The Ultimate Guide for Large Group Team Building Activities
Sorry to throw shade, but here’s the truth about most blog posts pretending to be experts on large group team building activities:
Half of the events they talk about would never work in a real-life setting. The other half would be a snooze-fest (we’re looking at you, board games) or would simply fall apart when applied to a large group.
The fact is, what works in smaller groups won’t always work in larger groups. While a handful of team building games can be played successfully with large teams of more than 1000 people, you have to make the proper adjustments to pull it off. Trust us, we’ve been in the business for a while now, and we’ve tried (and learned from a lot of mistakes!)
That’s why we don’t have it in us to slap up an article of “top 100 best team building activities” and call it a day. Instead, we’re breaking it down into a set of guidelines so you can know what works, how to do it, why you should do it, and what to do after the event.
Sound good? Perfect! Let’s jump in and get you educated on what other blog posts aren’t going to tell you.
- 6 Large Group Team Building Activities That Don’t Suck
- The Benefits of Large Group Team Building
- Which Large Group Team Building Activity is Right for Your Team?
- How to Plan Your Large Group Team Building Event
- How to Run Your Team Building Event Like an Expert
- How to Measure the Success of Your Team Building Activity
6 Large Group Team Building Activities That Don’t Suck
As we mentioned above, there aren’t 29, 42, or 101 large group team building activities that work every time. The list is much, much, smaller. Below is our list of six time-tested big group team building activities or games.
Depending on what kind of game you choose, there may be a significant amount of prep work. That could include buying supplies, organizing the room to accommodate the rules of the game, having food and drink on hand, and more.
All those details are out of the scope of this guide, but what we can give you is a list of some large group team building activities don’t suck (we know it because we run these events all the time!)
And, as mentioned before, it’s important to be mindful of time. For the activities listed below, you generally won’t want to push for more than 50 minutes if your group has more than a few hundred people. As that number goes down, however, you’ll find that the group is able to have the energy to participate for longer.
A Quick Note About Charity Team Building Games
You’ll find that most of the events on our list double as charity events. There are a few reasons for that:
- Team building games have this inescapable reputation as “corny,” but when the event is geared toward helping a greater cause, we find that participants are more willing to do what’s “corny” for the sake of helping those in need
- Working to support a charity is a great way to tie your organization’s values to the event and therefore improve company culture
- Getting the charity involved is a powerful way to show your participants the value that their teamwork can bring—a lesson they won’t forget when they return to the workplace
Without further ado, here’s our list of the top big group team building activities that don’t suck:
In this game, large groups are split into smaller teams of ten. Teams then answer a series of clues in exchange for bike parts. A handful of participants are selected as judges (your more outspoken team members will love this role) who help the teams assemble the bikes. Team building lessons are sprinkled throughout, and once all the bikes are built, we deliver them to the local charity.
This impact of this game is especially powerful if you can work with the charity to have the donations personally handed off to the children that will receive them!
The key to making a charity bike build work, though, isn’t in the building of the bicycles. (That is just manual labor. Not really fun.) Instead, as the teams work together to solve each challenge, they feel a sense of accomplishment. Even if a team member doesn’t turn a wrench, he or she will still like they contributed to outcome. Then, if you can get kids from a local children’s charity to receive the bikes at the end, it leads to an incredibly emotional experience for the whole team.
If you want help organizing a Build-A-Bike ® team building activity, click here!
2. A Teddy Bear Team Building Activity for Big Groups:
Similar to Build-A-Bike®, this event involves assembling teddy bears and other stuffed animals instead of bikes. What makes this event stand out, however, is that we first spend time helping participants understand their individual strengths. This has all the benefits of the Build-A-Bike® with the addition of helping participants better understand themselves and their teammates.
So, this activity is a more fun way to assess the strengths of the group (similar to a Strength Finder assessment). However, within the first 25 minutes of the team game, everyone in the room knows the personality and strengths of ALL of their team members. It is a fun way to network with each other as a team and see that the team as a whole is more powerful than the individual members.
If you want help organizing a teddy bear team building activity, click here!
3. The Ace Race® Mini-Golf Course for Charity:
Do you have a competitive team? Then this team building game is for them! This is the fastest and most energetic large group team building game out there. Teams are tasked with building a mini-golf course out of non-perishable food items.
Up to 75 people can play a single nine-hole course, but you can accommodate more people simply by adding additional mini-golf holes or courses.
To build the activity to a crescendo, you can have the winning teams from each course compete in a sudden-death putt-off at the end. The winners take home all the bragging rights.
And, of course, all the food items use in the game are boxed up and donated to a local food pantry or homeless shelter. This big group team building activity takes some special equipment (clubs, balls, greens, and mobile golf holes.) So, hiring a professional team building company to lead the event for you is a good investment.
If you want help organizing an Ace Race ® team building activity, click here!
4. The Amazing Builders Custom Big Group Team Activity for Charity.
This is another great game for competitive teams. Not only that, this is a versatile game where any kind of item can be used for the donation, such as backpacks full of school supplies or care packages for soldiers.
In this game, the group is divided into teams, and each team will race through an indoor mine field while blindfolded. Other team members help them navigate to acquire items to donate to charity. Not only is this game competitive, it will also teach your teams how to communicate better.
Just as an FYI, though, remember how we said earlier that not all team activities are great for big groups? Well this is one where once your group size exceeds 150 people, you’ll want to alter the games and activities that you use to have teams earn their charity donations. People blindfolded in a mine field is fun and funny if the group size is under 150 people or so. However, the bigger the group, the more chaos their is. So, as the group size increases, you’ll want to alter the activities dramatically.
If you want help organizing a custom charity team building activity, click here!
5. Large Group Scavenger Hunts or Team Treasure Hunts Are Harder to Create, But Easier to Facilitate.
A great thing about scavenger hunts is that they can be performed in many different ways. The basic premise is to allow teams to leave the venue, achieve some objectives for points, and be the first ones back. Alternatively, you can create a scoring system that allows each team to earn points by finding locations and solving clues.
For very large groups, you’ll want to create multiple treasure hunts. (Otherwise, you’ll just have hundreds of people crowded into the same small places.) So, this activity takes longer to set up. However, it is the easiest to facilitate. Because once you send the teams out on their quests, they tend to fend for themselves.
Here are a few example challenges to create a team treasure hunt:
- Have teams go out and take selfies of their team in front of statues, art, or interesting places.
- Having your team building event in a fun locale, such as a bustling downtown area? Your scavenger hunt can use the city to your advantage (not to mention it’s a great way to explore and create an unforgettable experience!)
- Team up with a local museum for a fun scavenger hunt. The museum is full of facts and trivia that make for great scavenger hunt clues.
If you want help organizing a team treasure hunt, click here!
6. Fun Classroom Sessions Can Fix Team Challenges While Build a Team Culture.
In our experience, we find that your typical team building games will “amplify” your organization’s culture. Unfortunately, this could mean that a team in need of improvement will amplify the areas they’re struggling in. Here’s a story to help explain:
Very early in the history of The Leaders Institute, we hosted a Build-A-Bike® event for an organization. A handful of the participants were so competitive that they were caught stealing bike pieces from the other teams (To be clear, stealing is not part of the rules!). As it turned out, a manager from the company reported that one of their big issues was employee theft.
If you suspect your team’s culture needs improvement, we recommend “seminar” or “classroom” style team building events, instead. These corporate team building activities can be just as fun as your standard team building games, but they’re focused on imparting a specific lesson. Best of all, they can still work for large groups.
If you want help classroom team building, click here!
Here are some areas of focus:
- Creating team culture: If you don’t create the culture in your team, someone will. Lack of an established and enforced culture is one of the biggest contributors of mistrust in an organization.
- Leadership training: Those who lead will set the example for everyone else. If your organization needs role models, look into training for current leaders or soon-to-be leaders. Teach skills like time management, organization, and effective communication.
- Communication skills: The “soft skills” are rarely covered by employee training programs. When the channel for communication opens, you’ll find that trust and productivity goes up with it. Improving communication can help your team design better presentations, deal with conflict, become better speakers, boost their self-confidence, and more.
The Benefits of Large Group Team Building
If you don’t have much experience putting on team building activities, we understand how the idea of large group team building activities can seem daunting. It might even seem like a better idea to host multiple, smaller events instead of one large one.
But we think you’d be missing out on a huge benefit by not hosting a single large group team building event.
We recommend letting as much of your team as possible have the same experience. When trying to encourage team culture, it doesn’t help to have less than everyone there to learn and interact with each other. And worse, the teams that get left out might wonder why they weren’t invited.
Even if you plan to have enough events for everyone in the company, they’ll be missing out by not being in the same room with the entire company. The objective is to show everyone that the entire team is in it together. Plus, more people at the event opens more possibilities for connections between team members who otherwise would have never met each other.
And let’s also be frank here:
Hosting events for several small groups is going to cost more money than one large event.
If you have your doubts that a large group event could be successful, consider that we’ve recently put on a team building event of more than 1000 group members. Not only was the event successful, but everyone had a great time, and we were able to benefit multiple charities (how’s that for a ripple effect?).
Regardless of your group size, a successful team building event is going to instill some lessons in them that they won’t soon forget, such as:
When employees take part in a team building activity, they and their colleagues will face a task they’ve likely never handled before. This, along with the guidance from a good instructor, helps them practice better communication.
Proper collaboration makes use of everyone’s unique strengths and teaches them to have practice respect with each other. Team building activities are specifically designed to drive participants toward a common goal.
Without trust, you won’t have good communication or collaboration. If relations are strained in the office, a team building activity focused on developing trust can teach colleagues how to trust each other. These types of activities are possible even with large groups!
In the workplace, giving team members opportunities to practice leadership can come with risks. Instead, let your team flex their leadership muscles in a fun environment designed to bring out the best leadership qualities.
Increased Morale and Engagement
Often, participants forget just how much fun they can have with their coworkers. That is, until they take on a team building game together. A fun event can boost their morale and create attitudes that follow them back into the workplace.
Encourage Problem-Solving Skills
Standard, in-office training teaches your employees that there’s one “right answer.” Team building stands out by encouraging participants to come up with creative solutions.
Which Large Group Team Building Activity is Right for Your Team?
There aren’t many cases where a team building activity wouldn’t be a good idea. Rather, the real importance of team building activities is best understood by keeping in mind what type of activity will be best for your group.
For example, if your team could benefit from building a better culture, we’d suggest putting on an event that’s geared toward building soft skills.
On the other hand, if you’re looking for a fun way to reward your team, a team building game with competitive elements could be just what they need.
There are countless reasons to put on a team building event, but to ensure you’re putting on the best type of activity for your group, you’ll want to consider things like:
Do you want your team to be better leaders? Do you simply want a remote team to come together for an in-person activity? Without a desired outcome, your team building event is nothing more than just a get-together. Keeping the desired outcome in mind will help bring focus to your event.
What’s the culture like?
The truth is that no team is perfect. If there seem to be trust or communication issues in your teams, a competitive team building game could magnify those issues. Instead, you would want to put on an activity that helps resolve this. It’s definitely worth considering at the early stages of planning.
If you’re not sure what your team’s challenges are, consider speaking to a professional in team building.
Hosting an event for a large group isn’t a problem, but the size of the group will determine how you should run the event.
The general rule of thumb is that when the number of participants goes up, the amount of time spent on an activity should go down. You’ll want to keep this in mind when organizing your event.
Physical capabilities and limitations
Outdoor games or physical activity might seem like an obvious choice for a fun team building event, but they typically limit the participation of those with limitations. To ensure that the entire group is comfortable and capable of participating in the activities, good team building games shouldn’t be physically demanding for the rest of the team.
Location and Resources
Will the event be held at your office? A rented event space? Regardless of where you choose, we recommend staying away from any public areas that can bring unwanted distractions.
And while we do recommend in-person events for large group team building, we understand that our current era of remote teams has changed up the game. There are plenty of fun virtual team building activities, but for the most part, we typically recommend those for smaller groups.
How to Plan Your Large Group Team Building Event
Before you try tackling a large team building activity, you can’t forget preparation! We’ve heard of people winging their team building activities, but we wouldn’t recommend it. A series of small errors in your event could be its downfall. And if you’re not a professional, you might not be able to save it from disaster the way we can. Here’s a little story to drive the point home:
We once attended a team building event that went sour due to some unforeseen circumstances. Unfortunately, the venue had a very small stage and a bad sound system. The instructor had no choice but to try and project her voice to a very large crowd without any assistance from the microphone.
To complicate things further, this team building game had a heavy emphasis on setup and instructions. It was difficult for the participants to hear the instructions, and even worse, they couldn’t hear how the game was related to team building.
This left groups of participants unfocused and wondering why they were even there in the first place. At the end of the day, it was clear that the event wasn’t nearly as impactful as it could have been.
To prevent something similar from happening to your own team building event, we can’t stress enough the importance of preparing as much as possible. Here are a few ways to ensure your event goes off without a hitch:
Choose a professional speaker
It’s not difficult to run a team building event for 10 or even 20 people. Even someone who hasn’t done it before can figure it out as long as they have a solid set of activities and a fun game to fall back on.
As the numbers go up, however, things will start to get difficult. That’s why we recommend choosing a professional speaker for your larger team building events. That can either be a team building expert or even a sales rep on your team who has experience with speaking to large crowds. Either way, we don’t recommend someone without experience.
Ensure the venue has proper accommodations
Primarily, we’re referring to the sound system and stage. If the venue does not have these things—or if you’re not able to set them up in the space—then you will have a difficult time communicating to a large group.
And, as shown in our story above, not being heard by the entire group will be a detriment to the success of your event.
Create a list of activities that balance competitive and cooperative elements
To ensure your event holds your audience’s attention, intersperse both cooperative and competitive elements into it. Cooperative elements, such as ice breakers (more on that down below), will help open your crowd and get them into the right frame of mind. Then, before they get too bored with that, the introduction of competitive games will create a high-energy environment.
How to Run Your Team Building Event Like an Expert
Hosting a team building event is equal parts art and science. The “art” can be grasped by a professional speaker, as we’ve alluded to above. We could give a lot of advice on this, but it’s a bit subjective and varies from speaker to speaker.
The “science” part are the things we’ve discovered after years of running team building events. Those are things like controlling the crowd, which type of ice breakers to use, and how to make your large group more manageable.
Controlling the Crowd
- Clarify the purpose: Before starting the activity, clearly communicate its objectives and how it aligns with broader team or organizational goals.
- Define the rules: Ensure that everyone understands the rules and guidelines to prevent confusion and ensure fairness.
- Encourage participation: Stress the importance of every team member’s active participation.
- Timing and attention spans: One of our top recommendations for large groups is to cut down on the length of activities. As groups get larger, it becomes more difficult to hold a group’s attention. Factor this into your schedule and anticipate shortening events.
- Encourage interaction: Incorporate ice breakers that separate the groups into different teams. Part of the fun of team building events is getting people together who wouldn’t normally interact with each other (more on this below).
- Monitor progress: Your job isn’t done after getting participants to start an activity. During the event, keep an eye on how people are interacting and gauge their level of enthusiasm. Make adjustments based on what you see.
- Encourage open communication: If conflicts arise, encourage open and respectful communication. Remind the team of their shared goals.
- Mediate if necessary: If conflicts persist, you may need to step in and mediate to ensure a fair resolution.
- Use conflicts as learning opportunities: Conflicts, when handled well, can stimulate growth, build resilience, and strengthen team cohesion.
Debriefing and Reflection
- Reflect on the activity: After the activity, guide the team in reflecting on their performance, the challenges they faced, and the strategies they used.
- Link to workplace: Discuss how the lessons learned can be applied in the work context.
- Capture feedback: Capture participants’ feedback about the activity, which can be used for future improvements.
Don’t Underestimate the Power of Ice Breakers for Large Groups
Have you ever wondered what the purpose of an ice breaker is? It’s not just a way to learn people’s names. There’s actually some powerful psychology behind them.
First off, they take your participants’ minds from one state into another. They’ve likely spent most of their day in “work mode,” answering calls and getting tasks done—a state that is far less receptive to team building games. By pulling them in with a proper ice breaker, you can pull them out of that mental state and into one that’s more conducive to relaxation, creative thinking, and simply having fun.
And second, they’re good for getting people out of their comfort zone. Unless prompted to do so, many people will partner up with their friends or people they already know. A good icebreaker will mix everyone up so that new relationships can be formed.
Oh, and one last thing:
In hosting your event, ice breakers are also useful for providing a time buffer. With a large group, there will inevitably be a few participants that don’t make it to the event on time. A good ice breaker will give stragglers some time to arrive before the main activities begin.
Best Practices for Ice Breakers in Large Groups
If you search the internet for ice breakers, you’ll find an unlimited number of ideas. What most people won’t tell you, however, is that ice breakers for large groups should be run a little bit differently.
- Don’t run the ice breaker longer than 5 to 10 minutes. Any longer and you’re going to lose your crowd!
- Keep it as simple as possible. Large groups can’t help but be noisy and distracting, so it’s easy for instructions to get muddled. Don’t use any ice breakers that have more than one or two rules.
- Stick to ice breakers that ask individuals to find partners. This will be very easy to manage and won’t require extra facilitators, supplies, and will make it easier to split them into teams after.
Ice breakers will get your crowd in a better state of mind, but don’t rely on them too heavily. One ice breaker at the beginning of the event is enough.
Two Truths and a Dream
Similar to “Two Truths and a Lie,” a participant shares two true statements about themself and one dream or aspiration they have. The other must guess which statement is the dream. This activity allows people to learn more about each other’s goals and aspirations.
The Bucket List
In this activity, partners take turns sharing one item from their bucket list (i.e., a list of things they want to do before they die). It can be a travel destination, a personal goal, or an experience they wish to have. This activity sparks conversations and provides insight into participants’ interests and dreams.
Participants pair up and have a short amount of time (e.g., 1 minute) to introduce themselves to each other. After the time is up, one side of the pair moves to a new person, and the introductions repeat. This activity allows people to quickly meet multiple individuals and practice concise self-introductions.
Ask each participant to imagine they are stranded on a desert island and can only bring three items with them. Have them share their three chosen items and explain why they would bring them to a partner. This activity encourages creativity, imagination, and reveals individual preferences and priorities.
Ask participants to find a partner they have something in common with (e.g., same birth month, same favorite color, same hobby). Once they find their partner, they can discuss their shared interest and get to know each other better.
Make Things Easier by Splitting Your Large Group into Smaller Teams
Now that you’ve got everyone warmed up with an ice breaker, it’s time to split everyone up into small teams. This will make it easier for you to manage everyone once the main team building game begins.
For best results, we recommend teams of 6 to 8 people. This will be even easier if you’ve chosen an ice breaker that asks them to partner up.
Do an ice breaker that puts partners together. Afterward, tell each group of partners to walk around the room and find two other groups of partners. Now you have a team of 6!
Find a new table
For team building games that use tables, tell the partners to go partner with another group from a different table. Then, have them all go to another on the other side of the room. You should now have a team of 6 people with no prior association to each other.
Draw team numbers
This is another good method for when you know exactly how many teams are needed. Simply write the team numbers down on a piece of paper, put them in a hat, and have participants draw a number.
Draw playing cards
What’s even easier than putting numbered pieces of paper into a hat? Using a deck of playing cards!
Form a winning hand
Pass out one playing card to each participant. Then tell them to form a winning poker hand. You can even give extra points for highest hand.
How to Measure the Success of Your Team Building Activity
In any initiative, gauging the effectiveness is crucial, and team-building activities are no exception. After investing time, energy, and resources into planning and executing large group team building activities, it’s essential to understand if they brought about the desired outcome.
Imagine setting sail on a journey without a compass or map; you wouldn’t know if you’ve reached your destination or are making any progress at all. Similarly, in the realm of a team-building event, the absence of a clear measurement strategy leaves us guessing about their effectiveness.
From gathering feedback through surveys to monitoring changes in team dynamics and assessing performance metrics, here are some ways you can check your activities’ effectiveness. By revisiting the original objectives of the activity, you’ll be able to measure whether the event met its goals and decide how to fine-tune your approach for future initiatives.
Request all participants to complete a post-activity survey. The survey should gauge how they felt about the activity, what they learned from it, and what they believe could be improved. And, of course, make sure that submissions are anonymous so employees feel comfortable giving honest answers.
The feedback should be both qualitative (open-ended questions where participants can share their thoughts freely) and quantitative (using rating scales on various aspects of the activity).
To help with this, we suggest using an online app like SurveyMonkey.
Monitoring Ongoing Team Dynamics
Observe how the team interacts after the activity. Has communication improved? Do team members collaborate more effectively? Are there signs of increased trust and respect?
Look out for concrete changes in behavior and interaction patterns. These could be key indicators of the impact of the team building activity.
This can be a very subjective area of evaluation, so make sure to use something like your organization’s core values as the standard for improvement.
Depending on the objectives of your team building activity, you should have corresponding performance metrics in place.
For example, if the aim was to improve productivity, then measuring the team’s output before and after the activity could show if it has been successful. If the goal was to reduce conflict, monitoring the number and severity of conflicts could be revealing.
It’s important to revisit the objectives you set before the activity. Did you achieve what you intended to?
Reevaluate the objectives in light of the feedback and observations made post-activity. If the objectives weren’t met, consider what adjustments need to be made for future activities.
In conclusion, large group team-building activities are not just about fun and games; they are a crucial mechanism to forge stronger bonds, enhance collaboration, and ultimately build a team that works effectively and cohesively. From meticulous planning to careful execution, every step in the process plays a critical role in shaping the team’s dynamics. And with our list of activities, you’re now equipped with a toolbox filled with options that cater to diverse needs and preferences. Of course, don’t forget that no list of team building activities you find online is going to be a perfect fit for your organization. We encourage you to use our list as guidelines to show you what’s possible.
And remember, the journey doesn’t end with the completion of an activity. It’s essential to measure the success of these activities, just as a sailor would use a compass and map to ensure they are on the right course. By using feedback surveys, monitoring ongoing team dynamics, observing performance metrics, and revisiting the activity’s objectives, you’ll be able to gauge the effectiveness of your team building endeavors.
Going forward, keep these best practices, tips, and activities in mind. With each team-building activity you conduct, you’re not just organizing an event; you’re creating an environment that fosters growth, encourages open communication, and builds a stronger team. Don’t shy away from this challenge, instead embrace it, and watch as your team becomes more engaged, productive, and cohesive.
So, what are you waiting for? Dive in, explore the activities, and begin the exciting journey of building your super team. And as you do, don’t forget to share your experiences and learnings with us. Happy team building!