7 ways to get the most from team offsite meetings

You know the drill. You take the team on an away day to hash things out and smash through the stuff you can’t achieve while in the office. A lot of words are said. Not a lot is done. Here’s how to avoid wasting everyone’s time.

An offsite is a smart way to see beyond the day-to-day tasks, unchain your team from their desks and open up their creativity.

Such unrestrained creativity can be fun. But ultimately, unproductive.

So how do you avoid the pitfalls of an offsite meeting while harnessing their awesomeness?


1. Why do you need to go offsite in the first place?


When done well, an offsite meeting breaks people out of existing habits to refresh their thinking patterns – and when that happens, you clever devil, it’s cause to celebrate.

If you’re simply taking people through a plan or presenting a whole bunch of stuff to your team, then stay put in the office.

The offsite meeting’s main aim is to get people to open up, crack through tried-and-true thinking patterns so the team’s approach to problem-solving is fresh. Even surprising.


2. Know what you want, so they know what to expect


Let your team know what’s on the offsite meeting’s agenda at least a week beforehand. That gets the creative ideas percolating early.

While some people can turn on their creativity tap on demand, it can be hard for others to be inspired at the drop of a hat. Give them a little time.

You’ll find that people are better prepared to contribute on the day if they’ve some idea about what you want to see from them.


3. Set the structure and rules of the day


Well-honed creativity is great for business. Creativity for creativity’s sake isn’t.

Set ground rules for the day, such as when you’ll be doing what, the housekeeping rules and break times. Then people know when they can dart out for a quick coffee or have a chat with their fellow teammates.

READ: Why coffee is the key to great feedback

Having a good schedule in mind doesn’t inhibit creativity. It enhances it.


4. Keep it small


Ever heard of the phrase ‘too many cooks spoil the broth’? That applies perfectly here.

While the chorus of diverse voices can be good, it’s important to keep focus on a day that calls for more creativity.

A small, focused team will have a better chance of solving a big problem rather than a big, unfocused team.


5. Choose a convenient location


This isn’t always easy, but try to have the offsite in a place that’s fairly easy to get to for all attendees.

It’s never great having to catch three buses across town to reach a company-mandated offsite meeting.

Or, you could consider hiring transport or carpooling.


6. Break it up with some fun


While some people equate brainstorming solutions to business problems as blissful, others may find it a bit draining.

Think of some fun, team-bonding exercises you could do throughout the day to contrast the serious content and melt the professional barriers we put up at work.

Having fun generally gets the brain’s neurons firing, so you’ll get better ideas from a team that’s having fun and doesn’t feel afraid to share.


7. Okay. What now?


The most important thing to get from an offsite meeting is a plan to actually do something.

It’s all well and good to talk about broad issues and strategy, but without some specific actions post-offsite in the coming days and weeks, all you’ve done is said a bunch of words and made people feel creative for a day.

Instead, by the end of the day, each person has an action plan to apply things they talked about at the offsite day to their own work.

One great question to ask is, ‘Here’s our goal. What can you do to help tomorrow, next week, next month?’.