Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Murder on the Menu/HR Team

Who wouldn't want to partner with a company that promises to provide health and welfare benefits to employees on a large scale? That was the premise of the Murder on the Menu interactive mystery event presented last night for the International HR Team from Macrovision Solutions. It soon became clear that "our" potential partner company had problems not only with their product but with their finances and personnel. Pretty risky investment, and one that Macrovision Solutions was not about to make. But it was all in fun, and the HR Team quickly got swept up in the Crime of their Life!

This mystery event was not purely entertainment. The goals of the meeting, agenda, and jargon and buzzwords were interwoven into the evening's performance. In addition, it was a team building event as each table became a team as they had to solve the 4 crimes that took place during their dinner. A little play, a little business makes for a fun evening!

Murder on the Menu's amazing actors kept the group guessing until the very end. Then it was all business as the teams figured out who did what and why.

The setting was the beautiful atrium of the Hotel Sainte Claire in downtown San Jose. The catering and service by Il Fornaio was terrific. After a day of meetings, this group was ready for a lighter approach to their HR issues as the Murder on the Menu production reinforced the themes of their meeting.

What a wonderful group. Everyone participated in the mystery. The interaction of the guests is what makes Murder on the Menu events so much fun.

So glad to see businesses meeting again!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

S'mores go with Sensational Sandcastle Building

Teambuilding Unlimited does lots of Sensational Sandcastle Building team building events on the beaches around the U.S., and if permitted to make a fire, we like to top the event off with S'mores! I put this particular blog entry together on my DyingforChocolate Blog, but realized that it should go here, as well. S'mores are a great way to top off your team building event.

I've put together a few 'different' recipes for the ultimate S'mores--made with Chocolate Chip cookies. I welcome comments and more recipes.

At Affordable Meetings West this year, the Marriott Hotels put together a booklet called Recipes for a Successful Meeting. The San Diego Marriott Mission Valley submitted the following recipe for S'mores.

Start with your favorite chocolate chip dough (no not use refrigerated Nestle Toll House Cookie Dough).
Bake the cookies per instructions and remove half-way through the baking process. Note: the key to a great Toll House cookie is baking them at a low heat. 225?)
Remove the cookies from the oven and top with 3 mini-marshmallows (Depends on size of cookie, you can always add more)
Place back in the oven for the duration of the baking time (Note: do not over-bake cookie or caramelize marshmallows)
Remove from oven and sprinkle with crushed cinnamon graham crackers over the melted marshmallows.
Drizzle cookies with Hershey's Chocolate Syrup. Best served warm out of the oven.

Picky Palate has a really cool recipe for Chocolate Chip Cookie S'mores.. She calls them Oozing Chocolate Chip Cookie S'mor Sandwiches. Everyone in the food community is so gracious, and Jenny gave me permission to reprint her recipe here--and use her fantastic photos!

Jenny found one of the most interesting additions to her recipe at Target -- Kraft makes chocolate covered mini marshmallows. She mixed them into the cookie dough. How cool is that? Of course, you can make the dough with or without them.

Oozing Chocolate Chip Cookie S'mor Sandwiches

2 sticks softened butter
3/4 Cups sugar
3/4 Cup brown sugar, packed
2 eggs
1 Tablespoon vanilla
2 1/2 Cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 oz package Kraft Chocolate Covered Mini Marshmallows, if you can find them
1/2 Cup chocolate chips
1 1/2 Cups mini baking M&M's

Mini Marshmallows (less than 1 bag full)
Mini Hersey bars

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Beat butter and sugars in stand or electric mixer until well combined. Beat in eggs and vanilla until well combined as well. In a large bowl, whisk the flour, soda and salt. Add to wet ingredients as well as marshmallows, chips and M&M's until just combined. Spread onto a large rimmed baking sheet that's been lined with parchment paper and sprayed with cooking spray. Bake for 20-22 minutes or until edges are just turning golden brown. Remove and let cool completely.

2. Use your favorite cookie cutters to cut out shapes. Top bottom shapes with a layer of mini marshmallows and place under broiler until puffed. Top with Hershey bars to melt. Top with another cookie to close sandwich. Serve warm.

Enjoy! I can't wait to try Picky Palate's recipe. Will do this at our next Sandcastle Building event next week in Half Moon Bay.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Sensational Sandcastles in Half Moon Bay

The company that plays together stays together, and 25 team members of a genetic research and development company met in Half Moon Bay, CA, for a meeting and sandcastle building challenge. It was cool and foggy, rain threatened, but none came, creating the perfect atmosphere for a sensational afternoon of sandcastle building.

The beautiful Beach House Hotel in Half Moon Bay was the setting for the morning meeting, followed by a great lunch, and on to the beach for some very creative 'castles.' After a brief instruction period, Frank Price challenged the teams to construct more than a sandcastle. He tied-in the groups goals and objectives, jargon and buzzwords and specific participants into the event. That's what makes our teambuilding activities so much fun! This group passed on a debriefing, but we always offer. How well did your group work together? What were the strengthens and weaknesses of your team? What did you learn from this activity? This group wanted to have fun, and fun they had! Can't wait to work with them again.

TeamBuilding Unlimited creates customized sandcastle building challenges in locations all over the U.S. Send us an email, so we can help with your next team building event.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Team Building in a Down Economy

TeamBuilding for Today

TeamBuilding-Unlimited was interviewed by Maria Lenhardt for MeetingsMedia (Meetings West, Meetings MidWest, Meetings South) Excerpt here:

What with rampant layoffs, corporate mergers and a dark cloud of gloom and doom hovering over many a workplace, it s little wonder if those left on the office team are in sore need of a morale boost. But while sometimes viewed as a frill, team building is taking on a new sense of urgency in these troubled times.

At the same time, budget-strapped companies need to ensure that every investment yields a full measure of return. Doing so means taking a hard look at what needs to be accomplished and working with the team-building facilitators to find the right solution.

Janet Rudolph, creative director of San Francisco-based TeamBuilding Unlimited, also notes that clients are asking for more direction.

People really want to justify the program more with tightening budgets, clients sometimes have trouble convincing the powers that be how important it is, she says. I'm seeing more demands with events with a strong team-building element, rather than just entertainment and fun. Of course, our goal is to have fun while doing team building.

She adds that the strongest request from corporate clients these days is to build morale among participants.

A lot of companies have merged or reorganized, she says. In these cases, there s a real need to bring people together and build morale and trust. You can do things that are competitive, but in a non-threatening way.

Along with building morale, facilitators also say team building serves an important purpose in getting people unplugged from an increasingly technological environment.

According to Rudolph, it s not only corporations who are turning to team building to cope with challenges.

We re now seeing a lot of nonprofits doing team building with their boards and with their staff, she says. People who are involved in fund-raising really need motivation these days. And the cost of team building is more affordable now for these groups because corporate business is down.

With the need to save on costs, Rudolph says many companies are choosing to hold meetings and team-building events closer to home. While some clients choose to do the activities at their workplace, she advises them to take the event to a unique venue outside the office.

It s also really good if they can do it during the actual work week, not after-hours, she says. It makes it more of a special event.