Company meetings held outside of the office can be great motivational tools. An off-site meeting can really shake things up and revitalize and reenergize your employees, building team spirit and getting everyone’s creative juices flowing again. A meeting “away from home” is often the best way to generate new enthusiasm, new ideas, and a renewed commitment to company goals.
However, an off-site meeting that is not well-planned or carefully thought out beforehand can be a disaster. All it takes is one bad course of Chicken Kiev or one botched trust-building exercise. You don’t want the day to be memorable for the wrong reasons.
To help your event run smoothly, here are 10 helpful tips for planning a successful off-site meeting:
- Aim high. When planning an off-site meeting, people usually set their expectations too low. Thinking about the day strategically can make it more than just a simple bonding experience; it can become an opportunity to solve office problems, generate new ideas, and help employees grow. Anchor the meeting with goals that actually mean something to the business.
- Pick a creative location. A ho-hum location will produce ho-hum results. The physical surroundings of your off-site meeting can make an enormous difference. Hotels and conference centers are great locations, but they’re not the only options. Some creative alternatives include movie theaters, bowling alleys, sports arenas, museums, theme parks, and other quirky venues. Think outside the box.
- Take a tour before. When selecting your meeting site, be sure to take a tour of the facility beforehand, including the “back of the house.” Check for ample storage space for supplies, secure areas for employees to put their belongings, a sufficient number of clean restrooms, and good dining facilities.
- Don’t forget the fun. Just because this is a business meeting, don’t neglect the recreational opportunities. Many conference centers and hotels offer a wide range of physical activities such as golf and tennis, as well as unique team-building exercises. Build time into the day’s schedule to allow employees to take advantage of these extras.
- Add up the costs. Be sure to determine your budget ahead of time. Expenses to consider: transportation, facility rental, equipment rental, accommodations, catering, and possibly the cost of hiring a guest speaker or entertainer.
- Bring the right equipment. Today’s meetings call for more than just a few chairs and a flip chart. Attendees will likely bring laptops to access and present computer-based information, so you’ll need a means of projecting that information. You should also consider beforehand whether you’ll need high-speed Internet access in the meeting venue, or if this is a time to be “off the grid.”
- Pick two dates. When choosing a date for your off-site meeting, keep at least two possible ones in mind — a preferred date and an alternate one. When you start checking out available facilities, you’ll be able to choose the best option based on the number of people who can attend. Alternate dates also mean that you can negotiate a better price.
- Create a detailed schedule. Work backwards from your event date to determine what needs to be done beforehand, and when. Be conscious of production lead time, shipping times for deliveries, and anything else that needs to be thought out before the meeting day.
- Plan the day intelligently. Design your meeting day schedule with care. Build in travel time to and from the site, and set an agenda that honors that. Additionally, make sure that all attendees have appropriate transportation to get to the meeting on time. Decide up front whether you want the day to be a high-intensity working event, a laid-back and relaxing retreat, or a balanced program combining a little of each. If you do decide to mix work with play, carefully consider which should come first.
- Do advance PR. Circulate a pre-retreat agenda that lets people know what your objectives are for the off-site meeting. This will provide employees with an opportunity to prepare ahead of time for full and constructive participation. Where appropriate, give pre-meeting homework that employees need to bring to the meeting. It will also help to drum up excitement for the big day.