5 top tips for hosting a successful offsite meeting

Posted by Juliet Caswell

According to SuccessfulMeetings.com, nearly two-thirds of meeting planners believe that off-site meetings are more productive than those held in the office.

The obvious reason is the avoidance of interruptions that bombard us every time we step into the office environment, from checking emails to being dragged into a last minute meeting, standard workplace disruptions are mundane, distracting and detract from the task in hand. And there are other benefits too, including increased creativity from a new environment, the opportunity to give a fresh perspective to problems, and of course the opportunity to spend a fun day out of the office with the people you see every day!

With this in mind, I decided to arrange an offsite day as part of “Project Smith” a strategic, internal project I had been leading for the past 4 months. The project spanned across many teams and roles within the business and it was time to bring everyone back together to discuss what we had learned, work out how we were going to take the project forward and make some actionable decisions.

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Where to start

Assuming the role usually taken by many of our clients, my first stop was with our Events Division – my brief to them was simple, I needed a local venue that could accommodate 14 people for a day’s meeting. We wanted to have enough space to split into smaller groups for brainstorming activities, plus great AV equipment so we could share content on a large screen, rather than huddling around a small laptop! And finally food was of paramount importance. Anyone who has visited our offices knows that there is always cake in the kitchen, everyone is up for being bribed with sweets and chocolate.

Within the afternoon they came back to me with a solution, the new Hotel du Vin, a boutique hotel nestled in the heart of Stratford-upon-Avon. The team had completed a site visit to the hotel and were impressed with the decor and service along with conference space.

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5 top tips for hosting a successful offsite meeting

Communicate in advance

It’s all very well sending out a meeting invite and expecting everyone to turn up, but for your meeting to be engaging and interactive your audience needs to be invested. A great facilitator nurtures engagement before, during, and after the event so share your agenda beforehand, ask people to come prepared with thoughts or materials and where possible look for ways that others can play a lead role to mix up the day.

Kick off with an ice breaker

An offsite is a perfect opportunity to change things up a little and do something different to the typical day in the office. Ice breakers are great for all groups, not just those who don’t know each other and are a great way to kick off your day, get everyone in the same mind set and most importantly wake them all up whilst the coffee kicks in. We started off with an introduction exercise which set the scene for the day – everyone stood in a circle and had to think of an alliterative adjective to describe ourselves. We then went around the room and each person had to introduce themselves and tell the group what they wanted out of the day. When it came to your turn, you had to repeat the alliterative names of all the previous introductions – as well as getting the brain working, the exercise generated a fair few laughs and many names stuck throughout the rest of the day!

Make it interactive

This was the perfect opportunity to use some of the techniques I had recently picked up on a training with Tish Mousell, a consultant from Tish Mousell Training Consultancy who spent the day with some of the CR Worldwide team showing us ‘how to be bloody brilliant at running a creative brainstorm’. We wanted to generate some new ideas and ways of thinking during the day and I was keen to try out some of the techniques we had learned. Many people forget the key to brainstorming is quantity not quality – brainstorming is exploratory so its important to be open to new ideas. We used the classic method which works well for larger groups of people, involves both intro and extroverts and a shed load of post it notes!

Bring plenty of sugar

Keep energy levels high with sugar hits throughout the day to ensure you avoid that mid afternoon slump! Have bowls of sweets, fresh fruit or energy bars available on the table and in the room for a quick snack and natural reward for your efforts!

Leave time at the end

Even the best laid out agendas can go out the window once the conversation starts and ideas flow. Even if you don’t manage to get through everything you planned, make sure you leave time at the end to reconvene as a group. Recap on the high level learnings, agree and assign any critical actions and most importantly schedule a follow-up. The most common complaint about team building offsites is that there is no follow-up, or insufficient follow-up, that any progress that has been made turns out to be temporary, and that any goals that have been set fall by the wayside. We booked a regrouping session back in the office for the following week and asked everyone to commit to completing an action that would benefit the group.

So, whether you are planning a team offsite, executive strategy event or even a company retreat, you don’t need big budgets to make an impact and get the most out of the day. Focus on delivering a more impactful, engaging and (dare we say it) enjoyable meeting experience for you and your team.

As a founding partner of CR Worldwide, Juliet began her journey with the company in 2002. Moving from Operations Director to Product and Propositions Director in 2014, she has played a significant role in shaping all aspects of the business to help it become the award-winning company it is today. In this time, she expanded the operational side of the business, – from her sole role to a department of over 40 – a team that successfully delivers and manages over 1000 reward and recognition programs for clients worldwide.