Thursday, July 30, 2009

California Academy of Sciences AdventureQuest

TeamBuilding Unlimited will lead your team on an AdventureQuest through the incredible resources, exhibits and learning experiences at the California Academy of Sciences—from the aquarium to the living rooftop, from the planetarium to the four story rain forest, TeamBuilding Unlimited will connect your teams, your company, your products and services to our world, our planet and beyond through an exciting competitive Adventure Quest.

TeamBuilding Unlimited will prepare different routes for this California Academy of Sciences AdventureQuest located in Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, CA, so that participants can spread out throughout the museum and see and experience the richness and variety this unique museum has to offer. Their own curiosity will enhance the endless possibilities.

This AdventureQuest competition will also encourage teams to think outside of the box by exercising creativity, resourcefulness, and decision-making. Teams strike out on foot using a series of clues that take teams to different locations where challenges await. Creativity, efficient resource allocation, intensive problem-solving and effective time management will propel teams into the wild world of this incredible museum to discover how to explore, explain and protect the natural world. This AdventureQuest is designed to challenge and stimulate participants regardless of their own scientific knowledge and abilities, since it is also customized to include their agenda, goals and objectives, jargon and buzzwords.

From top to bottom, teams will be engaged as they traverse one of the most unique museums in the world. The activities, challenges and clues are designed to spark the curiosity of participants while engaging them in team competition. They will discover the secret corners and exhibits in the museum through this Team Building Adventure. This activity will develop cooperation, planning and conceptualization, while emphasizing key elements about the company, museum, group and team spirit.

So put on your Safari Hat and join TeamBuilding Unlimited at the California Academy of Sciences as you are plunged into a fun competitive team adventure/teambonding experience.

Facilitators, debriefing, prizes and more.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Chocolate Challenge: Chocolate Chateaux

Over 50 Genentech participants showed their unlimited creativity, enormous energy, sophisticated style and creative cooperation during a fast paced TeamBuilding Unlimited Chocolate Challenge Construction team building activity. When given the exciting task of designing, creating and building the ultimate Chocolate Chateau, the teams launched in ten separate directions. Each team had a vision, but would they realize their sweet goals? Would there be a moment when a structure fell in on itself and these non engineers would have to rethink the process?

During the course of the event, many other questions were raised? What are the mechanical physics of chocolate? What stresses and strains can chocolate products undergo before the breaking point is reached? How much of the chocolate would be consumed and diminish the supply of building materials? Would each team complete its goals before the facilitator yelled, “Stop your construction and move away from the table”? And which team garnered enough votes to earn top rewards for its efforts.

These questions were answered and the final resulting structures ranged from a typical English castle, turrets and all, to the sturdy, blocky fortress chateaux that were frequently under siege, to a British style of chateau and several in between. Several teams added moats, drawbridges and gardens were added.

The winners were selected by the contestants themselves, after much cheering and applauding. This was another great example of teams working together, appreciating individual skills and ideas, learning, bonding and showing how they can quickly change from one mode of sharing to another.

Another great event from TeamBuilding Unlimited/Murder on the Menu.

And the review from the Planner: "Thank you so much for putting the team builder together. Everyone had so much fun and really enjoyed themselves. Frank was WONDERFUL!
I am looking forward to working with the both of you again soon."

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Murder of a Meeting Planner, Part II

Truth is Stranger than Fiction. I blogged about the murder of a meeting planner last week and how it mirrored the Murder on the Menu event that I had just written for a Friday night mystery event. It was positively eerie. The Murder on the Menu event was a FAM tour for Meeting Planners. The beautiful Portola Hotel & Spa in Monterey, CA was the setting, and one fictitious meeting planner "Oscar Otter" was bludgeoned and found on a service cart.

The real meeting planner who was killed last week was Ben Novack of Convention Concepts at an Amway Global International convention of 1200 Spanish speaking delegates. He was found in his hotel room, bludgeoned to death.

The FAM tour that Murder on the Menu did was light-hearted and showcased the hotel: its restaurants, its meeting space its hotel rooms, spa, pool and other outdoor areas. Teams of meeting planners were given lots of clues, reports and information while touring the Portola Hotel & Spa. The teams worked on solving the mystery, although it was no mystery that the Portola Hotel & Spa is the perfect place for a meeting, event, conference or convention. Unlike the real mystery of Ben Novack's death which is still unsolved, the teams of meeting planners after much deliberation, solved the mystery. It was Miss Scarlett with a bottle of wine from the private event dining space/wine storage room. To keep their sleuthing skills honed, everyone on the winning team was rewarded with a mystery novel.

But back to the 'real' case of the murdered meeting planner. It was not Miss Scarlet. No suspects have been named according to an article in today's Corporate Meetings & Incentives. Police have said that the attack on Novack was not a random event, no valuables were missing, and no witnesses reported any sounds coming from the room.

Chief of Police Gregory Austin also said Rye Brook police were in the process of “interviewing witnesses … people at the convention, people staying on the same floor of the hotel” but Novack but had yet to identify any suspects.

In a statement last Thursday, according to the Lower Hudson Journal News, Austin said that police had not ruled out anyone as a potential suspect, adding that anyone in the hotel around the time Novack was killed “is being considered a person of interest.” Cast your net wide!

Novack had a long history with the hospitality industry. His father, Ben Novack, Sr., operated the famous Fontainebleau Hotel in Miami Beach from its opening in 1954 until he lost it to bankruptcy in 1977. Ben Novack, Jr., launched his company, Convention Concepts Unlimited, in 1978. According to its Web site, the company organizes 60 major conventions a year, worth approximately $50 million in revenue, with Amway Global one of its major clients.

According to Hilton Hotels spokesperson Mark Ricci, the Amway Global convention, which had over 1,000 attendees, was brought to completion, despite Novack’s death. Is this a case of the show must go on?

Not content to accept these statements and being a mystery person, I investigated further, especially into the background of Ben Novack, Jr. Let's start with the facts. Novak was found by his wife on her return from breakfast. In the mysteries I read and write, one always looks to the spouse, at least as the primary suspect. According to Miami News, Novak had a very odd marriage. Sex games, fake breasts and death threats were ingredients in his wild marriage.

In a 2002 Ft. Lauderdale police report details of the troubled union of Ben Novack, Jr and his wife Narcy after a bizarre home invasion apparently planned by Narcy over 7 years ago. Novack Jr. was found on June 10, 2002, gagged and tied to a leather chair, claiming a group of men robbed him of over $1 million worth of money and belongings. Read the whole story here in the Miami Herald. His wife confessed two days later to planning the robbery. Her excuse for tying him up? It was all part of a sex game, and Nancy decided to take advantage of the situation and rob him while he was incapacitated. You can read more of this yourself. It's pretty weird.

The Sun Sentinal reported that in a divorce petition filed 16 days after the incident, Novack said he feared for his life because his wife, Narcia "Narcy" Cira Veliz Pacheco, had 'falsely imprisoned' him. According to the petition she later threatened, "If I can't have you, no one will," and warned him: "The Men that helped me remove the property from the house will come back and finish the job." The divorce petition was later dropped!

Oddly, the Rye Brook police say that Narcy Novack is not a suspect in her husband's death. ''Just because of the home invasion doesn't mean she's a suspect,'' the Police Chief said. "The home invasion may open up something that will change that, and we agree it is an important part of the case.'' Duh!

O.k. the facts, ma'am just the facts. Sources say that Narcy Novack's hotel key card was the only one swiped to enter the couple's suite and that no one used a key card to access the room while she was at breakfast.

Rye Brook detectives arrived in South Florida to question family members, lawyers, business associates and friends of Novack's.

Lest you think Novack Jr. was an angel: O.K. you knew he wasn't

According to the NYT, April 7, 1985, a week before his father Ben Novack, Sr. (78), died of heart and lung failure at Mt. Sinai Medical Center, his son asked a Miami judge to find his father mentally incompetent to handle his finances and to appoint a legal guardian, but Juana M. Rodrigues who lived with Mr. Novack, Sr, for 5 years, objected to his son's move, saying he had improperly obtained a power of attorney from his father. Miss Rodrigues, a 30 year old former Miss Uruguay, said the younger Mr. Novack had kept his father oversedated and denied him access to his friends. He did inherit the bulk of his father's fortune.

In addition to his father's fortune, Novack was set to receive and inheritance from his mother Bernice who died in April leaving most of her estate to her only son. Bernice Novack's estate is still in probate. She left everything to her son, except for about $65000 to divide between her sister and two nieces.

The plot thickens: Maxine Fiel, Bernice Novack's sister, said her nephew was very conscientious about his business. ''His habit was to get up early. It makes no sense that he would still be in his room at that hour of the morning,'' she said. Because he grew up at the Fontainebleau resort, he would likely have ordered room service early and been out well before 7 a.m. to get to work with his clients, she said.

She recalled that during his younger years, he lived in the Fontainebleau's penthouse and was often called the ''Prince of the Fontainebleau.'' He got just about everything he ever wanted, she said. Fiel said she was still grieving the loss of her sister when she learned about her nephew's violent death.

She has questions about her sister's April death, which the Broward Medical Examiner ruled was caused by a fall. ''Bernice was not a person to fall, or a tripper. She was not overweight; she worked out and took vitamins,'' Fiel said. She was unable to attend her sister's memorial service, she said, because she was not told when and where it was happening.

She said Novack meant everything to her sister. ''It would have devastated her,'' Fiel said. "She didn't interfere with his marriage. She just didn't want to interfere even when they bickered.''

Ben Novack told police that a week prior to his mother's death, she had taken a bad spill on a concrete sidewalk. She was treated and released the same day, but had not felt well since. Her son found her on April 5, face down in a pool of blood in her utility room. She had suffered a fractured skull, a broken jaw and broken teeth. An autopsy showed she died from blunt trauma to the head. Blood was spattered throughout several rooms of the house and inside her car.

The autopsy report is not yet complete, according to the medical examiner's office. Hmmm.

You can't make this stuff up, not even in my Murder on the Menu events, and let's face it.. in this case truth is really stranger than fiction.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Meeting Planner Murdered at Meeting

Here's the headline in today's BizBash:

Fort Lauderdale Planner Ben Novack Jr. Murdered During New York Amway Conference
NEWS 07.14.09 11:27 AM

This is not a Murder on the Menu event. This is a true story, and it's very sad, indeed. Ironically, Murder on the Menu is planning a mystery event about the death of a meeting planner for a Monterey, CA, hotel for this Friday night. Meeting planners from all over the U.S. across industries will be hosted by a Monterey hotel (this is a surprise, and the hotel will be revealed after the weekend). This FAM (familiarization) tour will include a mystery event that showcases several different types of rooms (sleeping room, suite, ballroom, meeting room, board room) as well as two restaurants, spa, swimming pool and outdoor space. Oscar Otter, Murder on the Menu's victim, like Ben Novack, was bludgeoned to death. How eerie is this? I really want to find out more about the 'real' murder as the facts come out.

The true story in today's BizBash reports that Ben Novack Jr., president and C.E.O. of Fort Lauderdale-based Convention Concepts Unlimited, was found dead in his hotel room in Rye Brook, New York, on Sunday morning. The Sun-Sentinel reports that Novack had been attending the convention he planned for 1,200 Spanish-speaking people for Amway Global International. According to Rye Brook police chief Gregory Austin, Novack’s wife found him beaten to death on the side of the bed when she returned from breakfast in the hotel lobby yesterday morning.

Nikki Grossman, president of the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention and Visitors Bureau, told the Sentinel that Novack had been finalizing arrangements to bring a 5,000-person Amway-related conference to the Greater Fort Lauderdale and Broward County Convention Center in September. “This is shocking that someone’s life could end the way this has happened,” she said.

Novack grew up in Miami at the Fontainebleau Hotel—his parents founded the property in 1954 before selling it in 1977—in the company of celebrities such as Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr.

Police believe the attack was deliberate, though they have yet to announce a motive or suspect. More details will be released after the autopsy report has been completed.

Novack's murder was real. Truth is stranger than fiction. Or is this real life mirroring a Murder on the Menu event?

Thursday, July 9, 2009


Want to do a 'cooking' teambuilding event, but don't have the budget or want to stay at the office or meeting/event venue? Have Your Cake and Eat it Too! meets your needs. TeamBuilding Unlimited's interactive cake building/decorating event will have your teams eating out of your hand.

Team Building Unlimited brings everything you'll need-- all the cakes, icing, utensils, decorations, gloves, facilitators and more that you'll need to design and decorate the ultimate Team Cake! Who knows--Your Team could be the next Cake Star!

This interactive and delicious activity really capitalizes on your team's creativity and sweet tooth. This is a great event to do before or after a meal and can be enjoyed in lieu of your dessert—or in addition to dessert. Have Your Cake is also a fun activity to do during a break in a meeting or at the end of a full team building day. There will be a lot of delicious cake, so your team might want to take their cake masterpieces back to the office.

Teams are challenged to design and decorate cakes to reflect their team, their company and more. Your team, goals, objectives, and theme of meeting/event needs to be included in your cake! You can have your cake and eat it, too!

As if cake isn't enough, TeamBuilding Unlimited awards prizes for creativity and design.

Have Your Cake and Eat it Too is also great for birthdays and anniversaries! Let them Eat Cake!!

Monday, July 6, 2009

Interactive Ending to Amazing Tour

TeamBuilding/Unlimited was hired to customize an event to take place during the final dinner of a week adventure tour of Northern California. This tour group has several of these family tours taking place throughout the summer, and we're working on all of them.

Starting in the Lake Tahoe area and continuing through Yosemite and San Francisco, this is an adventure tour that includes shooting the rapids, rock climbing, biking the Golden Gate bridge and so much more.

Murder on the Menu/TeamBuilding Unlimited wanted to produce an event that would capture all these adventures and end in an upbeat and positive way! We did it! Our main contact who was on the first trip said, "this event exceeded my expectations." Can't get much better than that!

What we did was produce a very special version of Hollywood Casting Call. In this Hollywood themed Team Builder, the participants "auditioned" from customized scripts—-take-offs of famous films that included different experiences from their trip with lots of personalization based on information we received throughout the week from the tour guides. We had a Western-themed movie, of course, but we also had a Star Trek movie, Casablana ("We'll always have San Francisco"), and several other genre movie themes. Live music, costumes, special "acting lessons" and "Oscars" made this event interactive, entertaining, hilarious and rewarding. The evening ended with a 'musical,' as the entire group sang "Happy Trails".

Can't wait for the next group. Since the tour guides are on all the tours, we've mixed it up. Different scripts for different folks. One of the couples said they had been on several tours with this same company--to Europe and other parts of the U.S., but that "This was far and away the best final event we've ever experienced." What a great ending for a great trip.