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Offsite Meetings: The Definitive Planning Checklist (+ 4 Mistakes to Avoid)

We're reintroducing and reminding you of everything you need to know so that your offsite meeting is a total success.

By Kate Dagher  •   May 26, 2021  •   8 min read

It’s been a while since any of us have even thought about organizing an in-person meeting, because of the global pandemic we continue to live through. In fact, sitting behind our computer screens has become second nature to a lot of us.

Since vaccinations are steadily being rolled out and COVID restrictions are beginning to lift, Fellow is going to prepare you to get back into your groove to master offsite meetings, whenever they can resume. Don’t worry though, most of these best practices can still be used even in a virtual company offsite meeting, to promote high level employee engagement across the organization. 

What is an offsite meeting? 

An offsite meeting is typically one that takes place outside of the office (of course this is COVID regulation permitting). A team offsite meeting is a great opportunity to dedicate some time to make progress on large projects which involve most team members, either keeping the meeting within the team or sometimes extending the invite to a few different organizations. This is also the right time to discuss organizational strategies, goals and the tactics needed to achieve them. The decisions made in offsite meetings often enable the team to head back to the office, ready to take action and make progress on the project. 

In order to hit the ground running, it’s really important that there is collective agreement on the outcomes being driven. If people don’t properly understand or agree on the outcomes of the meeting, issues are going to arise and it’s going to offset your productivity. What’s positive is that offsite meetings tend to work, especially for promoting a better quality of life for employees by getting them out of the office for a training session, an offsite activity such as a team-building activity, a formal proposal or a regularly scheduled meeting that needed some flair. 

Why have an offsite meeting? 

Offsite meetings can be used for many different purposes. This is your opportunity to kick off a new project, conduct a brainstorming or planning session, or simply to boost team morale. A team offsite can really boost employee productivity and drive engagement.

Changing your team’s work environment can be really beneficial for people to find a different headspace, especially if you are facing a team challenge and need to problem-solve or brainstorm some kind of solution. Moreover, this pulls team members away from their desks, so there is no way that interruptions will get in the way of productivity.

Together, in collaboration, you and your team can confront the obstacle and also plan out a mitigation plan to address it and move forwards. It’s also a great chance to get to know more about other team members, perhaps individuals you don’t work with often, have more personal conversations and take your mind off of the everyday stresses of the job. 

How to prepare for an offsite meeting

In a recent article by the Harvard Business Review, they effectively summarize why preparing for an offsite meeting is so important: 

“A strategic off-site’s success is largely determined by what happens before it convenes.” 

Without further adieu, let’s take a look at how to best prepare for a company offsite:

1 Book a venue, transportation and… food! 

The first thing you need to do is book a space, a way to get there and organize some food! Think about how many people will be attending your team offsite, or maybe even your company retreat and then decide which kind of space would be suitable to book. Of course, you need to ensure that the space you’re using supports the technology needed for the offsite. Next, think about how you’re all going to get there, and back. Lastly, think about the duration of the meeting and how much food is needed. It’s important to also make sure you take note of any kinds of dietary restrictions so that nobody goes hungry and everybody stays happy.  

2 Plan and send an agenda in advance 

It’s essential that you create, collaborate and send a meeting agenda to all of the attendees well ahead of time. Try planning to send your offsite meeting agenda about a week in advance, so that everyone has time to get back to you with any kinds of suggestions or contributions that they’d like to make. It’s also important that you organize the meeting agenda based on the time that you have allocated to the meeting. Focus the bulk of your time in the areas that require more conversation, brainstorming and problem- solving and park items that aren’t as relevant to the meeting for another time. 

3 Decide who is facilitating each section of the meeting 

If more than one person is facilitating the offsite meeting, be sure to write into the agenda who is in charge of facilitating each section. This ties back to why it’s so important to circulate the meeting agenda ahead of time, so that everyone is clear on who is presenting what, and how much time they have to do so. It’s important to stick to the time that’s allocated out of respect for the other presenters and the material they have prepared to present to the rest of your team members. 

4 Use the offsite day as an opportunity to promote company values 

Facilitating a meeting outside of the office is a great opportunity to highlight and demonstrate company values first hand. The way in which you organize, facilitate and conduct your offsite meeting can be influenced by the organization’s values. This is a great opportunity to remind team members how great it is to work for a company who have values that are central to the way in which they work and operate, in and outside of the office. 

5 Make space for team bonding and reflection 

While we’re all about maximizing productivity, an offsite company meeting is also the perfect time to get to know team members on more of a personal level. A great idea is to book sufficient time before the offsite meeting starts and long enough breaks that don’t feel rushed so that everyone has time to grab a coffee, a bite to eat, and chat with a colleague or client that they’d like to get to know better. If you really want to promote getting to know one another, you can organize assigned seating so that the group is well-mixed and so that people are sat next to someone out of their ordinary meeting schedule. 

6 Ask attendees for feedback about the offsite 

Make some time at the end of your offsite meeting to ask participants for their feedback on how the meeting went, overall. If you think it would be more effective, you can hand out an old-fashioned paper feedback form or otherwise, have a live survey at the end of the meeting where participants can give their two cents on the productivity, effectiveness, enjoyableness and overall satisfaction with the meeting. This feedback will be important to reflect on for the next time that you organize a meeting of similar nature. 

Pro tip

Try a feedback tool like Fellow to give and get feedback after offsite meetings seamlessly!

Feedback Feature Fellow

What to avoid in your offsite meetings

Now that we’ve taken a look at how to best prepare for an offsite meeting, we’re going to outline things that you should avoid, to keep the meeting running as smoothly as possible. 

1 Talking at the team (instead of with them) 

It’s especially boring and meaningless to have your team attend an offsite meeting simply to sit down and listen, for hours on end. You’re going to lose people’s focus pretty quickly if you talk at your audience, rather than interacting with them. Make sure to engage with your team so that their participation is recognized as meaningful and impactful. 

2 Failing to get specific about the main goal of the offsite 

Make sure that you open your offsite meeting by explaining the main goal of the meeting. Don’t leave people guessing why they’ve had to organize several hours or a full day away from their desk. Everyone’s time is valuable and the attendees deserve to know the main purpose of the discussion. While this should be obvious after having read the meeting agenda, reiterate it to the audience so that it’s crystal clear. Once the purpose of the meeting is defined, you can discuss the important points that have been outlined to achieve that main goal. 

3 Forgetting to schedule breaks! 

Forgetting to schedule breaks is inconsiderate to the time and energy of everyone attending your meeting. Not only do you need to schedule breaks every few hours, but it’s not a bad idea to organize them to be a little longer than usual. If the attendees aren’t familiar with the offsite location, it may take some time for everyone to find and use the bathroom, have a coffee, or have a bite to eat. It’s important to outline the duration of each break so that your team members know ahead of time what they can and cannot accomplish in the time set aside to take a breather from the meeting space. 

4 Not managing energy levels 

You want your offsite meeting to be engaging and to promote participation from all attendees. Bring the energy that you would like to see reciprocated. This means, starting off the meeting with some enthusiasm and positivity is going to set the tone for the rest of the discussion. Likewise, it’s a good idea to end the meeting on a positive note and leave everyone with some positivity to carry with them throughout the rest of the day. You may want to consider some kind of activity at the beginning or end of the meeting to really drive employee engagement. 

Parting advice 

We know it’s been a while since we’ve all seen each other in person, but good things are on the horizon! An offsite meeting is a perfect way to bring people together after most of us have been working remotely due to COVID. We hope that this guide has been helpful in preparing you for your next offsite meeting when the time comes to bring people together outside of the office. As always, we love seeing you on the Fellow blog! If you found this article resourceful, be sure to share it with a friend or colleague.

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