building events

I had two things happen to me over the past month which I thought were strange. Well, more than two, for sure – but only two which a prospective client like yourself would be remotely interested in.

As a trivia team building and corporate entertainment company, I get all sorts of calls from all sorts of prospects. For folks whom I have never worked with before, there’s generally some product overview I have to go through – this isn’t traditional office bonding activities, after all, and most people have never done anything quite like I what TrivWorks offers.

The first strange thing was when someone from a major public relations firm here in Los Angeles County called me up. She was putting on a corporate trivia night for her ENTIRE 60-person office in a month, as well as the entire 40-person Dallas office, which would be coming to visit. Great! I explained that this is exactly what we do, that we have over ten years’ experience producing events such as this, that we produce for Fortune 500 clients nationwide. She was extremely impressed with what I was telling her, and asked for me to put together a proposal, which I did.

A week went by, and I didn’t hear back – so I called her up. She said that while she was still interested, she wanted to know if I was open to negotiating my fee. As I mentioned, this was a MAJOR PR firm, with many offices around the country – seeing no harm in reducing my fee in order to establish what I hoped would be a long-tem relationship, I assured her that I would deliver a fantastic experience within her budget, and asked her what rate she had in mind. She said she’d get back to me.

She didn’t.

Another week goes by, and I reach out again. This time when she replies, she says that they are just waiting on a couple of quotes from other vendors. This puzzled me for two reasons: A) I had promised to work within her budget, and B) there ARE no other vendors doing what I do, offering trivia team building and entertainment exclusively for company events! I reminded her about all of my unique experience and expertise in this exceedingly niche area, not to mention the two years I had myself worked for a global PR firm doing – well, EXACTLY what the people who would be attending this event do, which is account work.

No reply.

Seeing how the event date was now rapidly approaching, I reached out one last time and asked if she had made a decision.

She had.

“Thanks David for following up, however we are going in another direction. Someone here in the office knows someone else who knows this guy who hosts bar trivia locally, and he’s offered to do it for free. Will keep you in mind for future events. Thanks!”

I’ve been doing this for a long time, and I am certainly no stranger to the “thanks-but-no-thanks” Email. But this one was different. Think about this for a second: she’s in charge of putting on a team building event not just for her ENTIRE office, but that of a visiting office within her company as well. Everyone will be there, from senior managers to peers to junior staff to interns. In short, it’s an important event for an important audience, and her reputation is on the line.

And yet, instead of bringing in a credible, experienced trivia team building vendor, she goes with…the free pub quiz host from down the street?

As I’ve stated many times here on this blog, you get what you pay for; whereas I have personally produced or emceed over 1,000 trivia events for companies nationwide, I shudder to think about the type of group bonding experience her 100 colleagues will have with the pub quiz host who, while no doubt well-intentioned, does pub quiz. How professional can they expect him to be? What level of quality can they expect to receive? And, most importantly, how well will their specific team goals and objectives be measured and achieved?

I think you know the answer – let’s wish her and her company luck, as they’ll surely need it.

Now, let’s move on to the second interesting thing that happened to me of late. Last week, I was approached by a firm seeking an NYC team building event. Here’s the catch: they didn’t want the event. Rather, they wanted us to come in and train a core group of them how to do ½ or full-day team training, which they could then replicate THEMSELVES for a larger group during an overseas retreat in two months.

I was puzzled by this request as well. It’s one thing for me to send in one of the corporate trainers or facilitators to lead a half or full-day session, designed to address specific goals/objectives. But to train people who have never done this before in what to do, so that they can run the program themselves in a couple of months while overseas? That sounded a bit strange to me.

I explained to the prospect that while I could certainly do my best to facilitate a “train the trainer” intensive, I couldn’t guarantee how effective it would be. After all, the trainers I work with have years and years of specialized experience – it’s what they DO! By comparison, while I could certainly pay my barber to come in for the afternoon and teach me to cut hair, that doesn’t mean I should start coiffing everyone on my team two months from now. I turned the gig down.

Why do I raise these two examples here on my blog? Not to sulk about losing two prospective gigs (though I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed); rather, it’s to ask a question about what I’m now calling “do-it-yourself team building.” Does such a phenomenon exist? Is this a “thing?”

I honestly don’t know. In over a decade of doing this, it’s so rare for me to encounter examples like the ones above. I don’t know if it should be chocked up to budget issues, or trying to keep things “in house” versus bringing in an outside vendor. But what I DO know is that in both of these cases, the results will likely not be of the quality or caliber that they are seeking. Why take the time to research and contact professional team building companies, if you are ultimately going to have a poor experience doing it yourself?

I just made an assumption, of course – not sure if you caught it, but I am imagining that these experiences will be poor. In fairness, I could be wrong; maybe the ultimate experience is EXACTLY what they were seeking to begin with. Maybe instead of a professional team building experience, the first client wants an incredibly casual, informal pub quiz? And what if the second company doesn’t want a full-blown, bells & whistles training session, but rather something “lighter” that they can serve up themselves?

Who knows. I’m like the news here: I report, you decide. Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section below!

For further reading, you can also check out this team building article.