Blog Post

How to Plan a Successful Offsite Meeting

We are all used to those monotonous meetings in the same, dreadful conference room featuring a repetitive agenda and tasteless coffee. It’s time to break the mold and find new inspiration. So, what’s the best way to do this? An offsite. Whether you take the team for a simple, one-day trip to a local attraction, such as a museum or convention center, or a three-day trip across the country, the change in routine and scenery are vital to accomplishing goals and bonding as a team.

Planning is the key to a successful offsite meeting, but it can be complicated and stressful as there are multiple components to think about and coordinate. Let’s break down the planning steps a little further.

The first steps to planning an offsite meeting are to determine who is going, narrow down the dates, clear them with the team and establish a budget. Keep in mind that you should clear two separate sets of dates to make it easier when booking. The budget will define many aspects of the meeting so it is important to nail that down.

Book the facility, hotel rooms and travel. Start with checking with your team to see how far from home they are comfortable with traveling before booking something. Also ensure the facility you choose has everything you need to conduct your meetings, whether that’s just a room with a white board or including everything from catering and A/V equipment to pen and paper and everything in between.

Determine the purpose of the meeting and desired outcomes. Establish how you plan on accomplishing these outcomes – a teambuilding event, debate, discussion, PowerPoint, training or whatever it may be. This will help form the agenda and structure, such as pinpointing session topics and leaders, along with time slots. Don’t try to solve all of the business’s problems in one offsite. Also, remember to keep sittings short and figure in breaks to help everyone stay focused during each meeting. You should also consider building in free time for people to be able to enjoy the area and attractions at optimal times – it’s difficult to play golf or participate in many outdoor activities after workday hours when it is dark.

Get together with session leaders and confirm they are clear on the material and goals. Make sure your team won’t be staring at a PowerPoint all day by using other means, such as a debate, discussion session, an activity and so on.

Hand out the final agenda for the offsite to all of those attending. This will give everyone an opportunity to formulate any ideas or questions. You may also want to include some sort of homework to get everyone’s minds churning and prepared to participate.

Obviously there are more details that go into each of these steps we covered, but hopefully this will get you started and assist in planning your own meeting. Just a few things to keep in mind while at the offsite:

Be flexible! Discussions and activities may lead to other important topics that may not completely line up with the agenda. In this case, go with the flow. Don’t stop good discussion just to stay on schedule. Or maybe it’s apparent that people need a longer break than planned or possibly even remove a session. You just need to be able to listen to your team and go with it.

In the beginning of the offsite, establish some ground rules that everyone can agree on. This can cover an array of things, such as “what happens here stays here,” but just make sure everyone is on the same page. Your team should be comfortable to say things they may not usually say in a formal, office setting, as this is when some of the best brainstorming can occur and these rules can encourage this.

Another thing to keep in mind is that just because you are in an offsite location, doesn’t mean the dynamic and personalities of your team will change. The people that usually pair off will still do so and those that are more outgoing and will continue to be while the quieter people will remain in the background as much as possible. With that said, you should organize icebreakers or activities that will encourage your team to interact and participate. Be strategic in planning your activities to get the most out of your team.

When doing activities as a group, pick something that won’t single people out or create a competition amongst everyone. It should be an activity to encourage teamwork to accomplish a goal, not see who is better than whom.

Toward the end of the offsite, reflect and make sure you accomplished your goals, and if not, address them. Of course, this is at your discretion if things had to be changed on the fly. You may just need to save it for the next offsite or, if necessary, hold a meeting once back in the office regarding the topic.

Don’t forget to have fun! Offsite meetings are a chance to slow things down, decrease pressure amongst your team and experience new things.

Once back at the office, schedule a follow-up in 3 or 6 months with your team to ensure the things discussed during the offsite haven’t been pushed to the side and ignored. It’s easy to hop right back into an old routine so it is important to implement and follow through in order to make strides in your business.