Best Practices for Offsite Meetings
Maximizing your team’s time outside of the office
Offsite meetings are a great way to re-energize your team outside of the confines of your office space. Holding strategy meetings away from the office encourages open communications, creative thinking, and builds team cohesiveness without the distractions the workplace brings. However, you want your team to feel like the time they’ve spent offsite wasn’t a waste of time!
Here are some tips to ensure offsite meetings are a win-win for everyone.
Your offsite meetings should have a clear and reasonable purpose. Although you may want a more casual feel to the meeting, it is still important to have an agenda complete with goals, objectives, and participant takeaways. If possible, send the agenda and any related data out to attendees in advance. Also, be sure the right people are included in the program and that the topics they will be a part of are relevant to their jobs. It is important that everyone understands and embraces the strategic mission of the offsite meeting. They may not all agree on the same courses of action, but they should all understand why they are there and that their participation matters.
Book a venue that will suit the purpose of your meeting. Resort-type venues are perfect for multi-day events, while hotels and conference centers may work better for one-day meetings. Also, consider hiring a third-party meeting facilitator to keep the team on course. Having the facilitator chat with each of the participants prior to launching the offsite meeting would ensure that expectations are aligned with the mission.
Define the Ground Rules
If the offsite meeting is more of a brainstorming session, consider creating ground rules at the start of the meeting. Getting input from the team is a great way to get the momentum flowing. Things like “no cell phones” or creating “parking lots” for an off-topic subject matter that arises are a couple of ways to keep things on course. But, allowing the team to define their own ground rules will give them a sense of buy-in to the entire process.
Make it Fun
There are varying degrees of “fun” in the business world. For some, this may include happy hours, team-building exercises, or yoga instruction. Find out what excites your team and try to sprinkle it into the offsite meeting agenda. Depending on the meeting venue location, there may be ropes courses, cooking classes, scavenger hunts, or escape room activities offered nearby that your team would enjoy (or you could create your own). Activities that promote camaraderie or elements of competition are usually well-received.
For multi-day meetings, a good way to finish each day is to hold a ten-minute reflection on the day. The facilitator can ask a simple question like, ‘what did you learn today?’ to prompt conversation. This is a good opportunity to gauge everyone’s understanding of the goals and objectives of the offsite meeting and to adjust the agenda for the next day if needed.
Every offsite meeting should result in a plan of action. At the conclusion of the event, the entire team should walk away knowing that their time away from the office was productive. Management should follow up with action items and be prepared to discuss “tabled” or “parking lot” topics in the near future.