Almost ten years ago an Event Planner in Dallas asked my colleague to generate a conference event with a philanthropic element. After a good bit of brainstorming on our team, the bicycle team building was created. The Dallas program was warmly received with some minor glitches. We rethought some of the elements and I conducted the second ever bicycle team building in Orlando for a large pharmaceutical company. The Senior Vice President emailed me to say, “Your bicycle program was the single best team building event I have ever attended. And let me tell you I’ve attended plenty.”
When I last checked online there were 80+ companies offering bicycle team building events. Over the years tens of thousands of bicycles have been given to children in need. As someone who did the second event ever held and since that time has conducted over 200, I think I am uniquely qualified to answer the following questions: Why has this program become so popular? What are the key elements that make a bicycle team building successful?
1. Why so popular? A well-planned bicycle team building has three key elements…
A. Accomplishment – Team building can be fun, and at the conclusion of a bicycle team building your group has accomplished something tangible. Participants feel a sense of pride after coming together as a team and creating something valuable for needy children.
B. Bikes – Everybody has had one. Think about how you felt when you received your first bike. Remember the thrill of ownership and feeling of freedom your bike gave you. Quite simply, bikes engender fond memories for most adults.
C. Kids – The well-selected charity will bring children who need bikes and often times have never owned one. The look in a child’s eyes when they receive their first bike is something adults won’t soon forget.
2. What are the key elements? There are many decisions to be made correctly when planning a successful program.
A. Venue – Making a decision where the event will be held is important for two reasons. The first is to insure sufficient square footage for the size of your group. Participants will be moving around and assembling parts. If they do not have enough space it can create logistical problems. The second decision is whether to hold the event indoors or outdoors. When the weather is good, having the event outdoors gives participants a break to the indoor meetings they have likely been attending all day. A change of surroundings can foster a change in mood. Keep in mind that temperature and weather conditions where you are traveling from can be radically different than where the event will be held. Late spring can be extraordinarily pleasant in the Northeast, but uncomfortably hot and humid in Florida.
B. Charity coordination – It is highly desirable to work with an organization that is accustomed to moving their children in groups. They are likely to have suitable transportation and staff to manage their youngsters. They must select children of the appropriate age for the bicycles being built. Finally they must need the bicycles. I live in Orlando, a key convention destination. Some charities have become saturated with bicycles. If you don’t ask, they won’t tell. I was recently told by a nationally known organization with branches here in Orlando, they had almost a hundred new bicycles in storage. Your team building consultant should be able to find a children’s agency in need of bicycles.
C. Secrets – Who knows what? I believe it adds a vital element of “POP!” to the event if participants don’t know what they are going to be doing. So calling the event Bicycle Team Building pretty much gives away the story. I also strongly encourage the presence of the children receiving their bikes at the end of the event. The surprise experienced by the participants who are building bikes is surpassed by the excitement of meeting the children for whom the bikes were built.
Bicycle Team Building has grown from a standing start ten years ago to the most popular team building event. Many of our large corporate clients do events repeatedly for different divisions within their organizations. I was recently talking with a large healthcare client at the conclusion of an event and she told me, “This is my tenth bicycle team building and I cry every time!”