with freshly-printed picture sheets. No time wasted, and very, very cool!

In the end, the entire group had an absolute blast- and would you believe, Nashville actually won! They cheered just as loudly and enthusiastically as an other team would, despite the fact that they were in an office many miles away from the main group. It was a successful event by any measure, and was possible thanks to the virtual technology available in most any modern workplace.

The role of technology in virtual meetings, team building, corporate entertainment and other activities is evolving rapidly, with social media also making a huge impact. Next week is Internet Week here in New York, and the social media/event planning experts at Liz King Events will be teaming up with “virtual venue storefront” Pogby to present Planner Tech, a showcase for tools used to integrate digital & social technology into live events. The event will be held on Thursday, June 9th at 6pm if you can make it – otherwise, be sure to follow the action on Twitter by using the #plantech hashtag.

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