What better way to thank your team than letting them get up close and personal with some of the world’s most exotic animals?
This is exactly what happened when we organised an end-of-year meeting for a software solutions company at West Midland Safari Park, just off the M5 on the outskirts of Birmingham.
The company was looking for a central venue where they could combine an annual meeting with team-building and fun. Spring Grove House, the safari park’s dedicated conference and events venue, was put forward.
Says our head of events: “The event is the client’s end-of-year wrap-up, looking back at the past 12 months, but also motivating the team for the year ahead.
“Previously they had used a theme park. This year they wanted to do something different but still with a fun element. Out of all the venue options we sent, the animal experiences appealed to them the most. We then came up with options for bespoke team-building activities including exclusive animal encounters.”
Spring Grove House…
The two-day event took place in September and we were able to take advantage of some beautiful late summer sunshine, with an outside barbeque lunch and activities in the park.
“We had a contingency plan in the event of rain, but the client thought the safari park so exciting that it was worth the risk,” explains our head of events. “However, the beauty of the venue is that a lot can be done inside.”
The event kicked off with a full-day meeting in Spring Grove House, a Georgian manor at the centre of the park. Staff were on hand to welcome guests to their exclusive base for the event.
Says our head of events: “The house has a colonial African theme, but it’s high-end and very subtle. It’s like walking into someone’s home where they’ve collected beautiful artefacts from around the world. It’s very elegant and not what you’re expecting.
“You drive through the park to access the house, but then it’s an oasis in the middle of the park. It’s hidden away and people don’t know about it unless they’re going to an event.
“There’s separate parking and you get the whole of the house to yourself – the lounge, bar area, terrace and lawned gardens. There are also spacious meeting rooms and a number of break-out areas, which was ideal for this event as the delegates were divided into three groups for additional team meetings.”
Says our head of events: “The employees were all at different levels, from account directors through to the CEO, but one thing that unified them was the need to communicate with their customers on the phone. We designed a team-building activity that required them to find out information in different ways.
“Each team received an envelope directing them to a different area of the park where they had to gain information. That was either by talking to a person, listening to someone, or reading off notice boards on a trail.
“Each of the talks the delegates went to involved an animal encounter. Some of them fed giraffes and spoke to the keeper, others fed lemurs and parakeets. Every group had two different animal encounters.”
But that wasn’t the only VIP treatment the group received in the park – over a buffet lunch they were introduced to a variety of snakes by the reptile handlers.
“At the end of all the activities on the second day was a quiz. We incorporated what they learnt on the day, as well as questions on the company and its products using their existing knowledge,” explains our head of events.
The delegates were also issued an individual challenge – to submit their best animal selfie to a specially set up Facebook page.
“The event culminated in a private sea lion show for the team and the winner of the selfie competition got to go up on stage and help with the training.”
The event also included a gala dinner and an overnight stay in nearby Hogarths Stone Manor, a luxury four-star property with 56 guest rooms.
Says our head of events: “On the first night the group went back to the hotel and got changed before being shuttled back to Spring Grove House for a dinner. It was beautifully done and they all commented on how wonderful the food was.
“Afterwards there was a big surprise. They came outside and were led to a hidden doorway, where they descended to Cellarz, a secret nightclub underneath the house.
“It’s a vaulted cellar and each of the arches has a different theme, with beautiful uplighters, candles and low-slung banquette seating. There’s a dance area, where they had a DJ and disco, and a really cool looking bar.
“They also have a room that’s floor to ceiling with wines where they can stage small private dinners.”
According to our head of events, the surprise party added real wow-factor to the event: “No one knew there was anything happening after the dinner, they thought they were going to have their meal and be taken back to the hotel. When people walked down there they just couldn’t get over it because it’s so different from the rest of the venue.”
In time, on budget…
Another pleasant surprise for the client was the cost of the event, which was refreshingly affordable.
“They couldn’t believe the budget we managed to do it on because we came in on line with the previous year’s budget,” confirms our head of events. “They also praised the food, the staff, who couldn’t do enough, and the unique experiences they had – they loved it.”
West Midland Safari Park is the ideal venue for team-building events, small-scale corporate celebrations in Spring Grove House, or larger events in the Treetops Pavilion, a purpose-built marquee for up to 300 people.
Says our head of events: “There are very few places that you can get exclusive-use for those numbers – and very affordable exclusive-use, at that. Clients who hold an event in the winter months, when the park is quiet, will get even more value for money in terms of interaction with the animals.”