How to Plan a Corporate Team Building Event

The amount of pleasure people experience when doing team building activities on a corporate away day is often directly related to the amount of effort that has gone into creating the event. A poorly thought out team building day will be horrendous for those attending it and comical to anyone observing it. Attendees will be left unsure of what they are meant to be doing as no structure will be present. This will lead to many losing any focus they initially had and people will retreat once more into their separate groups as opposed to coming together and getting to know one another.

This is why MyChocolate place such an emphasis on planning – to make sure that everyone present knows what they’re doing and why they’re doing it. Not only does this make people know that they are in skilled hands, but it ensures that their time is being used constructively so that they can do what they came here to do – have fun and get to know their work colleagues better. That’s why we’ve worked with some of the biggest companies on the planet and been put in charge of making sure that their team building day out is both tasty and useful. [Please note that we also take great pleasure in working for small businesses as well!]

To give you a better idea of how the MyChocolate team go about hosting the ultimate corporate events, we’ve decided to tell you how one must be planned in order to please all parties:

  1. Have a clear objective in mind. Make sure you know what your employees or staff want to gain from a team building event. Do they all want to get to better know a new MD? Do they want to get find out more about other people in other divisions? Do they simply want to speak to those they work alongside daily in an informal and friendly setting? Once you know the answers to these sorts of questions you’re well placed to decide on how to split or rotate teams during the actual event. This means that everyone comes away from it with a better understanding of someone they actually felt the need to bond with.
  1. Make sure everyone actually wants to do what you plan to do during the team building event. If people are not committed to getting into the spirit of things then it will be an uphill struggle to get people to really make an effort and become involved. In short, ask what people would like to do or at least present them with some options. We must say, though, that with our chocolate workshops a reluctance to get involved has never been an issue!
  1. Make sure you have everything you need. It sounds basic, but you’d be shocked at how often some team building events companies don’t bother thinking about the relationships between the number of people attending and the resources needed to cater for them. For chocolate workshops the equation between the amount of necessary ingredients and the number of people is a relatively simple equation to make. A good rule of thumb is to always order a bit more of whatever it is that you need.
  1. Make sure you also have people! Think about when you want to have a team day out – if half the office is away on holiday then clearly only half the office will get to properly know each other.
  1. Make sure everyone can do what you plan to do. Just be careful to take into account the physical health of everyone. Allergies are often overlooked so be careful to check if anyone’s effected by something like this. Otherwise some may feel excluded and not thought of – not what you want from a teambuilding day!
  1. Let people think for themselves. Micro managing every part of the event will leave people feeling suffocated and under pressure. So if we take our chocolate workshops as being a good example of how to do things right, then you’ll see that we often let people decorate their sweet creations however they want. It makes it more fun and varied for everyone.

So there you have it – the definitive checklist for planning any team building event. Adhere to these points and your team will certainly reap the benefits. Don’t, and your day will be about as useful as a chocolate teapot!

Lemon and Poppy Seed White Chocolate

Were you a fan of our Lemon and Poppy Seed Cupcakes? Well, if so then it’s your lucky day as we’ve decided to convert it into a chocolate recipe. Don’t say we don’t spoil you!

The real beauty of these flavours comes from the zestiness of the lemon, which cuts through the sweetness of the chocolate, providing a refreshing aftertaste. The poppy seeds are once again not just a treat for the eyes, but add texture and provide a satisfying crack when you bite into them. Who said seeds are just for bread?

Double-Chocolate-Lemon-Surprise-Cupcakes-1408059971Ingredients

375g white chocolate
13 drops of lemon cooking essential oil
Small handful of poppy seeds

Method

The first trick is to temper the white chocolate. Tempering is the way you treat chocolate to ensure it has a glossy finish and breaks when you snap it. To do so, you’ll need to add the chocolate to a pan and heat it to 29 degrees until all of the chocolate has melted down. Set it to one side and let it cool until crystals begin to appear. Once they have began to form, return the chocolate to the pan and reheat it to 29 degrees.

Next add the 13 drops of lemon oil and stir them thoroughly into the liquid chocolate. When you think the lemon oil is fully mixed in, cover a tray with parchment paper and pour the melted chocolate onto this, creating a slab. Spread evenly with a spatula in order to cover most of the tray.

Finally, sprinkle the poppy seeds as quick as you can before the chocolate starts setting up and then leave it to dry a room temperature for a couple hours before breaking into small pieces and serving.

This is a chocolate treat for all occasions, from corporate events to hen parties. We think you’ll find the wacky flavour combination a surprisingly tasty spin on white chocolate, making it very difficult not to reach for one more piece!

 

[Images provided by Puces Pop Cupcakes: Spring 2014 Edition]

Chocolate Balsamic Vinegar Recipe

Last week we looked at a classic Italian chocolate dish – Milk Chocolate Gianduja – made famous by the popular hazelnut spread Nutella. As you can probably deduce from the title, this week we’ve decided to get a little more adventurous. Now before you think we’ve gone stark raving mad, chocolate has been a staple of South American savoury dishes for thousands of years; it’s only now that it’s finally creeping into Western savoury palates. This sweet, tangy and slightly bitter balsamic vinegar is perfect as a salad dressing, “mole” sauce or can be used for bread dipping with a little olive oil. It can also be drizzled over fruits and deserts or as an interesting accompaniment to cheese platters. Talk about versatility!

Ingredients

100g caster sugar
100ml balsamic vinegar
30g dark chocolate, broken into pieces

Method

The best thing about this recipe is its simplicity; it’s really a two step process. First of all you need to reduce the vinegar, so you’ll need to gently heat a pan, into which add all of the sugar and vinegar. Allow them to mix together until all of the sugar has dissolved.

Let the mixture gently bubble for 5 minutes, keeping an eye on it and stirring occasionally to make sure it doesn’t stick to the pan.

Next take the pan off the heat and make sure to whisk in the dark chocolate. Once they have mixed in together in the pan, set it aside and leave it to cool for 2-3 minutes. After the mixture has cooled, stir the mixture together again thoroughly.

Voila! Whatever the occasion, whether it’s dinner, a hen party or a team building event you now have yourself a quirky treat that’s sure to impress! If you thought this recipe was great, why not check out our back catalogue? You can do so by clicking here.

Hen Party Do’s and Don’ts

A hen party is the last hurrah for a bride to be, so it’s got to be special and revolve entirely around her. If you’ve been given the honour of organising the party, thinking of unusual hen do ideas can be tricky and whilst unusual ideas can be great, if they’re not planed properly they also have the potential to go haywire, so it’s best to keep to some simple do’s and don’ts when planning a hen party. They may all seem obvious, but can be easily forgotten!

Firstly, your good decision making must start at day one of planning, choosing activities which involve everyone, giving the chance for everyone to chat if they already know each other, or get to know each other if they don’t. Ensure that your party idea ‘matches’ your guest-list, for example if you’re inviting the mother in law to be and she’s a bit of a prude, then anything too risqué may be inappropriate, leaving both you and her feeling more than a little awkward. Remember, you can always save the crazy stuff for those who make it past bedtime and keep it a bit more civilised during dinner or drinks beforehand.

That’s not to say you shouldn’t go all out though, as long as everything is within your budgets then you can really go for it, so if dressing up is your thing, then really go mad for it! (Take a look at our top ten hen party costume ideas for some MyChocolate inspiration…) Word on the street is that the best hen parties strike a good balance between drinking/eating/doing just to make sure everyone is keeping up and having a great time. We also like the idea of having plenty of fun games and trivia ready for the evening, so at any point you can crack out a great game or fun fact or trivia about the bride. However, our big no-no tip would be not to go too far with anything, you don’t want anything to happen that might mar your memories of a great party, hilarious and embarrassing stories are great, just don’t get into anything you’re not proud of or end up in a crazy Hangover style situation, the bride may not thank you for it!

Overall, if you’re planning a hen party, it’s because you’re the bride’s best friend – and she’s rightly trusting you to put together a fantastic party. Therefore probably the easiest pitfall to fall into is making things too much about your friendship and the things you enjoy together, so it’s just a case of remembering that her other guests may know her in an entirely different capacity and not enjoy doing the things you two might do together. Yet at the front of your party planner mind should always be the fact that you’re planning a party for your best friend- and what could be more fun than that?!

Milk Chocolate Gianduja Recipe

While our last recipe, ginger, cardamom and cinnamon dark chocolate, contained an unusual spice, this week we’ve decided to steer back to a classic combination: chocolate and nuts. Hazelnuts specifically. If you agree these two are the most heavenly of combinations then you’re in for a treat with this delicious Gianduja recipe. Gianduja is a specialty that originates from the Piedmont region in the north of Italy and is essentially a mixture of ground hazelnuts and chocolate. You’d be correct in thinking it sounds extraordinarily similar to Nutella – in fact the popular spread was originally called Pasta Gianduja!

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Ingredients

300g melted milk chocolate

400g hazelnut brittle

Method

Firstly, you’ll need to grind up the nut brittle clusters into fine crumbs. The best way to do this is place them within a bag and give them a good bashing with a rolling pin. Once you have your nutty crumbs, set them aside for later.

Now place a bowl over a pan of simmering water (au bain marie) and melt two-thirds of the chocolate into it.

Once the chocolate has melted, remove from the heat and gradually stir in the remaining solid chocolate to bring down the temperature to 32º. If you do not have a thermometer, you can test the temperature of the chocolate by dripping a drop on to your finger and quickly putting on your lip (and if you happen to taste some here for yourself who’s noticing).

When the chocolate is tempered it should feel cool as if it’s below body temperature.

Next mix 300g of the ground-up nuts into the melted milk chocolate and pour out on to a metal tray lined with greased baking paper or non-stick parchment. Leave it to harden and then break into pieces, or if you’re feeling a bit more creative you can cut the praline into shapes. Once you have your individual praline pieces, dip them in the melted milk chocolate.

For the final step, roll the chocolates in the remaining 100g of caramelised nut crumbs in order to give them an eye-catching layered effect.  All that’s left is for you to share them with your friends and family. Or you know, yourself : )

If you enjoyed making this recipe then we KNOW you will love our back catalogue. View them here, where you can see how to make all kinds of snacks from truffles to cupcakes to choc-tails!

[Images provided by Bonnibella]

Team Building Activities – How Not To Do It

Whether you love or loathe team building activities, you can see the value in getting a working team together once in a while for a little bonding time, but as many of us may have already experienced, there are some very wrong ways to go about it! The worst case scenario is that people just feel embarrassed or humiliated by an activity and therefore go away feeling not only silly, but even professionally compromised – far from having bonded with the rest of their team. This could certainly be the case with physical activities, which may not be everyone’s forte. Although these sorts of things may breed team spirit, they can also breed feelings of inadequacy if competition is high. Therefore it’s best to set the level right for all individuals, planning activities which will promote team building in a way which doesn’t compromise anyone.

No one likes to feel like they’re having ‘organised fun’ so be sure you aren’t forcing it or holding expectations of how much fun people really ‘should’ be having. However, this goes hand in hand with hosting a very well planned event that runs smoothly, great organisation and planning will help to create a relaxed mood amongst guests, rather than creating periods of flat time where nobody knows where to be or what to do – and the event planner is running around like a headless chicken, never a good look!

The event should be as part of ongoing activities rather than a one off, otherwise all the positive gains made are likely to be lost when they should have been carried over and improved upon. It’s also not best to fuel any office feuds or bring up problems specifically at a team building event – the event has potential been sparked by such an issue. However, a successful team building day should help to resolve issues or tensions naturally, interlacing the fun with the more serious challenge of solving problems as teams spend time together in a relaxed, out of work space. That’s also why activities with very high stress or competition levels may not be the best options, as they don’t allow for a situation in which a team can relax and have a little fun.

Overall, with just a little consideration of all the characters in your team, you’re unlikely to go far wrong in your planning as the whole aim is to get people thinking just a little about those around them. We run a whole range of fun chocolate making team building activities in London, ranging from luxurious chocolate cocktail making, to Apprentice-style chocolate making challenges with tasty MyChocolate prizes, all designed to get teams bonding as they work together to produce and decorate handmade chocolates.

The Ten Best Hen Party Costume Ideas

If you feel as though all Hen Party ideas have been done a million times, you may be looking for unusual hen party ideas – and that we can certainly help with. Our indulgent chocolate workshops are a great way to have fun with the girls and with a whole range of Hen Party activities on offer, including learning how to make handmade chocolates and tasty chocolate cocktails, we’re sure there’ll be something for everyone! Of course another serious consideration when it comes to a Hen Party is what to wear and if it’s fancy dress you’re going for you’ll want to pick a theme, so we’ve put together a quick top ten list of our favourite Hen Party fancy dress ideas to give you some inspiration…

  1. 80s brides: Think Madonna in ‘Like a Virgin’, white corseted lace, sheer stockings, mussed up hair and a huge dose of attitude. You’ll make for a troupe of badass looking brides with this fun look.
  2. Barbie Dolls: This one’s pretty self-explanatory, but cast your minds back to the impressive range of professions Barbie took on – we’re pretty sure ‘Scuba-Diving Barbie’ was a bestseller! It’s sure to be a fun outfit to create, especially the big hair and bug-eyed beauty makeup.
  3. Down the Decades (60s, 70s, 80s): You know the drill – get your groove on Austin Powers style, go all hippy-dippy or rock out those neon leg-warmers. There are so many ways you can go about this style, and all the crazy accessories on offer mean you can really have fun with it.
  4. Gypsy Brides: We’ve all seen the show and secretly wished to try on one of those extravagant outfits, just the once… Have fun with lashings of fake tan, colourful clothes, heavy sprinklings of diamante and huge hair.
  5. Hens: Yes, we said it, actual hens. We’re talking feathers all round and a bushy tail – a hilarious look for a gaggle of Hens. If you don’t fancy going all out, small touches like feathered head pieces and stick on beaks also make this costume an easy one to get in and out of and you can always add in the classic L plates and sashes!
  6. Pink Ladies: The classic Grease-inspired fancy dress for any group of girls. Get your pink bombers out and put in your curlers for a pretty, perky look fresh from the 50’s which will certainly stop the boys in their tracks.
  7. Vintage Style Flapper Girls: With excessive lashings of beaded spangles and sequins, fancy feathered headdresses and long strings of pearls – you won’t be able to stop your feet from dancing the Charleston!  A great fancy dress for a classy evening on the champagne.
  8. Glamorous Icons: Think Marilyn Monroe, Audrey Hepburn, Liz Taylor and Jackie O – big hair, bigger smiles and a whole lot of glamorous personality. We’ve all wished we were one of the above at some point in our lives – so here’s your chance to dress up like an all-time icon.
  9. Rainbow: Pick a colour, go crazy! Wigs add a great touch to a colour theme, as does crazy makeup. Accessorise with tutus and cheap and cheerful jewellery to complete your colour themed look, or even go neon for a bright twist.
  10. Disney Princesses: Pick your childhood favourite and transform into a Disney dream, from sweet Snow White to feisty Pocahontas, there’s a princess to fit any personality and complete your perfect princess party, tiaras and all.

Case Study: Building the Perfect Team Building Event

Last week, we ran a cocktail and chocolate making event for a client who was looking for a fun and unique way to treat their team. We thought it might be useful for us to provide you with a case study so that you better know how we go about hosting exciting events like this.

The Client: A well-known energy firm.

The Background: After years of outdoor activities, subject to poor weather, the client decided to host an indoor event at their office in Central London.

The Purpose: To simply give four sales teams a real treat for all their hard work. The client specifically requested a team activity which ensured that everyone could relax in each other’s company and have something to take away with them at the end of day.

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MyChocolate’s Team Activity Proposal: Firstly, we decided the main focus of the workshop would be cocktail making (after all, what relaxes people better than alcohol!).

After making three unique flavoured cocktails under the guidance of trained mixologists, everyone would then be taught how to flavour and pipe rich dark chocolate truffles. This skill is relatively easy to get a grasp of after a few goes and it’s something that stays with you, so you can use it to really and truly impress friends and family for years to come! Once the chocolate truffles were completed, people would then package these handmade goodies in boxes to take away to enjoy at home or give to loved ones.

The Outcome: Unsurprisingly, the combination of cocktails and chocolate worked very well indeed!

The cocktail and chocolate making recipes were very hands on which ensured everyone got involved, worked together and learnt new skills. Just as the client requested, the event had a fun and relaxing fell to it.

Feedback from the Client:

“It was a great experience, exactly what we wanted.”

“Loved it. A great balance of chocolate, alcohol and humour. Thank you.”

“Fun. Informative. Well explained. Plenty of chocolate and booze. Couldn’t ask for more.”

“Fantastic Day. I would definitely recommend MyChocolate.”

So now you can see how we can very easily tailor events to cater for your specific objectives. We take real pride in doing this, so if you’d like to treat your colleagues to a MyChocolate event then please do get in touch! We’ll be more than happy to answer any questions you may have and provide you with even more detail as to what we could provide you with.

 

The 6 Stages of a Hen Party

If you’re the designated party planner, then this checklist is your new best friend! MyChocolate knows how daunting planning a special event can be when you’re anxious to get it just right, so don’t stress, just check off this list of ‘must dos’:

  1. Get Chatting – many minds mean many ideas, and getting an idea of everyone’s thoughts and expectations of the party will set you up for success, as unusual hen events can be particularly fun and memorable. Obviously the party is in honour of the bride-to-be, but she’s likely to invite family and maybe old friends, so replicating the wild nights out of your youth might not be the best idea! However you’re honoured to be in such a position of trust and you do know best when it comes to the likes and loathes of your best friend.
  2. Be Proactive – it seems obvious to say, but time can really run away with you, so be sure to leave ample time for any hiccups to rectify themselves. You’ll also be sure to get exactly what you want if you’re ready to book well in advance – and of course there’ll be time to consider those all-important Hen Party themed accessories…!
  3. Budget – Set yourself a reasonable budget to work from and get an idea of what costs you’re going to incur – that way you can try to eliminate surprises. It’s probably also a good idea to let guests know what the arrangements are for footing the bill, so that everyone’s on the same page in terms of what funds are required!
  4. Don’t Stress – you’re planning fun, so have fun doing it! Get everyone involved and plan nice surprises for the bride, or get creative and compile her a photo album of all your favourite old snaps – with space for all the new ones! If you do get a little party planner anxiety, you’ll soon shake it off when you hear how stressed the bride-to-be is for her big day…
  5. Be a Stickler – whilst stressing won’t help, being a stickler for detail beforehand will help ensure everything goes smoothly and you can relax and enjoy the fantastic party you’ve so expertly planned and coordinated.
  6. Enjoy Yourself! – you’ve earned it – having planned an exciting event, it’s time to enjoy it and be happy to see everyone else doing the same. If everything’s gone to plan, so should the party, but if it doesn’t – so what, it’ll only add to the memories!

If you’re stuck for a place to start, take a look at MyChocolate’s selection of unusual Hen events, from chocolate making to fancy cupcake decorating, all topped off with cheeky ‘choc-tails’, and see if any take your fancy.

Would you make a good Hen Party planner?

We’ve seen many a Hen party here at MyChocolate and been touched by the lengths Hens go to to plan a perfect party. Whether you’re party girls or prefer nothing more than a good night in, planning a Hen do for a friend is such an exciting opportunity to show her just how much you care. The bride-to-be’s most loyal friends are probably being trusted to plan a great party, with maybe just a few surprises! In fact, these days ladies are branching out from the crazier ‘Stag’-esque nights out and looking instead to plan unique hen parties, giving Hens a better chance to do what Hens do best, chatter!

Hens are happiest in a gaggle, and without the need to prance like Stags, a girl’s Hen night is the perfect time to relax and share advice (and maybe a few embarrassing stories). Creating a good party atmosphere requires a balance of expectation and surprise, and it can be easy to get carried away in the planning process. However, a good Hen always has the bride in mind and won’t subject her to a chubby, middle-aged strip-o-gram if she knows it will really make her squirm! Yet there’s only so much one can plan, as we all know that what really makes a party are the guests; great friends make for a great time.

A Hen Party is what you make it, but a good Hen is always on task to ensure smooth running, looking after the bride after a few too many cocktails and being sure to take snaps of every special moment! A Hen’s most important job is to remind the bride they are always there for her as she takes such a momentous step in her life, and talk her through any anxiety she may be experiencing, because that’s what friends are for, right? Lasting memories and moral support are a Hen’s greatest gift to a bride-to-be, and she’ll be eternally grateful. Whilst she may be enjoying a ‘final night of freedom’, the bride-to-be will probably appreciate being told how wonderful her man is, she’s just about to enter into a huge commitment and it won’t hurt to big up her other half in anticipation of their special day, letting her know she has your full approval!

If you’re planning a Hen party and need ideas, your first thoughts may be quite traditional, but looking into other ideas may throw up some gems. Now obviously we’re a little biased, but we believe a good Hen would most definitely provide an indulgent supply of every girl’s best friend – chocolate… and our unique hen parties are packed full of it! From chocolate making to cocktail shaking, what better way to bond than over a classy ‘choc-tail’? Watch out gents, here come the Hens!