Your intentions were good. You wanted to get your employees away from their desks for the day and in a more relaxing place where everyone could chill out, have some fun, and maybe even bond a little. Except that it didn’t quite go as planned — last year’s off-site meeting felt more like a trip to the dentist. Everything that could go wrong did.
Now you’re preparing this year’s off-site meeting, and you can already hear the collective moans of, “Not that rope-climbing thing again, please!” Turn last year’s debacle into a successful, productive, and memorable event by avoiding these 10 common off-site meeting mistakes:
- Failing to set clear objectives. The worst mistake you can make is neglecting to set key objectives for your off-site meeting, just because you want everyone to “relax.” Nothing will get accomplished, and you’ll end up with a group of bored, frustrated employees who will resent you for not respecting their time.
- Choosing the wrong site. Remember that an off-site meeting is meant to “shake things up.” If your office is located in a busy downtown area, don’t hold your meeting in another crowded urban location. Choose a site that provides employees with a new experience. If you work in the city, take them somewhere rural and relaxing; if your office is located in the suburbs, employees might enjoy a trip to a bustling city center.
- Cramming too much into the day. Don’t hold your employees hostage at the meeting site by trying to accomplish too much in one day. Make sure the meeting doesn’t cut into people’s evening activities or family time. You can’t solve the entire year’s problems with one daylong retreat, so don’t even try. However, if the off-site meeting encompasses two days, the evening between can be a good time for a fun activity.
- Surprising people. Be careful not to mislead your employees with promises of relaxing outdoor activities, only to transform into a corporate drill sergeant who puts them through a series of grueling trust-building exercises all day. Be clear about your intentions from the start.
- Cutting into weekends or holidays. Just because you can get a cheaper hotel or convention center rate, it’s always a bad idea to plan your off-site meeting around weekends or holidays, which will make attendance a hardship for your employees. Also avoid days when there might be other important things going on within your company.
- Sharing a crowded site. When booking your site, inquire what other events or company meetings might be scheduled for the same day. You don’t want the distractions of a raucous wedding party or other large group sharing your space or causing delays in the dining room.
- Committing “executive overkill.” Don’t turn the day into a PowerPoint marathon or fill it with endless speeches by the boss. The energy will be sucked right out of the room in no time. Keep the day active and engaging, with opportunities for all employees to participate.
- Hiring bad speakers. When considering guest speakers for your event, be certain they have a solid understanding of your company — and not just from the CEO’s lofty perspective. Choose someone interesting who will hold people’s attention in a way that’s clearly relevant to the meeting’s purpose.
- Overdoing the activities. While they can sometimes be fun, don’t overdo the trust-building, ice-breaking activities. Make sure they are well thought out and actually enjoyable. If an employee is an effective salesperson, it doesn’t really matter if he or she can’t climb a rope. Never forget that most people would rather be home with their families or out with friends than playing games with their boss.
- Forgetting to follow up. Once the day of the off-site meeting has come and gone, don’t file it away and forget it. Check back in as a group to gauge the benefits of the experience. What has actually changed as a result of the meeting? Have any of the great ideas people came up with that day been implemented? Use the feedback to improve upon next year’s meeting.