Company offsite meetings have a certain….reputation. They tend to be long, they tend to be boring, and they tend to offer very little in the way of substance or actionable follow up. In many ways, they are like the Transformers movies – overly long (the last was 165 mins..), instantly forgettable, and featuring mostly people who didn’t want to be there (*cough* Mark Wahlberg).
At PMG, our goal is to make offsites fun, engaging and worth everybody’s time. It was with that mindset that we went into planning our last offsite – hosted at The Space in Fort Worth just last week…
Over the years, we have learned some things that work, and some things that don’t. Below is a quick summary of some best practices we have when planning our own offsites, that hopefully you can use to improve your own company’s “off campus” meetings – whether those be all company in scale, or just a small team. Together, we can make these oft maligned meetings fun again!
- Don’t try to cover too much – if you do, your presenters will feel rushed, your audience will feel rushed, and you won’t do justice to the most important content you need to cover with your teams. When you factor in breaks, equipment malfunctions, presenters running long (never happens, right?!), audience questions, etc – you never have enough time. So, err on the side of “less is more” to ensure you get to spend plenty of time on the things that matter most.
- Make sure you cover what your audience wants – before you even start putting together your agenda, find out what your audience wants to hear about. Surveying your team – even informally – will provide great insights into what you should aim to cover at your offsite. You may be surprised at what your team is most curious about….and how it is entirely different from what you thought (on this note – it’s a great idea to get feedback AFTER the offsite on what people enjoyed, what they didn’t, and ideas for improvement next time)
- Pick a space that’s suitable – the key here is finding a venue that is not so large that is makes things feel detached and impersonal, but is big enough to comfortably accommodate your crowd. Also, some “wow” factor is OK and even desirable with some groups – but don’t go OTT or it will just be a distraction. Also, temperature is a surprisingly influential factor when it comes to engagement. So make sure it’s a good temperature in the room and isn’t inducing sweats or chills!
- Keep a good “balance” of content types – a good offsite agenda should of course cover significant company/department/team updates (good and bad) and this should form the foundation of the meeting. However, you don’t want 5+ hours of this – people will get burned out. You want there to be lighter content included, and a variety of presenter styles (ex. if you have a very dry presenter first, consider adding a more energetic, amusing presenter second).
- Ensure there’s an audience participation section – this is key and something we have learned the hard way after tough post-offsite survey feedback one year. After a 2-3 hours of presentations, your audience will start to phase out. That makes the middle of your offsite the perfect time to insert an exercise or game that the whole audience partakes in. We like to pick an area of opportunity for the agency (could be as simple as “being better presenters”), split people into random groups, and have them work on an exercise that aims to improve their skills on that opportunity area. For us, this usually concludes with the groups presenting to the whole agency afterwards, which helps build confidence and – with our crew, anyway – usually adds some good entertainment to proceedings 🙂
- Be transparent – company offsites offer a unique opportunity for leadership to be truly open and transparent with their employees, at a time everyone is present, engaged and eager to hear about the latest happenings with the company. This openness builds trust, it motivates and it helps ensure that everyone feels like “owners” – which is so key to a great company culture and environment.
- Plan in some bonding time – after you crush your offsite, everyone will be primed to have some fun and relax with their team mates. We find post-offsite bonding to be one of the best types of bonding. It lets you build on the great momentum of the day, get everyone mingling, and send everyone off happy.