As an external consultant to organisations of all sizes, I am often asked about whether an event should be held offsite and if the expenditure is worth it. (An offsite meeting is where you bring your team together in a different location to your usual office to hold a meeting, coordinate a strategy day, or deliver training.) If you are considering going offsite, I hope that you find my reflections on the benefits and tips to help your next event to be memorable and to deliver greater value.
Some of the benefits as I see them
Focus and productivity
I find that when people attend offsite meetings, they’re not as easily distracted and they’re more fully engaged. So much more gets done through interactive engagement.
And at the end of the day, you can walk away and leave the clearing up (non-productive work) to someone else.
Effective discussions and teamwork
Today’s technology makes it easy for us to communicate regularly, quickly, and inexpensively through email and videoconferencing. But there’s no substitute for meeting in person when understanding each other is critical. Sitting in the same room together, you’re able to pick up on non-verbal cues that can be easily missed over the phone or via video chat. Don’t underestimate the hand gestures, facial expressions, especially by the members of the group who don’t have the floor, and other nuances that allow members to better relate to one another.
Try to include time for ‘team building’: which could be as simple as a nice break with catered lunches, or a little more involved such as morning yoga to start the day. Giving your team a chance to chat and loosen up will allow them to relax and engage in the day’s activities.
Boost your technology
Many organisations I work for have limited or aging technology (or so high tech no-one knows how to work it). Holding your offsite meeting at a venue that offers state of the art audiovisual (AV) technology means that you can get creative and leverage this in your meeting. And, for those organisations that do have the technology we use regularly, using a different facility could provide you with access to different or newer technology. Often at times, this access allows you to be more creative both with what you present and how you present it. When presentations are more engaging, people tend to get more out of them, making meeting time more effective. It’s a win-win.
It also means that you can relax and get on with the business, while the venue takes care of the technology.
Taking meetings offsite is especially important to consider when you’re making strategic decisions, providing staff with training, or want to promote brainstorming.
When we are in conference rooms where we’ve met time and time again, people tend to take the same seat and stare out the same window. Offsite venues enable employees to break out of their office personality and relate to one another in different ways, which can generate meaningful, creative ideas.
A less obvious benefit is the subtle message we send people, holding an event offsite rather than in the office gives weight and importance to that event.
Tips for holding offsite meetings
- Identify your objectives.Knowing your objectives will help you to choose the right venue that will support your goal.
- If you can, do a site visit. This helps you to think about how you can use the space and if there is enough space or the right layout for your purpose.
- Meet the venue team.Make sure that you feel comfortable that they can and will support you in the things that are important to you. And ensure that you don’t make any assumptions about the service the venue offers.
- Don’t forget the fun.
- Fun elements can help build teamwork and camaraderie
- People learn better when they are relaxed
- Fun stimulates creativity
- Maximise (don’t bust) your budget.See if you can use some of the many rental items you have in-house to minimise costs. Watch out for hidden expenses, like additional labor costs at your chosen venue. Be diligent in asking questions about what’s included and what isn’t.
- Give plenty of information. To help people settle in and get down to business (and arrive on time), give as much information as you can on how to get to the venue and anything else that might be on people’s mind.
A newcomer on the venue scene is Workshop 38 – worth checking out for your next event!