This week’s task for the two ‘teams’ on the UK version of the show The Apprentice was to pan and run corporate events for a client. The show followed its weekly path of individuals vying for the job of team project manager, individuals pushing their own personal pet ideas, not really listening to each other and rarely working as a team to achieve a successful outcome.

Given the opportunity to hold a briefing meeting with the client both teams failed to really take on board what the client expected as outcomes from a team building/development day and didn’t really push to further define these outcomes in terms of what a successful event looked like or should deliver.

To make matters worse, both teams had decided on an event ‘theme’ before even meeting with the client, one going in with a medieval theme, instantly disliked by the client and changed to a
military themed day and the other a ‘school’ themed day of activity.

Neither Apprentice ‘team’ seemed to try and match client outcomes to their themed day, neither were clear in articulating to the client attendees how what they were doing during activities linked back to expected outcomes or what any learning might or should actually be.

BUT, another big impact on the teams and their events was the decision by Lord Sugar’s team to make it a task where a monetary target needed to be achieved as well. Each team was ‘given’ £5,000.00 by the client to put on the event, it was clearly stated that the team that made/saved the most money would win the task. What this meant was that a) the teams designed and organised activities as cheaply as they could and b) the client had the option, if dissatisfied, to ask for a refund of some or all of the money spent.

If you’re targeted and measured against a financial number then you perform to that financial number and outcomes go out of the window as it becomes a numbers game. Unfortunately in the way this task was set up it had a very direct and damning consequence on both expected outcomes and the eventual winning team.

So what are the lessons from this episode of The Apprentice, specifically for designing and delivering a hosted corporate team building/development event?

  • Make sure you fully understand the client’s expected outcomes and success criteria before you even start design
  • Be absolutely crystal clear how your event and activities will deliver those outcomes, make it explicit and manage expectations on the day, clearly sign-post and link back to outcomes throughout the event
  • Support attendees/participants learning and development by giving them time and space to reflect on both their individual and team learning’s and how they will take these back in to the workplace
  • You will always have to work to a budget and will always need to keep value for money at the forefront, especially for the client. BUT, this does not mean scrimping and doing things on the cheap, because otherwise this is what your event will look/feel like. YES, do try and negotiate etc. and do spend your client’s money wisely but not to the detriment of the event and expected outcomes
  • Never let a personal favourite ‘theme’ take over and dominate your planning and design just because you like it, it may be completely the wrong thing for achieving relevant client outcomes. Appropriate design, appropriate and respectful activity linked directly to learning and development is the mantra for successful events
  • Listen to your design team, share and build on ideas, design and build collaboratively, never sight of the expected outcomes
  • And lastly, don’t try and do it on national TV with lots of cameras shoved up your nose!!!
9th July, 2013

Private, public, third sector clients

  • Health & Safety Executive
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  • Training and Development Agency (TDA)
  • Allianz
  • Barclay Card
  • Citi
  • Greenwich Local Authority Childrens Services
  • Catalyst
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  • jkr
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  • EFIRM
  • Turkcell
  • QBE
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  • The Talent Foundation
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  • Government Office for London
  • Independent Living Fund – Scotland
  • MARS
  • MBNA
  • United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)
  • Vodafone
  • The Royal British Legion
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  • Zero Waste Scotland
  • NHS
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  • Citizen’s Advice Bureau
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  • Harris HospisCare
  • Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP)
  • Zurich
  • London Borough of Barking and Dagenham
  • Fifteen Foundation
  • Broadway Theatre
  • English National Balle
  • BBC
  • UCAS
  • Bruel & Kjaer
  • St. Ethelburgas Centre for Reconciliation & Peace
  • International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)
  • Maritime Cluster
  • Hyde Plus
  • Diabetes UK
  • Mental Health Research Network (MHRN)
  • Natwest
  • ACAS
  • Ident Trust
  • University of Westminster
  • McDonalds
  • Learn Purple
  • The Prince’s Trust
  • Triodis Bank
  • Walt Disney
  • Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA
  • Virgin Media
  • British Gas
  • Cross Roads Care
  • Brit Insurance
  • Shoreditch Trust
  • Participle
  • Action For Children
  • Cubic
  • KnowledgeBrief
  • Sir Oswald Stoll Foundation
  • Scott Wilson
  • Sareos
  • Police Strategy Unit (PSU)
  • RBS
  • RSA
  • Severn Trent Services
  • Clinical Research Network

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