With this 3-part series, I’ll be looking at how to run a great scavenger hunt team building event. If you have any questions on how to use specific concepts, ask away and I’ll do my best to answer them. For this second post, I’ll be looking at the in-hunt experience and how you can make it awesome. Part 1: Preparation can be found here and Part 3: Debrief can be found here.
Searching is half the fun: life is much more manageable when thought of as a scavenger hunt as opposed to a surprise party. -Jimmy Buffet
Jimmy Buffet clearly had it figured out. When you view life’s challenges as a game instead of a surprise attack, you are bound to be a much happier individual. With that kind of mentality, an actual scavenger hunt is like a game within a game. I suppose that makes GooseChase the Inception of teambuilding!
Now there are many different types of events that can be classified as scavenger hunts. Some deal with collecting a set list of items and bringing them back to a rendezvous point, others require participants to go to a certain number of checkpoints. I love scavenger hunts in all shapes and sizes, but my favorite, and the most common, is the photo-based scavenger hunt. Very flexible by nature, participants are given a list of missions at the beginning of the hunt and take pictures to prove completion.
For the sake of this article, I will be focusing on the photo-based scavenger hunt. I’m sure most of these tips will work for other types, but it’s been written with photo scavenger hunts in mind.
Ambiguous missions unlock creativity
The most impressive thing about a photo-based scavenger hunt is the incredible creativity that participants display. Many organizers feel that they need to be very specific about what needs to be done. That’s crap! The most creative and impressive pictures are from unique interpretations of an ambiguous task.
One of my favorite missions is “Employed”, where participants have to take a picture of a teammate working at a service job they aren’t actually employed at. We don’t specify what job it is, so participants are forced to be creative and the results are often incredible. Case in point, one team convinced a local barber shop to let them give (or at least pretend to give) a straight-shave to a teammate!
Add more missions than participants have time for
The first hunt we ever ran appeared to have been timed perfectly. With 3 minutes to go, one team finished their final mission. However, after going through the pictures and talking to the participants, it was obvious that there were a few missions they weren’t interested in and only did because it was all that was left. The drop-off in creativity was noticeable and reduced the overall “awesomeness” level of the hunt.
To avoid this, we recommend choosing approximately 40 missions for a 90 minute hunt. It’s still low enough that participants aren’t overwhelmed with choice, but it allows teams to complete missions they enjoy until the end of the hunt. Just make sure you emphasize that only legit pictures receive points before the hunt begins. We’ve found that this eliminates nearly all instances of the “take as many mediocre pictures as you can” strategy.
Use points for scoring
All missions are not created equal. Some are inherently harder than others and teams should be rewarded accordingly. That’s why we have a point value for each mission. Some teams will decide to go after the big points, sacrificing the easier, lower value missions. Others will go by volume, targeting the quick and easy missions. No strategy is distinctly better than the others, but having a strategy increases engagement and should be encouraged.
As a sidenote, you don’t have to be perfect in your point value selection. Teams will naturally choose what missions to do based on their perceived opportunity cost. If you notice that every team skipped the same mission, it might be worth making adjustments for future hunts, but having one under or over-valued mission won’t ruin the event.
Extra Tip for an Outgoing Group: Put a few “Hail Mary’s” in there. When your team needs a big move to catch up to the leader, waxing your back for 4000 points suddenly seems like the smart move. Know what your group is comfortable with, but if you’ve got a really fun group, don’t hesitate to push the envelope a little bit.
A good mix of social and non-social missions is necessary
One of our favorite things about social missions are the interactions between teams and strangers. It adds an extra element of unpredictability when you involve people that don’t know what’s going on. The great thing is most people are incredibly receptive to helping out teams on a scavenger hunt.
To prevent social mission burn-out, a good rule of thumb is to have no more than two-thirds of the missions involve strangers. This makes sure that all teams complete some social events, but other options exist. If you’ve got an especially crazy group, such as a sales division, feel free to adjust this number higher, but in most circumstances we have had success with this target.
Choose mode of transportation based on location
If you’re debating whether or not cars should be allowed, the location of the hunt should be considered. If your organization is located in a rural area, it’s hard to argue against the use of vehicles. Using multiple cars for one team is a logistical hassle, so stick to 4-5 people per team.
However, if your organization is located near a bustling, urban area, we recommend restricting transportation to walking or public transit. If you expect public transportation will be involved, providing day passes for participants is a nice touch. When cars are not required, team sizes are slightly more flexible. With that said, when a team is larger than 6 people, some team members will usually be less involved than others. Since the whole purpose of the event is to build teamwork and involve everyone, team sizes in the 4-5 range are still the best.
Inter-team feedback is incredibly motivating
Hunts where you can keep tabs on the other teams are so much more fun than being on your own the entire time. As human beings, we crave feedback and want to know exactly how we are doing compared to everyone else. Unfortunately, most scavenger hunts are entirely lacking in the feedback department.
There’s a few ways that this can be fixed. One way is to use checkpoints in the hope that teams will cross paths. Another option is to send out updates via text message. While these methods are both better than nothing, the best feedback is real-time leaderboards and updates. We are biased since this is one of the most loved features of GooseChase, but it’s hard to argue against continuous feedback when compared to the alternatives.
These tips will work well for the vast majority of photo scavenger hunts, but it’s important to remember that all people are different. If your group is a wild bunch, spice it up a little. If you think something a bit more straightforward is best for your team, that’s cool too. The great thing about scavenger hunts is they are so customizable. By changing the missions a little, it really is possible to have something that works for everyone.
By the way, if you want to see more photos from our previous hunts, we have a video compilation of some great shots here. I still get a chuckle out of some of these shots…and they don’t even include some of the more risqué shots we’ve seen!
If you liked these in-hunt tips, check back next week for part 3 of the series: debriefing in style! I’ll show you how to cap off a great event with a bang.