The Do's and Don'ts of Running a Successful Offsite Meeting

Have you ever been to an offsite meeting that was uninteresting and full of forced fun? Most people have. Many offsite meetings are filled with tedious presentations and awkward team building exercises.

If you are planning an offsite team meeting, we found some Do’s and Don’ts for hosting an offsite meeting from BrendanReid.com.

 

DO’S

1. Build Something as a Team

“Take a tough problem you’re dealing with and spend two hours as a team fixing it. Build an integrated program from start to finish. Do something as a team that has demonstrable value. …  In my experience, bringing the team together to actually build or fix something sets a great tone for the rest of the year and shows the value of working as a team.”

2. Do Something Philanthropic

“Having the team step outside of work for moment to help other people can be very positive for morale. It’s also a great way to gain a little perspective on the issues you’ll tackle together in the rest of the meeting.”

3. Move Data Review to Pre-Reading

“Many team offsite meetings fail because they overwhelm the participants with data and dense content. … My advice is to publish all content at least a few days ahead of time so the team can come prepared to discuss and debate instead of digest.”

4. Establish One Core Theme

“It’s important to know what you’re trying to accomplish before you plan your offsite meeting. ... If you try to take on too many different things or approach the meeting with a generic purpose, you run the risk of accomplishing nothing of substance. My advice is to pick one theme for the meeting aligned with whatever they biggest challenge is you face.”

5. Address Real Problems

“There is a tendency in team offsite meetings to gloss over things. We create the illusion of momentum rather than actually making progress. … But we never actually resolve anything of substance. My advice is to use this precious time with your entire team to make real progress on one or two issues that really matter.”

6. Reaffirm the Team’s Purpose

“It’s important, in my opinion, to start the offsite meeting by reminding everyone why they are all here in the first place. … Starting the meeting by reminding everyone of the fundamental purpose of the team and the goals of the company, you get everyone in the optimal mindset to make progress.”

7. Follow Up with Regular Cadence

“Offsite ideas have a tendency to die on the vine. We never actually harvest the ideas and adjustments we seem so committed to in the moment. … My advice is to pull a few key initiatives from the meeting discussions and turn them into projects you actively manage until the next offsite. And then, early in the next offsite agenda, report on the outcome of the projects.”

8. Bring in Customers or Outside Speakers

“Teams have a tendency to get insulated from the rest of the company and from the market. … Inviting customers or leaders of other teams to speak at your team offsite is a really good way to get your team thinking differently.”

 

DON’TS

1. Make it a One-Way Broadcast

“One way to guarantee low engagement and muted results for you next offsite meeting is to build an agenda comprised primarily of one-way communication. … Don’t make this mistake. Build collaboration into your sessions. Build something together. Brainstorm solutions to problems. Debate and discuss.”

2. Fixate on Business Review and Plans

“At some point you need to review the team’s performance and share plans for the coming months. Just don’t make it your entire agenda. Don’t even make it a quarter of your agenda. It’s a rare thing to have your entire team together. You can do anything you want. … Why not send the plans out in advance as pre-reading and then use the time together to brainstorm ideas?”

3. Pack the Agenda too Tightly

“The worst offsite meetings feel rushed. The pace is too fast so nothing of substance gets accomplished. … My recommendation is to take whatever agenda you think has the optimal pace and reduce it by another 20 percent. … Take your time, take on less, make real progress on a smaller set of topics.”

4. Structure Around Functions Only

“Many offsite agendas are structured around functional reporting. … The problem with this is teams don’t actually operate like this in practice. … My recommendation is to build your offsite agenda around cross functional challenges and initiatives. … If you have your entire team together already, you might as well use the time to focus on issues that are relevant to the entire team.”

5. Take all Hard Issues Offline

“… The offsite meeting is the perfect moment to get into [the hard stuff]. … Let people debate for a while. Let team members reach an impasse and then help them move past it. The only time I recommend parking topics for later is if they just aren’t relevant to the group. In that case it makes sense. But if you find yourself getting antsy because the team is dwelling on a tough issue for a while, help them work it out instead of sending it to the parking lot.”

6. Force Fun

“Nobody likes forced fun. … My guiding principle for fun offsite activities is to choose simple things that create opportunities for people to spend quality time together. You want people interacting with each other and with team members they might not get to spend much time with on a regular basis. Activities that don’t allow people to actually talk e.g. sporting events or shows aren’t the best for this.”