Most of us have been to an off-site meeting at some point in our life. How many of them were memorable? Perhaps a better question – how many can you remember that truly changed you, your team or your organization? Planning an effective, high-impact off-site meeting is not as easy as you may think.
First, why have off-site meetings in the first place? When budgets are tight, and they always are, why not just work at the office? These are great questions; ones I’ve had to answer many times over the years.
I think there are several reasons off-site meetings can be valuable if timed correctly, planned well and executed with excellence. I’ve written about this previously in a post entitled, Time for Your Next Off-site? To recap, I believe a change in scenery and routine can serve as a catalyst for insight, innovation and breakthrough thinking. In the previous post, I also shared some ideas on how to make these meeting productive. I’ll not repeat myself here, but I’ll add a few more ideas to my previous list.
Invite the right people – This may mean inviting more than your core team to your next off-site meeting. I’m a big fan of subject matter experts and hired brains. Depending on your specific topic or challenge, there are experts who can ultimately save you hours, if not weeks or months, with their experience. Trained brains are similar. If you want to shake up and energize a future off-site meeting, bring in a few really smart people to help you think about the challenges you face.
Do the work in chunks or bursts – I don’t understand why or how this works exactly, but I’ve experienced it many times. To wrestle with a problem for an hour or so and take a short break often seems more productive than to grind on the same problem for hours on end without a break. This is not a bad idea when you’re back in the office either.
Consider doing some of the work outside the meeting room – My favorite example of this was a time when we took a flip chart on a pontoon boat. Anchored in a cove in a lake, we tackled a huge problem and had a paradigm-shifting idea in the process. More than a decade later, people remember both the solution and the setting.
Focus on creation not consumption – You don’t want to waste the opportunity to think new thoughts and be inspired by your surroundings by listening to status reports and updates. What needs to be envisioned? What needs to be created? What problem needs to be solved? What needs to be reinvented? These are all great topics to consider for your next off-site agenda.
Despite the pressures of busy schedules, tight budgets and skeptical finance professionals, don’t give up on off-sites. They can be the wellspring of a better future for your team and your organization.[GLS_Shield]