How Do You Plan an Off-Site Meeting? Several Suggestions

Situation: A CEO wants to schedule an off-site planning meeting with her top staff. She has heard about the potential efficacy of off-site meetings and is intrigued by the idea of taking her staff away from the office for a day or two to concentrate on planning. She is curious about typical agendas, time frames, objectives and who should be involved in the meetings. How do you plan an off-site meeting?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • General considerations
    • Set the objective of the meeting in advance. Tell everyone involved the objective so that they are thinking about this prior to the meeting.
    • The staff involved depends on the objective of the meeting. Select participants to fit the need.
    • Include a team building event. One purpose of off-sites is to help the team or teams get to know each other better and improve collaboration.
    • Have an agenda for the meeting and meet without interruptions. Have participants notify key customers or contacts in advance, schedule back-up contacts if necessary, and don’t allow interruptions.
    • Hold the meeting during work hours. Options: one day, local for easy travel and return home; or two days, nice setting, dinner the first day, and late afternoon return home the second day.
    • Do you need a facilitator? This depends on the goal and organizer’s comfort with the topic of focus.
  • Typical Agenda:
    • A speaker or educational component pertinent to the meeting goal.
    • Breakout and group discussions to think through important issues.
    • A team-building event.
    • Some fun – dinner or an evening activity that allows individuals to talk in a relaxed setting.
  • Examples of effective events:
    • Broad agenda – What can we do better?
    • All-hands meeting – prompts contribution by all.
    • Opportunity for CEO to communicate the company vision and involve employees in the planning process for the coming year or period.

2 thoughts on “How Do You Plan an Off-Site Meeting? Several Suggestions

  1. RACHEL BRAUN SCHERL

    I am a big fan of having a very clear objective for the meeting – as opposed to a broader agenda. In the beginning, the leader presents the objective and with the group builds a list of success metrics, e.g. “At the end of the day, what will you need to say, do or measure to confirm/disprove that we reached the objective.”

    I think icebreakers are great, but the teams I work with generally feel much better if they know what they are focused on and can evaluate themselves (and the moderator) honestly as to how effectively they met those objectives.

  2. Sandy Post author

    Excellent comments, Rachel. I completely agree with your though that a very clear objective is essential for a successful off-site meeting. The more that you can carry this objective through the meeting thematically, the better. I really like your suggestion that the group build success metrics to confirm/disprove attainment of the objective.

    Whether icebreakers are included will depend upon how cohesive the group at the off-site is. For example, if it is a large off-site involving people from different departments who don’t know one-another, these can be helpful. If it is already a tight group, focus along the lines that you describe is very effective.

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