There is a love-hate relationship when it comes to employees and offsite meetings in the industry. On one hand, offsite meetings tend to be much more open, free, and devoid of formal bureaucracy when compared to their office counterparts. However, the line at which an offsite can derail into a Frankenstein stick-up is very blurry.

Yes, that newly opened brand spanking new pub with jaw-dropping interior design or that cafe with the finest brand of international coffee does seem like the obvious choice. And, you probably prepared an agenda which you are confident is definitely going to get you the “cool boss” mug down the line. But while these are niceties to have, don’t make the mistake of thinking that these are the essentials!

Remember you and your employees are not there to organize a weekend office bash party. It is therefore important to not lose sight of the primary focus of the meeting, which is to collaborate, produce and substantiate ideas and get work done!

Before we get to what needs to be arranged then, let’s just delve into reaching a mutual understanding of what an offsite meeting really is. 

Think of it as the second part of a formal conversation or pitch, one in which you ‘actually have the time and space to let everyone’s opinion in. But, and this is a big but indeed, under no circumstance is this the entire aim of the meet-up. Rather this segment should be cleared up as soon as possible, and it falls upon you to ensure that by the end of the meeting everyone is on the same page and a solid decision is taken which can be applied in work, the next day itself. 

To try and sum this up: You start with deconstructing ideas and laying out the jigsaw puzzle. But by the end, this puzzle should be reconstructed back into one whole picture which everyone in the group can appreciate.

Now keep that aside, let’s take a look at the key bullet points:

Too many chefs spoil the broth

KEEP THE GROUP SMALL. It can’t get any more obvious than this. Do yourself a favor and resist the temptation to bring in the whole gang. It’s always preferable to never exceed more than ten people. When selecting the members, ensure that you only invite people who are actually required for the main element of the project. Create diversity in terms of experience, job role, and other work-specific factors. It is also easier to split the attendees into even smaller groups and then conjoin the groups and ideas at the end of the meeting.

45 minutes

A prior investigation into what each individual participant expects to gain out the day is a great investment of your time. Sort out the disrupters, the quiet ones, the lazy, the hard workers, and so on. Ensure that your agenda involves a division of sessions for each group and thereby ensure even participation which fits into each personality’s strengths and weaknesses. In order to prevent the conversation from digging deep into unrelated topics, attest each session with a certain aim that has to be achieved at the end. This also helps you to catch when and where the convo turns from butterflies to beers.

Also Read: 21 Do’s and Don’ts of a Board Meeting

Change it

You are not in the office, so you need not follow the same office formalities. Casual wear is fine, the point of an offsite meeting is also to make people feel the least stressed as possible. Use the drink or food breaks in the offsite as the small break from various work-related discussions and enjoy it with some good-natured banter and mingling. Allow casual talk, including puns and random small talk. Use this as a way into defining the role of the meeting in a friendly manner. Make it clear that all are present to get the gig done. Get everyone present socially tense-free and chances are you will have a group that can contribute more fluently to the actual purpose of the meeting.

The whiteboard

The whiteboard is not just helpful in the office, it’s helpful everywhere else too. Try to acquire a whiteboard or a substitute to scribble down the agenda and sessions. Note down the major points made, draw circles around the things you are all on the same page. In essence, streamline your offsite meeting with an ordered map to see where things have been progressed and do the exact same thing you would do with a whiteboard in the office.

Maybe draw a few rocketships and coffee cups to reinforce that you are in an offsite meeting.

Make a good decision

Remember you are here to make the decision, and not to push it forward for another day. Ask hard, on-point questions. Drop-in a few well-timed “why’s”, “what if’s” and “how’s” to cultivate a sense of depth in the meeting. Clarify and challenge right now, because this is the end game.

Push your employees to answer the questions and thereby generate workable solid ideas which can be utilized and are practical. Forget “maybe” and “can be done”. Stick with “Yes, we are doing that”. This will ensure that you reach a good decision faster.

Make everyone participate

This is where your skill as the host should shine. Keep looking out for people who are hesitant to talk. Do not let the outspoken ones run away with the show. That is a sure-fire way for a bad meeting and a future bad rep. Draw out the ideas from even the quietest ones, give them the chance to express themselves. Make sure to chip in with the “anyone has anything else to add” frequently. Make it compulsory that everyone has to talk via a round table method where everyone is supposed to speak on what they think. Try to keep ideas circulating. Do not end an idea proposed quickly, rephrase it into question statements that try to examine the functioning capability of the idea.

That’s all folks!

Do not drag the meeting for any longer than it needs to be. Pick up the body language in the room. “A laughing and energetic crowd” probably means they are down to a bit more banter. “Glances at the watches and half-dead eyes” should probably give way that it’s time to wind up.

If you still have not achieved the aim completely, then revitalization of the crowd is necessary. Any table games or a return back to small talk is necessary if you want to keep people at the top of their creative performance throughout the meeting. Maybe order that new slider or exotic coffees and drinks. Refresh people’s attention with whatever means necessary.

If the decision has been made then, don’t keep beating around the bush. Say goodbye and let people go back to their lives. Hope this helps the next time you decide on that offsite meeting. Who knows the “best boss” mug might just be deservedly handed over to you this time round