Offsite meetings are popular with organizations of all sizes. It’s a chance to get away, enjoy some new scenery, make key decisions, and come back to the office with a fresh perspective.
The trick, of course, is actually scheduling the meeting. There are a lot of moving parts and a lot of important decisions to be made—often in a short time. But as long as you stick to the fundamentals, the planning doesn’t have to be cumbersome.
What Is an Offsite Meeting?
An offsite meeting isn’t just a meeting held outside the office. It’s typically an opportunity to address key objectives and goals on a deeper level, often with a select group of essential team members.
The meeting itself may be a single session, or it might be divided into multiple sessions with breaks, food, and activities in between. In some cases, the “meeting” might even be a weekend-long or week-long retreat. Regardless of how it’s set up, the basic idea is that you’re stepping out of your normal work environment to discuss important matters in a different location (and sometimes with the addition of wine or laser tag).
The Benefits of an Offsite Meeting
Planning an offsite business meeting is a great way to invigorate team members and inspire fresh ideas. It’s also a great way to overcome the monotony of the typical office meeting. When you consider that 91% of workers daydream during meetings, it’s easy to see why many organizations like to take the team (or at least the management team) to a more inspiring locale at least once a year.
An offsite meeting is more engaging and more conducive to back-and-forth expression and creative ideas. Nobody is worried about the important tasks that they’re falling behind on, and nobody is staring at the wall and wondering if “this meeting could have been an email.” The change of scenery and the significance of the gathering help everyone to focus more clearly with a renewed sense of purpose and motivation.
In addition, an offsite meeting—when coupled with fun activities and great food—can serve as a great team-building company culture exercise and a reward for hard-working team members.
Tips for Managing a Successful Offsite Meeting
The fundamentals of scheduling an offsite meeting are pretty straightforward. You need to select a venue and a time, book your venue, decide on any supplemental activities, and ensure that everyone involved is equipped to attend at the designated time. But those small incidentals can make or break your meeting. That’s why you need to follow a few best practices when preparing for the big corporate event.
Keep the Group Small
Quite often, offsite meetings are reserved for managers or key decision-makers. This is usually a good way to go. Large groups can incur high costs, and small groups are much more productive in this type of setting.
A group of 5 to 10 people is typically ideal for an offsite company meeting. You have enough people to collaborate effectively and inspire valuable insights—but not so many people that the whole thing becomes unmanageable.
If your group is on the larger side (8 to 10 people), you might even break up into small sub-groups for part of the meeting. This will allow you to discuss objectives on a more intimate level before reconvening and reaching a consensus.
Get People Excited About the Meeting
If the offsite meeting feels like a chore or an obligation, you’re defeating the entire purpose. At that point, you might as well just have another stuffy meeting in the conference room. To make your offsite meeting productive, you need to get people excited.
First, choose a venue or activities that you know will appeal to the participants. Then speak with all of the participants individually to gain a sense of what they hope to gain from the meeting. Be clear and transparent about the goals of the meeting and what you hope to achieve for the company. Think big. This isn’t a time to discuss the accounts receivable; this is a time to make big-picture decisions.
You might also assign each participant a task for the meeting, such as to lead a specific session or gather feedback from other participants. If everyone has some type of ownership or stake in the meeting, it takes on much greater significance.
Open the meeting with a fun icebreaker, and then get right down to business. If everyone understands their role, it should go off without a hitch.
Aim for Specific Outcomes
Your offsite meeting should have a list of specific goals and desired outcomes. Maybe the goal is to produce a list of benchmarks for the next fiscal year; maybe it’s to lay out the specifics of a new service line or decide what to do with the company’s budget surplus.
The important thing is that these key decisions are made during the offsite meeting. It’s not an informal brainstorming meeting or a time for casual conversation. You’re probably investing a lot of money in this meeting, and so it should come with definitive accomplishments.
Decide the goals of the meeting beforehand, and make sure the goals are specific and quantifiable. Create a detailed agenda with all outstanding issues. Then resolve to meet those goals before you all adjourn at the end of the day.
Offsite Meeting Venue Ideas
The venue for your offsite meeting is important. You need to ensure (among other things) that the offsite space:
- Is available at the time(s) and date(s) you need.
- Is available to book within your budget.
- Is located within a reasonable driving distance for your team (unless you plan to budget for travel accommodations).
- Is able to comfortably accommodate the size of your party.
- Has ample parking to accommodate everyone in your party.
- Is able to accommodate any special requests you might have (such as catering).
- Offers the privacy and seclusion you need to conduct your meeting.
- Is appropriate for conducting professional business.
- Appeals to everyone on your team.
In some cases, you’ll need to book multiple venues: one for your actual meeting, and one or more for leisure and dining. If this is the case, you need to ensure that all of your venues meet the above criteria.
The following are just some examples of popular venues for offsite business meetings:
- Hiking trails
- Private homes (such as a potluck at the CEO’s home)
- Restaurant banquet halls
- Shared work spaces
The above recommendations are for the actual meeting spaces and are generally separate from any leisure activities you might schedule.
Offsite Meeting Activity Ideas
Most offsite meetings involve some sort of leisure, whether it’s something as simple as a meal at a restaurant or something as elaborate as a weekend at the ski slopes. These activities will get people excited about the meeting and encourage team building.
The optimal activities will depend on your budget, the interests of your team, and the amount of time you have to spend. The following are just a few popular examples of activities that can accompany offsite meetings:
- Attending a Conference or Lecture. If there’s a leadership conference, success conference, or other relevant speaking engagement coming to town, you can bring your team to the event and learn valuable new skills as you come together to better your organization.
- Booking a Retreat. If you can invest the time and money, an extended company retreat can be the ultimate offsite meeting opportunity. You can meet at various times during the trip to hash out your professional goals and then spend the rest of the time enjoying much-needed R&R. Just note that you’ll need to book the meeting venue, the lodging, the transportation, the dining, and the recreation.
- Dining Out. You can have food catered or delivered to your primary meeting spot, or you can conclude the meeting by reconvening at a nearby restaurant or bar.
- Enjoying a Bonding Activity. It’s okay if part of your meeting itinerary involves mindless fun. This can actually be a great bonding exercise, whether you engage in a friendly paintball tournament, attend a comedy show or sporting event, enjoy a wine tasting, or get together for a game night. Escape rooms have also exploded in popularity recently and are excellent for team building.
- Volunteering. If your company culture emphasizes good works or giving back to the community, your team might find a volunteer opportunity to be highly rewarding—a great way to reinforce your core values.
Find out which activities would provide the best employee experience for your team members, and book your itinerary accordingly.
How to Make Your Off-Site Meeting Unforgettable
Booking an offsite meeting isn’t as challenging as it might seem. You just have to consider the most important elements of the meeting and plan accordingly. When you know what excites your team and what you need to accomplish, it becomes much easier to make the big decisions.
The important thing is to come home with a renewed vision for your company and a re-energized team of decision-makers—and maybe a really good suntan.