Effective off site meetings can be very useful. Ineffective ones are a waste of time and money.
Do it right the first time. Here are some dos and don’ts.
1. Do plan ahead
Make sure you plan ahead so that your team can all be there. Plan ahead so you have time to consult your boss and make sure that you are working in line with their strategy and requirements. Most importantly, plan ahead so that you can have your facilitator be in on the plans of the day. It cost you no more and it gives you a lot more value for your money.
Here’s a checklist to help you.
2. Don’t think you can DIY
Don’t think that you can do it yourself. Effective off site meetings do not just happen by accident. Effective off site meetings usually include an effective off site facilitator, trained in making groups of people understand their problems and find solutions.
You need a facilitator who is trained to facilitate, who has an appropriate experience and background and who knows how to get a good brief from you.
one of the major advantages of using a trained facilitator is that you can then participate in the day yourself. This allows you to have an opinion, epiphanies, and generally have a good time.
3. Do have a single, clear purpose
An effective off site meeting is not just a catch up. If you won’t have a catch up, have a morning tea. Effective off site meetings have a single, clear purpose. This could be to have have a strategic plan laid out. It could be to solve a workflow bottleneck problem. It might be a cross-functional consultation to deal with an industry problem. It must have a single, clear purpose so that we can concentrate all of our efforts on that purpose. If you don’t know where you’re going every road will get you there. If you don’t know what you want from an off site then anything could be the right thing. When you know where you are going, you get there faster. And you can enjoy the journey.
There is never just one problem, you must prioritise. An effective off site can fix just one thing at a time. Don’t just do talking heads.
Catering is very important. People talk about the stale biscuits or the lack of real coffee for weeks. Don’t skip on the catering, it can ruin everything.
It is important to some people that they get the $20 T-shirt or the three dollar pencil sharpener with the logo on it. Put in a small amount of budget for some swag and watch your team’s eyes shine. Consider stationery, stickers, pens, shirts, paper clips, fuzzy felt, plastic dinosaurs or Star Wars figurines. It’s not about what it is, it’s about the link between that and the off-site purpose. People love free things.
6. Do shine the spotlight on your team’s experts
Do roll in the experts from your team and from your suppliers and customers.
But if they are boring consider using video so the team can watch it before the off site and then do a Q&A with the expert at the off-site.
Get the expert to present at a morning tea the week before and then Q&A at the off site. Just avoid death by PowerPoint. You could even consider using Pecha Kucha like Ignite Sydney; no presentation can exceed 20 slides, each slide is advanced after 20 seconds. Here is Cindy Tonkin doing an Ignite talk in Sydney. It’s a challenge to use this format, but if your experts are true experts then they should be able to rise to it. It will get them out of their “lets” present what we presented at ExCo issue and force them to think about what is really important.
7. Don’t leave too many people out, but leave out the people who aren’t relevant
The most effective off site meetings have the right people.
Many teams have an inclusion issue. They feel that everyone should be included and so more than 80% of the people in the off site do not need to be there. Don’t leave out your vital supplier or customer. But leave out the HR team or finance guy who just might come along for curiosity’s sake.
I cannot stress enough how important it is to bring your facilitator in early. Let them do the hard work of deciding what’s on the agenda and you can be the editor. It wont cost you more and it will save you so much valuable time and effort will also make the day run very smoothly when you can just sit back and be a part of the ideas team.
Call Cindy Tonkin now on +61 2 9516 1770 to plan your next offsite.