Good communication is one of the most important factors in a team’s success. Without strong communication skills, team members can’t share with each other, brainstorm, or build strong relationships. Teams that communicate with each other well are simply more productive and effective.
Healthy communication on teams is also critical for when they meet new challenges, too. Teams need to practice communicating with each other and solving problems together, so that when a crisis hits the team can easily come together to solve problems.
But how do you practice communication? It seems so natural, and something that we do every day. And yet, there are ways that you can strengthen communication skills and get team members to become more engaged in speaking to each other and opening up.
In the following blog post we’ll give you some ideas for easy communication team building activities that you can easily implement to boost your team’s communication. Many of these ideas will work for hybrid and remote teams as well.
Different types of communication
But first, let’s talk about some different communication forms. Communication isn’t only about speaking; learning about other ways to communicate clearly can help your team access different ways of sharing, some of which may often get overlooked.
- Verbal–This involves speaking clearly and openly. But active listening is also another important component of verbal communication.
- Nonverbal–This involves body language, gestures, and the ability to read emotions. We often forget about nonverbal communication, but it is a central way people express their feelings.
- Visual–Illustrations, drawings, design, and symbols (like emoji) are all a part of visual communication.
- Written–This form of communication is especially important in teams when using email and other written documents. But written communication should also be of high interest to remote and hybrid teams, which often communicate via text over platforms like Slack.
Communication team building ideas
Now we get to our list of communication team building ideas. We have tried to hit all the forms of communication mentioned above, so that your team can become as well-rounded as possible.
1. Back-to-Back Drawing
This is a great communication team building activity that is simple and easy to do. Have each team member draw a picture (the more complicated the better). Then Split your team into pairs and have them sit back-back. One member of the pair describes their drawing to the other, who has to draw a picture based on their description. At the end, the team members compare their drawings and then switch roles.
This game can also easily be played online too. And no need to sit back to back, since it’s easier to hide your drawing from the other team member.
2. Island Survival
Island Survival is a fun way to practice communication and decision making using some light role-playing. Divide your team into groups of up to ten. Tell them their ship has crashed onto a deserted island and they can only bring 10 items with them from the boat (make up a list of 20 or more possible items for them to take).
There are other possible scenarios for this game too, like being stranded on a mountain, in the jungle, or in space. You can also give them more decisions to solve, like how to build shelter, how to make a fire, and how to hunt for food, etc.
3. Scavenger Hunt
Outdoor scavenger hunts get teams outside hunting for clues and solving puzzles, all while having fun. Invite Japan’s Hidden Secrets Journey scavenger hunts combine scavenger hunting with puzzle-solving, so team members have to communicate together and combine their skills to complete the challenges. This type of game, where team members are exploring and discovering someplace new, is a great tool to increase communication, both during the game and afterwards.
4. Gift Game
The Gift Game is a fun improv game that gets team members to think creatively while interacting with each other. Split your team into pairs. Team members take turns presenting their partner with different gifts, the more extravagant and out-of-this-world the better (e.g. the Empire State Building, the moon, a humpback whale, etc.).
The partner receiving the gift can accept the gift, in which case they need to pretend to interact with whatever it is their partner gave them. Or they can reject the gift by tossing it over their shoulders and yelling “Whoo!”
As the game goes along, team members really start getting wild with their ideas. This is a great game to get everyone laughing, and the way that team members reject gifts is an important lesson in communicating and accepting rejection.
5. Counting Game
The Counting Game is another simple and quick game that can easily be fit in before meetings or as an icebreaker. The goal of the game is to count to ten. But if two team members speak and say the same number at the same time, you have to start back at one again.
This game is really not as easy as it looks at first. It takes a lot of patience, listening, and communicating non-verbally. While it’s definitely much much harder to do online (where it’s harder to read signals, and where communication lags can often occur), it might be a good exercise in communicating online.
6. Online Team Building
Online team building games, like the ones at Invite Japan, can help add fun and some mental stimulation to your communication team building. Our two games, Tabitantei and Secret Agent, have exciting and out-of-this-world storylines that will captivate team members and make them eager to participate.
During the games teams need to solve a series of puzzles and stimulating challenges by utilizing their communication and decision-making skills. They will also learn to trust and support each other while exploring an original online environment. And of course, being online makes it a good choice for remote/hybrid teams!
7. Lip Reading Game
The Lip Reading Game is another good one for non-verbal communication. It’s also much easier to do online. Have two members of the team act out a short scene together (between 1~3 minutes). The rest of the team should turn off their computer’s audio (or wear ear plugs or block their ears if they’re in-person). At the end of the scene, the rest of the team turns their audio back on and takes turns summarizing the scene.
This game forces team members to read non-verbal cues and emotions on people’s faces. It also lets them be a little creative with their summaries, which always leads to funny and interesting results.
8. The Human Knot
This is a classic trust building activity that really encourages communication. To play, have your team stand in a circle. Each team member reaches their right hand across the circle and holds hands with another team member. Then each team member reaches across with their left hand and holds hands with a different team member. Now, try to make a circle again without letting go of anyone’s hands.
This activity tests teams’ ability to talk and listen, especially in chaotic situations. But it’s also extremely fun, too (it’s a classic for a reason) and makes for a great bonding experience.
Mirrors is a short game, but it packs a punch. It’s all about nonverbal communication, and really requires connection and a bit of vulnerability. In pairs, team members take turns being “the leader”. Leaders do whatever actions and facial expressions they want. The other team member is “the follower”, and does the exact same things as the leader does (including facial movements and emotions). After a little bit, team members switch roles.
You can add a bit of reflection and discussion to this game by asking team members at the end which role they enjoyed more and why. “Mirrors” also works well online, too.
10. Suitcase Mystery
Invite Japan’s dispatch game series, the Suitcase Mystery, is one of our most popular communication team building activities that forges deep bonds between team members. It features a suitcase filled with different puzzles, challenges and mysterious objects. By giving teams such a strange and fantastic experience, team members automatically start to communicate and share ideas.
Suitcase Mystery is especially good for teams that are meeting for the first time, or new employee training. It easily breaks through the ice and gets team members talking and laughing.
Extra: How about a discussion?
An easy way to up the communication levels of any of these activities is to add a group discussion. Discussions are a great way for teams to reflect on their experiences and to learn from each other. We suggest giving individuals a little time to reflect on their own before sharing with the larger group. We also recommend that you keep discussion groups small (5~8 people) if you can so that everyone can adequately share their thoughts and feelings.
We hope you enjoy using some or all of the ideas above. Remember that practice makes perfect, and all teams right now, especially remote and hybrid ones, need to work on their communication team building and opening up in different ways. And as work culture continues to shift and change, utilizing those modes of communication easily and while under pressure will be increasingly beneficial.