Debriefing after team building exercises is an essential, though often neglected, part of team building.  Processing the activities takes time, energy, and intentionality.  There are various ways to debrief activities; however, most facilitators stick to simply asking questions after each exercise.  While this is fine, there are alternate ways to process team building activities.  Variety is the spice of life, right?

Here are 4 creative and under-used ways to help people process these events, as well as some of the reasoning behind why these techniques are so important to the overall strategy of team building.

The Purpose of Debriefing Team Building Activities

There are several reasons why it is important to take team members through a specific debrief process, and to make an event more than just fun and games.

  • Typically, people “show up” in these activities how they “show up” in real life
  • Debriefing shows team strengths that might be overlooked or discounted in other situations
  • Processing uncovers team issues and begins the process of restoration
  • It connects the experience to real-life situations
  • Team growth happens after a process of reflection, honest feedback, and wrestling with issues

Debrief Activity #1 – Journal Writing

For this activity, participants write about their experience in a journal.  You want to give ample time for them to write.  Some people will be more comfortable with this than others, but it’s a good exercise to stretch people.  Challenge people to write a full page or two about their experience, their thoughts, what they learned about themselves and others during the exercise(s).

This is good to do after a 1/2 day or full day of activities.  It helps solidify the things they’ve learned and discovered about their team, and they can also help

Personally, I would give the team about 15-20 minutes to write.  After that, bring the team together and have them share what they wrote.  They do not have to read it word for word, but they should share about their experience.  This helps other people remember things that they may have forgotten and also identify with other’s experiences.

Debrief Activity #2 – Write a Poem

For this processing time, team members are [challenged] to write a poem about their experience. You will be amazed at the creative ability of some people.  Encourage them that this will not be submitted for publication anywhere and it is just for this team on this day.  Let them know that it doesn’t have to rhyme and that they should feel free to be as creative as they want with it.

If you’d like, you could pair people up to work together on the poem.  Just be cautious that it doesn’t turn into a competition of who wrote the best poem. You want people to feel the freedom to share without feeling like they are being judged or graded on their work.

Debrief Activity #3 – Make a Poster

This exercise will require a bit of preparation before hand.  There are two ways that you can have group members make posters:

– Using markers, pencils, etc. and draw about their experience

– Gather a bunch of magazines and have the team cut out pictures to make a collage.

Again, you can have people pair up or have everyone do their own collage/poster of the day’s events.  Encourage the team to not just focus on events, but also demonstrate through pictures what they learned and the lessons that they will take home form the day and begin to implement in their work and life.

Debrief Activity #4 – Create and Perform a Skit

Of the 4 activities, this one will be the most time-consuming and may be preferable to use on a multi-day event.  For this processing activity, divide the team into groups and have them create and perform a skit, telling about their team building experience.  You will want to limit the amount of time for each skit (3-4 minutes) so you can plan accordingly.

Give each group 20-30 minutes to brainstorm and plan their short skit, and then each group will perform their skit for the rest of the team.  You could make up awards for best, most creative, silliest, and most dramatic, but I would be careful about making this too competitive.

Any debrief exercise still needs to focus on the purposes listed above, not on the creativity of the individuals or seeing who can come up with the best skit, collage, poem, etc.  I hope these are helpful and something that you can begin to implement with your teams right away.

Additional Resources

A Teachable Moment: A Facilitator’s Guide to Activities for Processing, Debriefing, Reviewing and Reflection (affiliate link)

Processing the Experience: Enhancing and Generalizing Learning 2nd (second) Edition by Luckner, John L., Nadler, Reldan S. [1997] (affiliate link)

What are some other creative ways to debrief your team after team building activities?  Share them in the comments below. 

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