About Offsite Planning

Many companies either canceled or postponed their offsite meeting plans during the pandemic. But now that in-person events are coming back online, executives and employees are gathering again IRL to set new goals, strategize for the future, or simply see each other face to face. Of course, even if...

Offsite Planning Tips & Tricks

Best Practices
To prevent attendees from talking over each other during an offsite meeting, assign a facilitator to call on individuals to speak. This can be done in person or by virtually “going around the table” before a decision is made. Incorporate real-time polling to easily gauge attendees’ thoughts on topics during a virtual meeting. Also, instead of yes-or-no questions, ask attendees to indicate how much they agree with a statement on a 1-to-5 scale, for example. For larger offsites, whether in person or virtually, divide up attendees into smaller breakout sessions to provide a more intimate setting for discussion and problem solving.
Other Tips & Tricks
Don’t forget to set your out-of-office notification for the days you’ll be away from your desk during the offsite, and allow employees time to complete work ahead of the offsite or company retreat so that they’re able to focus on the meeting as opposed to their to-do list. Following the offsite, send an email outlining any decisions that were made and any new projects that were discussed, along with next steps, so attendees have a clear picture of the company’s direction moving forward. The offsite is a good time to reestablish your company’s mission and vision, especially after the ups and downs of the last year.

Offsite Planning FAQs

  • A: Offsites—whether for a specific team, the entire company, or just executives—are designed to encourage professional development, with a focus on the company’s growth, ideally leading to better productivity, engagement, results, profit, and ROI. Offsite goals might include strategy and goal setting, brainstorming, celebrating achievements, team cohesiveness, and of course having fun. Right now, the need to simply reconnect and meet outside the office (or home) might be the most important goal of all.
  • A: While it might be tricky to replicate the experience of an in-person offsite in a virtual setting, it’s not impossible to host a productive meeting online. Like all virtual events, you’ll first need to determine which event platform will work best for your needs. Is Zoom enough? Or will you need something more robust? Since it will be harder to initiate spontaneous meetings and brainstorming sessions during a digital event, you will need to plan out the flow of the offsite ahead of time and have a clear agenda, with plans B and C at the ready if needed. You’ll also want to assign roles, such as who will facilitate each conversation?
  • A: Because there are no physical or cost constraints in a virtual setting, it’s tempting to invite too many participants. But you should consider the scope and objectives of the meeting to determine who should attend. That applies to both in-person and virtual meetings. You can also collect employees’ thoughts and opinions beforehand, so that everyone feels involved even if they’re not in the room—IRL or virtually. Effective meeting groups tend to consist of 10 to 15 people. Large groups can be broken up into small teams for discussion and then reconvene as the entire group at certain times throughout the offsite. According to Decide & Deliver: 5 Steps to Breakthrough Performance, seven people is the optimal size of a decision-making group; each additional member reduces effectiveness by 10%.
  • A: Whether you’re hosting virtually or in person, a team offsite should include clear objectives, an agenda, prep materials, and specific next steps. Some team offsites are designed to primarily boost morale and promote bonding, while others are a mix of work and play. Depending on the length of the offsite, you’ll want to schedule some fun activities to do either in person as a group or virtually like an online trivia game. Also, especially in a virtual setting, you should program breaks every 90 minutes to give attendees time to handle other needs or run to the bathroom. Finally, be sure to send out a post-event report outlining the decisions that were made and the ideas that were discussed during the offsite.
  • A: Depending on the type of planning meeting (e.g. long term, strategic marketing, quarterly, etc.), you may want to ask employees beforehand to come prepared with ideas. During the meeting, in order to prevent tangential issues from taking over, use a whiteboard to jot down any ideas that are important or interesting but that can be discussed at a later time. You might also need to impose time limits for topics so that the meeting runs on schedule. If you’re conducting the meeting virtually, ask attendees to “raise their hand” instead of interrupting and to mute their mic when possible. If a team member needs to present during a virtual meeting, be sure to use screen sharing so attendees can be on the same page (literally), and keep presentations short. This is especially important during virtual meetings when it’s easier for attendees to get distracted.
  • A: If you’re planning an in-person offsite at a resort or hotel property, create a list of attractions and activities that are available and set up a poll on Slack ahead of time to let the attendees decide which activities they’d prefer to do. Also, if you’re planning any type of adventure sports outings like whitewater rafting or group hikes or other strenuous activities, allow employees to voice their concerns and offer up alternative options like a spa session instead. For virtual meetings, book a virtual escape room or an arts-and-crafts workshop to help offer break between discussions.
  • A: The cost of a company retreat depends on the duration, location, and number of people attending. Typically, the biggest expense is accommodation costs, so you might want to research destinations once you’ve determined your budget. Overnight retreats that include lodging, meals, and activities average about $300 to $350 per person per night. Of course, traveling to a location closer to your office can save on transportation costs, but if your remote team is scattered around the world it might not matter much.
  • A: Reach out to planning agencies that specialize in company retreats and offsites such as The Offsite Co., Offsiter, and Surf Office who can craft experiences for your team. Depending on your objective, these companies can design a retreat that fits your needs—whether it’s for team building, leadership, or startups. Many resort and hotel properties also offer offsite planning services. For example, the Hilton Sandestin Beach Golf Resort & Spa in Miramar Beach, Fla. recently launched its “Build Your Meeting or Event” program, which allows groups to customize their stay.