Making Offsite Meetings More Productive
By Deanna deBara Posted January 31, 2020
Offsite meetings can be an effective way to step outside of your normal day-to-day routine, connect with your team, and get things done. But not all offsites are created equal—and your meeting can just as easily be a complete waste of time versus a complete game-changer.
The difference between the two boils down to how you plan, manage, and execute. Let’s take a look at how to make the most of your offsite meetings and make them more productive for yourself, your team, and your organization:
Plan your meeting and prep your team ahead of time
As the old saying goes, “failing to plan is planning to fail”—and that includes offsite meetings.
If you want your offsite to be as productive as possible, there’s some work you need to do on the back end—starting with your agenda.
Mapping out the purpose and goals of your meeting—and what that looks like in terms of structure—is a must to get the most out of your offsite.
- What’s the purpose of this offsite?
- What is this offsite meeting going to focus on?
- Who needs to be involved in this meeting—and what do they need to bring to the table to make this offsite successful?
- What deliverables, action items, or next steps do we want to come from this offsite?
Once you’ve mapped out the reason you’re having the offsite, who needs to attend, and what you need to get from the meeting, you can start figuring out logistics (like where and when you’re going to hold the meeting, catering options, and total budget). Then, it’s time to pull everything together into an agenda and send it out to your team.
Your agenda should include all the details your team will need for a productive offsite, including:
- Time, date, and location
- Schedule (including any presentations, round table discussions, activities, etc.)
- What to bring, including equipment and any key deliverables (for example, if you need your sales team to prepare projections to review during the offsite, include it in the agenda)
- What to pack (if you’re having an overnight or multi-day offsite meeting)
Send out the agenda to all the offsite meeting attendees—and have each confirm they’ve received it, understand what they need to bring and how they’re expected to participate in the meeting, and to let you know of any questions or concerns.
Failing to plan might be planning to fail—but taking the time to really flesh out your meeting agenda and prep your team is planning to succeed at your offsite.
Make sure your offsite venue has the right tech in place
When you meet in your office, you already know you have everything you need for the meeting to be successful. But when you hold a meeting elsewhere, it can be more of a question mark—which is why, when choosing a venue, it’s important to do your due diligence and make sure they have the tech you need for a productive meeting.
So, for example, are you planning on video conferencing with remote team members? Make sure your offsite venue has a wifi network that’s fast enough to support streaming video. Are you going to be presenting slides? Confirm they have a projector you can hook into—and a screen you can project on.
Bottom line? Nothing kills meeting productivity faster than realizing you don’t have what you need for the meeting to move forward—so make sure you confirm the venue has everything you need to manage your meeting.
Carve out space for creativity
Having a clear structure, agenda, and goals is important for productive offsite meetings—but so is having a little flexibility.
Offsites have an interesting way of sparking creativity with your team. Getting out of the office (or home office) and into a new environment can help spark new ideas for your business—and even though it’s important you stay productive and on-task, you also want to create space for those ideas to flow.
Luckily, there’s a simple way to create that space and encourage new and creative ideas from your team without getting completely off-track and risking the productivity of your offsite—and all you need is a whiteboard.
Hang or prop up a whiteboard in a place that will be visible to your entire team during the meeting and write “For Later” across the top. As ideas come up throughout the offsite that feel exciting or important—but also off-topic—jot the idea down on the whiteboard.
With the “For Later” board, you’re acknowledging your team’s creativity and capturing any ideas that you might want to explore further—but you’re doing it in a way that allows you to stay productive and on-task for your offsite, shelving those ideas “for later” when you can give them the attention they deserve.
Read the room
Being away from their typical work environment has a way of bringing out people’s true personalities. And while it can be great to get to know your team better, it can present certain challenges in terms of productivity—particularly when you have a team of both extroverts and introverts.
If one or two people on your team are more extroverted than the others, they can end up dominating the conversations—which can negatively impact the effectiveness and overall productivity of your offsite.
That’s why, as a leader, it’s important to read the room and make sure everyone on your team has a chance to contribute.
Make sure to actively engage with people who might not naturally speak up in a meeting—and create the space for them to share their ideas or input. If you notice one team member dominating the conversation, a simple redirect like “Those insights are super helpful. I’d love to hear XYZ’s thoughts on this topic!” can help to shift the attention in the room—and give your quieter or more introverted team members the space they need to feel comfortable contributing.
Make your offsite meetings more productive
Offsite meetings can be a great way to connect with your team, work through problems, and develop new and exciting ideas to take your business to the next level. And with these tips, you have everything you need to make your offsite meetings as productive as possible. So what are you waiting for? Get out there and start planning your next offsite!