Courtesy Rolling Thunder River Co.
All work and no play can make for one dull meeting or conference. That doesn’t have to be the case in the Southeast, a landscape liberally sprinkled with lakes, caves, rivers, parks, beaches and, of course, culture. There, the biggest challenge can be narrowing your choices.
From soft adventure to catch-your-breath excitement, here are some ways to add some fun time to a meeting.
Rock the boat
Few team-building outings are quite as effective as white-water rafting. Without teamwork, trouble, including tumbles into the river, results. “On a raft, all six people need to work together,” said Vincent Lallo, manager of Rolling Thunder River Co., with locations in Bryson City, N.C., and McCaysville, Ga. “If they don’t, it’s not going to be enjoyable.”
Rolling Thunder helps corporate clients Coca-Cola, Lowes, Home Depot and others build bonds among employees. “Working together is pretty much the basic goal,” Lallo said. When people bicker, he’s served as both guide and facilitator.
Rafting trips generally do sections of the river, with breaks in between. Groups can do one or two sections, take a lunch break and tackle more challenging sections in the afternoon. “By then, you’ll need to be paddling together and have all your ducks in a row,” Lallo said.
Trips from the Bryson City site, about an hour west of Asheville, are on the Nantahala River. In Georgia, groups take a short bus ride into Tennessee to conquer the Ocoee River. There is tubing on the Toccoa River across the street from the McCaysville site.
At Rafting in the Smokies in Hartford, Tenn., which is skirted by the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, rafters navigate the Big Pigeon River. Float trips on the river’s lower section suit groups that prefer a more leisurely approach. Guides are aboard every raft.
A photo CD can be a souvenir of the experience. “You can buy one CD for the entire boat,” said general manager Claudette Geoffrion.
Take to the sky, the surf and the sand
Before, after or instead of rafting, groups can get a bird’s-eye view on ropes courses and zip lines at Rafting in the Smokies’ 10-acre Family Adventure Island. Corporate groups particularly like to compete on the ropes course, Geoffrion said.
Four skill levels, each with three elements, allow teams to attempt as many as 12 elements. Picnic tables and grills make post-team-building parties possible.
Rafting in the Smokes and its Family Adventure Island are less than 45 minutes from Gatlinburg, with its convention center and ample hotel rooms and activities.
Try a triathlon
In Destin, Fla., a ropes course and zip line over a lagoon are part of a triathlon package at Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort
During the competition’s water portion, competitors do stand-up paddle boarding (SUP), a cross between canoeing and surfing. They can kneel, sit or stand on the surfboard-like board, using a paddle to propel themselves. Because participants can start low to the board, SUP works for multiple experience and comfort levels. The resort’s zip line takes athletes over the resort’s Village of Baytowne Wharf.
The resort’s different take on a triathlon makes it more fun, said Penny Jackson, director of group sales.
“You’re not likely to find a zip line at a resort in downtown Atlanta, and people don’t usually get together and do something like this.”
Those who prefer to keep their feet on the ground can opt for a more traditional competition: a 5K run through the Village of Baytowne Wharf. One corporate group gave $10 to a local charity for every meeting member who participated.
“They thought they’d have 10 people, but they wound up having 100,” Jackson said.
The event had all the trimmings of a 5K, including water stations, mile markers and T-shirts.
After events, participants share war stories over sunset cocktails at the resort’s Marina Bar and Grill.