7 Tips To Optimize Offsite Meetings
It’s easy to get into a rut with offsite meetings or trainings that occur annually or more often. To get full engagement from your team and optimize the return on investment, Jessica Doucette, who directs marketing and B2B events at Impartner Software in Salt Lake City, offers these seven tips.
1. Set clear meeting goals. Employees can’t take the right actions unless you set clear meeting goals before the offsite meeting takes place. Setting goals also will help you choose a meeting framework, craft your agenda, and keep everyone on track during the meeting.
2. Create the perfect agenda. Your agenda should reflect and reinforce your meeting goals. It should be detailed. It should be broken down by key informational and action items, and the allotted time to spend discussing each. But don’t cram your agenda. Most meeting agendas include four to 10 key initiatives. Besides informational and action items, the perfect agenda lists:
- All attendees
- Date and time of meeting
- Meeting’s purpose and desired outcomes
- Any preparation attendees need to make beforehand
3. Nurture attendee engagement the whole way through. Engagement doesn’t just mean sending an agenda before the meeting and sending a feedback survey the day after. You need to engage with each attendee before, during, and after the scheduled meeting
Before: Check in with participants individually. Get their input on what they want to discuss and hope to get out of this meeting. Have them review the first draft of the planned agenda, and then send out the agenda, data, and anything else they need to know before arriving. This is also a good time to assign someone to jot down the post-meeting action items.
During: Know the group dynamics. Make sure the quiet personalities get involved and are able to voice their thoughts in between the presenters and attendees who are conversation-dominant. If needed, jump in and ask those who haven’t said anything to share their ideas or thoughts with the group, so everyone is participating and not sitting there listening.
After: Send out that feedback survey, along with the assigned action items, and schedule a follow-up offsite meeting to check in with everyone on their progress, review issues that have since come up, and share feedback from their internal teams or departments.
4. Balance the human need for psychological safety and getting people out of their comfort zones. As humans, we all need to feel safe in our environments. But in a work environment, you can’t just play it safe. In order for people to grow and decisions to be made, you have to get some out of their comfort zones. So if you want your meeting to produce its desired outcomes, you have to find that balance between meeting the human need for psychological safety and challenging people. Holding your corporate business event at an offsite location, but somewhere that’s still comfortable, and keeping attendees around known colleagues is one way to achieve said balance.
5. Don’t forget the food. Ask your employees (or yourself) why they show up to a business meeting, and I guarantee more than half will tell you it’s for the free food. But, please, don’t serve the same old cold deli sandwiches and fruit platters. Get creative with your food. Check out local restaurants and catering companies. Hire a food truck. If you’re really stuck on what to serve, just ask attendees what they want to eat.
6. Incorporate pleasure with work. To keep everyone engaged, you have to break up the PowerPoint presentations and serious end-of-the-year numbers discussions with fun. You can easily meet your meeting goals and still have fun. Most business meeting venues make it easy to add recreation into the mix. Whatever you do, be sure to build time into your meeting agenda for some fun.
7. Book the right business meeting venue. Most of your meeting budget will go toward renting a venue. And, ultimately, the right venue will make or break your offsite business gathering. This means much of your meeting’s success depends on the venue you choose—feeling the pressure yet? Don’t let the pressure overwhelm you. Picking the right venue isn’t as tough as it sounds. Ask yourself the following questions to help you book the right meeting space:
- Is the location close to where attendees live or work?
- Is it near public transportation?
- Is free parking available?
- Do the layout and atmosphere match the type of meeting we want?
- Do we have access to the latest technology?
- What fun extras does this space offer?
- Is this space within our budget?
Be sure to vet locations online, and then visit in person before reserving a meeting space.
Selecting the Most Productive Learning Environment
After many years of working with the nation’s top learning organizations such as Verizon, BAE, and IBM, the expert team at The National Conference Center (www.conferencecenter.com) has identified five key factors to consider when searching for the ideal venue for an offsite learning program:
1. Prettier is not always better: Hoteliers and interior designers are proud to introduce the latest colors, furniture, or lighting. While these can be fun and exciting, they often don’t play a significant role in the learning program. Look instead for a facility that offers “blank space,” like a canvas that can be molded to and customized for your program—and modified at a moment’s notice to support your group’s dynamic needs.
2. Yes/No is just a mindset: All venues have rules, but if you hear one rule after another on a site visit, the venue may not be the right choice. Look for a venue with flexibility and a “whatever it takes” mentality. Look for the sales and planning team to ask questions that relate to the success of your program, not just what is convenient for them.
3. Experiential learning should be multidimensional: Experiential learning or learning by doing is the standard in learning programs today. Make sure the venue provides versatile spaces that can handle a variety of activities, from adventure teambuilding on a challenge course to hands-on activities to role-playing scenarios.
4. Themes are awesome, if done well: If you choose a theme for your program, you’ll want to incorporate it throughout the program. Select a venue that’s eager to build on and reinforce your theme through the entire program, from refreshment breaks to inventive receptions and innovative lighting, audio, visual, décor, and even costumes that can be integrated into the program.
5. Fine dining is not just for small groups: It’s no secret that food matters at every event. Many small venues have 5-star restaurants, while large conference centers often have a group dining food and beverage program. Look for a venue that works with local and regional purveyors and farmers to provide the best quality, freshest food available, gained from using sustainable farming methods. This, together with a talented culinary team, will help provide a superb dining experience for your group—even with a large-scale program.