Monday, December 31, 2018

The Best Winter Team-Building Experiences That Break the Ice

This article was published on December 24, 2018 in PrevueMeetings.

Wintertime is here, and if you have an upcoming program in a colder weather environment, you may need to skip the lake kayaking or the ocean surfing for your team-building events.
Team building should be an integral part of your programs, as it gets your attendees working, laughing and talking together while having fun. So, don’t let the winter months stop you from providing your attendees with unique experiences, unforgettable memories and memorable learnings.
Instead, check out these five winter team-building experiences that I’ve had personal success with in the past:

Wine Blending

This unique and memorable experience allows attendees to be a winemaker, circa 1800, complete with the outfit—a long wool coat and top hat. The experience takes place deep in the wine caves of a historic Sonoma, Calif., winery, called Buena Vista. Attendees create an eclectic blend and then choose their favorite to bottle, cork and add a personalized label before departing with their magical elixir. The winery keeps your “recipe” on file and you can order more bottles as you like.
Why I love this: It’s an unforgettable twist on the wine country experience. Why wine taste when you can make the wine yourself? The opportunity to create your own label is also invaluable for brand awareness.

Glass Blowing

You don’t have to go to Murano, Italy, to blow glass. Many cities, such as Asheville, N.C., have artist districts with working glass-blowing studios. Attendees can learn the basics of flame working and glass blowing, and even take their creation home with them. It gets hot in the studio, so it’s the perfect winter activity.
Why I love this: Guaranteed, not many of your attendees have experienced this art form first-hand. I love giving attendees that “first-time ever” experience, and this is one they’ll remember it forever. The team at North Carolina Glass Center is dedicated to educate and exploration—perfect for team-building.

Coffee Tasting

When in Colombia (the country), coffee tasting is king. At San Alberto in Cartagena, Colombia, this unforgettable sensory experience is a must. Attendees will awaken their tact, eyesight, taste and sense of smell while learning all about Colombian coffee—often considered the best in the world. Of course, other parts of the world like Hawaii offer coffee tasting experiences.
Why I love this: The Coffee Baptism class in Colombia is taught by a coffee sommelier, and identifying the smells is a lot tougher than you think. The various brewing devices and how they affect the taste is fascinating. Plus, it’s a local experience that is sure to change the way attendees select and consume coffee. And, don’t forget, a bag of coffee beans makes the perfect takeaway gift.

Cooking Class With a Famous Chef and Author

Cooking is a great way to break the ice. Whether your attendees are preparing a full lunch or dinner with small teams making each course or competing for the best salsa award, you cannot go wrong. The Santa Fe Cooking School of Cooking Salsa Making Contest can be done at their venue—or they will come to you! And, yes, you can make salsa at the hotel pool. Teams work together to produce yummy salsas with assistance from chefs. It’s a great way for the group to work together (and be competitive, too), and get comfortable in the kitchen. The best part is eating the salsas and selecting a winner.
Why I love this: You’d be surprised how many people are not comfortable in the kitchen. This team-building experience encourages group bonding, communication and fosters camaraderie while cooking up fun in a kitchen. And everyone loves food as well as a signed cookbook from the chef.


Nothing illustrates teamwork like mushing. This unique team-building experience takes our attendees out of the hotel ballroom and into the wild. Attendees bond with each other and with the dogs—creating a unique atmosphere. Whether attendees are mushing on the Continental Divide in Alberta, Canada, or mushing with past Iditarod champion sled dogs in Willow, Alaska, this team-building experience is sure to be well-received and remembered.
Why I love this: Dog-sledding is the perfect analogy for teamwork. And again, how many of your attendees have mushed? Giving them that unforgettable first-time experience will be a lifetime memory.
These are just a few of the programs I’ve successfully implemented for my clients’ programs, but what are your favorite wintertime team-building experiences? Comment below or Tweet me @acannistraci to share your tips!

Saturday, December 15, 2018

How Remote Workers Can Minimize Distractions

This article was published on on December 6, 2018.

Working from home allows tremendous flexibility and is a total work life balance game changer. It does, however, come with a few challenges. Distractions ranks pretty high on that list.

Minimizing distraction starts with setting boundaries for yourself and for your family and friends. While you might have flexibility with your working hours, it’s important to set dedicated work hours and communicate those hours to your internal team, clients, family and friends.  Stick to those hours—if not you will find yourself working 24/7 and getting burned out… or not working at all and not having a job.
I’ve found that having dedicated office space in my home is helpful in setting boundaries as well. When I’m in that area of my home, I’m working. The door is usually closed, as this signals to my family that I’m unavailable. They know that when the door is closed, they need to knock (or just leave me alone.) I often only close the door to focus when I’m on a call or deep in numbers or writing. Other times, I’ll leave it open, and my family knows I’m open for a break.
Taking breaks is key. If you are finding yourself becoming distracted, you may just need a break. A break can mean walking to the kitchen for a coffee, or wandering outside to get the mail, or taking a 15-minute stroll around the neighborhood. Whatever works for you is what matters. Take a real break for lunch. Do not eat lunch at your desk. Take snack breaks. Take water breaks.

Oftentimes, I hit the local coffee shop or the beach to work. A change of scenery is what I need to refocus and jump start my creativity. When I’m at home, I easily get distracted by household chores. Getting out of my home often helps me to focus on work and only work. Calendaring helps also.
I have a master calendar that reflects my life—it includes both work and personal. I have time blocked off to drop off/pick up my daughter at Montessori School, go to doctors appointments, and attend meetings. I even block gym time, lunch time, and break times. I live by my calendar, and those little ding dong reminders keep me on track and distraction-free.
Since I do work from home, I regularly receive FedEx and UPS deliveries that I must sign, however, the added distractions of sales people knocking and interrupting my work day became too much. I invested in an inexpensive “No Solicitation” sign for my front door, and now if I hear a knock, I know I need to answer it.
There’s a lot of construction happening in my neighborhood currently, and that means loud noise. I’m thankful that I invested in a pair of good wireless headphones not only for the video calls, but to block out noise when I need silence to concentrate.
It’s hard to concentrate when you have a cluttered desk. Knick-knacks, receipts, junk mail, Post-It notes, and bills on your desk are total distractions. Take a few minutes each evening before you sign off for the day to clean, straighten, and organize your desk. Simply clearing away the clutter from the day will help you end your day and separate work time from “going home” time. You’ll also feel great when you log on the next morning, and you have a neat and orderly clean slate in which to start.
I usually start my day reviewing my to-do list for the day and my calendar. Knowing how my day looks and what I need to accomplish helps me focus and minimize distractions. I schedule out the tasks that need to be completed for the day around my standing appointments. My work is deadline heavy. There’s always a hotel contract due, a client byline due, award submission or speaking engagement deadline, or a timely social media post. I always start with those deadline sensitive deliverables and go from there. If there are a few admin or “mindless” tasks, I’ll knock them out of the way first –it always feels good to cross off a few line items straight away. What’s your best advice or tip for overcoming distractions when you work from home? Tweet us @acannistraci to share your tips!