Increasingly companies are seeing off-site meeting as key to maintaining company cohesiveness and culture in the era of Hybrid working. Here at The Venue Booker, we have seen a massive rise in enquiries for these types of meetings see HERE. In that context making sure that your off-site truly delivers, has never been more important and we will tell you the best way to make it happen for you!
Offsite meetings don’t need a fancy venue or catered lunch to succeed. Successful offsites need thoughtful facilitation that emphasises the human factor.
Offsite meetings can just as easily be loathed as loved. When they’re done well, they’re are a brilliant use of time. But when they fail, they fail hard.
First off think carefully about what you are trying to achieve. Are you seeking to answer a specific question or is it more generic ? Recently many of our clients have been looking to examine their strategy re agile working and to introduce an element of team building. Here are some of the best main factors to consider.
Many off sites include attendees from different teams / with different functions etc. After all
Offsite meetings are one part of an extended conversation – about strategy, goals, and/or tactics.
But if people don’t understand (or agree on) what outcomes they’re driving toward, or don’t feel their voice is being heard, your offsite will derail before the first coffee break.
Attendees walk in the door with different priorities. They often represent different roles in the business, and may even report to different managers – in which case, their performance may be judged by different measures. At the very least, they’ll have different backgrounds, personality types, and communication styles. The key is to harness that individuality. Create space for divergence of thought, then guide the group back toward convergence and consensus. To pull that off, your focus has to be focused on the human element:
1. Keep the groups as small as possible
In our experience, the ideal working group size is 5-10 people. With fewer than five, you’re unlikely to get the divergent and diverse thought that makes offsite meetings worthwhile. But expand the group past ten, and it’s difficult to have an inclusive conversation. Regardless of the total headcount, it’s a good idea to split into smaller working groups of 3-4 for some part of the agenda and come back together as a group to discuss the results. Have each group iterate on separate work streams and demo their progress back to the other teams regularly to get their feedback and input.
2. Make sure each participant is invested and engaged
Prior to the offsite, plan to check in with each participant individually to find out what they want to get out of the day. Review the agenda with them, and note the activities that are aligned with their goals.
3. Establish the social contract a-fresh
You’re not in the office, so don’t feel like you have to stick to your usual office culture. This is the perfect opportunity to change things up a bit. (Actually, that holds true even if your “offsite” is really an on-site.) Could be as simple switching the dress code from “business casual” to just “casual” for the day. Or you might get more creative.
4. Make each session about solving a problem or getting to a decision
Let’s be honest: offsite meetings are expensive. The cost of the venue rental and food pale in comparison to the cost in staff time and the opportunity cost of being off-site instead of doing your regular work back at the office. Best to make the time you spend on this meeting worthwhile.
The real value of offsite meetings is getting people to exchange ideas in real time and the creative thinking that results from it. Avoid wasting time-consuming information as a group. No hour-long presentations or document reviews, please. That sort of thing should be pre-offsite homework, or in the case of presentations, be done at the office beforehand.
That said, there are times when it’s useful to (briefly!) present the current state of something or a proposed change so you can discuss it as a group. It’s important to recognize when a person adds value vs. when that time could be used for something more valuable.
5. Ask hard questions
The more assumptions are challenged – the more “What if? ”s and “So what? ”s posed – the more successful your offsite meeting will be.
“Why?” is one of the toughest questions known to humankind. That’s your go-to as a facilitator. Listen for assumptions and hidden questions in what people are saying. When a discussion stalls out or starts to resemble a broken record, the jolt delivered by asking “why?” can shift things back on course.
6. Push for outcomes
Don’t let your team off the hook with a lot of “maybe’s and “possibly ”s. You’re here to make decisions and recommendations.
7. Tune into the group dynamics
If you allow one or two vocal (though likely well-meaning) personalities to dominate the room, you’re not getting that all-important divergence of thought – not to mention giving everyone else in the room an invitation to tune out. Which means your offsite meeting is less effective than it could otherwise have been.
Not everyone uses their voice in the moment, but everyone has something to add. Your agenda and facilitation should take that into consideration so there’s space for different people to use their voice in different ways.
8. Make it fun… but not too fun
All work and no play makes your offsite a dull day. But play it smart. If the point of the offsite isn’t team building, then don’t put a bunch of team bonding activities on the agenda.
As facilitator, you get to read the crowd. When the vibe gets a bit too downtempo, you don’t need much to bring it back up. A round of Human Rock Paper Scissors, or business jargon charades, or a silly walks contest is usually enough to break the monotony and re-lubricate the brain.
Choosing a suitable venue is key, we all know people tend to make up their minds within the first 2 minutes, first impressions count. You need your attendees to be in a positive mind set, not to feel they have trudged miles for poor service / facilities.
Many offsite events are a combination of problem solving and team building. This latter element is particularly important if the event marks the return to the office after the long pandemic years. However this can be a difficult element, choose your agenda carefully, make sure you think about your audience and what you are trying to achieve. Don’t patronise. We once booked an off site event for a large fund manager who at the end of the day insisted that all the staff played a giant game of Jenga. It didn’t not go well.
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