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  • Writer's pictureIeva Felman

How do you run an effective team offsite? The offsite objective checklist included!

team offsite meeting

This is the 2nd article in the series of 3 where we will share our lessons learned and tips & tricks on why, how, and what are the important building blocks for a successful offsite meeting. Find the first article “How team offsites can bring long-term benefits to your company?” in our blog to learn the basics of offsite planning and to understand if your team is ready to benefit from offsites. When you know WHY and HOW of the offsite basics, and also know what to avoid, in this article you will find out how you plan an offsite strategy, set objectives, what are different types of offsites and how to plan activities based on the objectives.

How to plan your offsite?

As mentioned in the previous article, the intent of offsite meetings is important for it to be successful. You need to be clear about the goals and make sure it will include quality time together. At the same time, it's clear that whatever the length of the offsite it must be as effective as possible. Later we will talk more about the balancing act when setting up an agenda, to be as effective as possible, but not tire everyone beyond exhaustion.

One important element of running an effective team offsite is to have a dedicated person who plans it.

Often it is a collaboration between the team lead, a team member and the office manager. This too often ends with everyone being caught up with their everyday tasks and planning offsite becomes left aside of more urgent tasks and in the rush. Even if you are not hiring a professional, make sure that for someone the team offsite is their main focus. Let them lead the process. Even if the team lead, manager, CEO, or COO will be in charge of the main direction and main objectives, and goals, there should be someone who has full oversight of how all pieces of the puzzle come together.

If you choose to hire a professional, they will take over the role of navigating your team through the process and organising the offsite together with you. Your expectation should be that you will give support and input needed to run it successfully. Otherwise, it can turn into a vacation together with colleagues without a clear agenda, objectives, and direction. Any tourist agency can book your flights and hotels, but not everyone will be familiar with offsite goals and with startup needs. The least you want is a tourist trip with corporate cookie-cutter team-building trust exercises.

To be effective you need to be prepared, the worst would be to spend time and money to arrive at a wonderful location without a clear action plan.

To get to that action plan, first, there should be clarity of what you want to achieve, and what are your team's offsite objectives.


Setting team offsite objectives

Depending on your team's and company's needs the objectives of the team offsite meetings can differ (even between different teams in the same company).

List of team offsite meeting objectives to choose from:

  1. Communicating and setting the company's and/or team's values;

  2. Communicating and setting the company's culture;

  3. Communicating and setting the team's and/or company's goals, strategy, and KPIs for the next period (year, 6 months, or quarter);

  4. Communicating vision, making sure everyone is on board with where the company is heading and is motivated to be part of the journey;

  5. Working on the tasks to reach goals and KPIs;

  6. Knowledge sharing and learning together;

  7. Working together;

  8. Making memories together;

  9. Getting to know each other better;

  10. Getting to know founders and management better to understand their drive, passion, and motivation and getting on board with their vision;

  11. Finding common interests and hobbies;

  12. Team building and communication improvement;

  13. Having fun, sharing experiences, and bonding.

You don't need to include all of them, and depending on where your company and team are on its journey there can be a bigger or smaller emphasis on some of them. You can also add your own in case this list is missing some objectives specific to your team or company.

Team offsite objectives will also depend on the offsite type.

Different offsite types:

  • Company offsites – where the whole company is participating;

  • Management offsites – only the management team is participating (this usually is more focused on maximizing time spent together and goes with “work hard, play hard” mindset and are much intense than the regular team or company offsites)

  • Strategy offsite – similar to management, but can include different people, depending on the objectives for the company, also, has one main objective: setting company's strategy;

  • Team offsite – team time together, smaller than company offsite and less intense than last 2

  • Team offsite for part of the team – depending on the company, team size and objectives it can be offsite for the whole engineering team or only for part of it.

Depending on the objectives and type of the team event you will choose activities that will help to reach those objectives.


What should be included in the team offsite?

After you have defined goals and objectives it's time to get to the exciting and creative part of the planning. Word of caution, many teams start here, they often come to us and want to know “What will we do at the team offsite?” Before even having answers to “What is the purpose of a team offsite?” and without having clear objectives outside of “we need to do some work and we want to have some fun”. If you are at that point, either take a few steps back and understand why you need offsite and how your team will benefit from that and set objectives, or let us help to guide you through this process.

If you have a clear vision of the purpose of the team offsite now is the time to put that into purposeful activities.

Depending on the objectives there are activities best suited to achieve them.

List of activity types with few examples:

  1. Presentation – one of the most effective ways to reach everyone present and online (in case not everyone made it to the offsite), lacks interactivity, but can be paired with Q&A or followed by a workshop;

  2. Brainstorm, workshop, teamwork session – great for breaking the team into smaller groups to go deeper into the topic, more interactive than presentation;

  3. Game, gamified action, improv – fun and interactive way to learn and bond in a fun, yet meaningful way. Same as the previous 2 points, great formats for inviting speakers/hosts from outside (company or team);

  4. Discussions, sharing, q&a – way to switch focus from the presenter, and host to the participants, dive deeper into different experiences and be more personal. Ideally would be performed by the internal leader for more trust building among team members, but can invite an outside host if necessary;

  5. Activities, shared experiences – things to experience together, activities that naturally allow time for less facilitated activities, but that nurture bonding, sharing, and communication like hiking, rock climbing or having a meal together, wine tasting, etc.

  6. Experiences, attractions, team building exercises – similar to the previous, but with more structured agenda and tasks, can be more made towards team building, can be team building exercises, but also can be team building stimulating experiences for example: making food together, rafting, drumming session;

  7. Free time, time together, work together – not always free time means free time, it's just time with no specific agenda. It can be 2h in the morning to finish work tasks and have dedicated space for that or beach time with an open agenda.

As you can see the first 4 are more focused on the WORK part of the offsite, while the last 3 are more for the LEISURE time of the offsite, but that's not necessarily that strict. The presentation can be about topics of personal growth, while time together can be used to work together. To understand which activity works best to achieve objectives we have created a table that matches offsite objectives with offsite activity types.

As you can imagine, activities heavily depend on the objectives, also same objective can be reached by the different activity types. For example, you as a team lead or founder can bond with your team and share your vision both by sharing it in a presentation or by spending time together. Same with some other objectives when we would suggest doing both: sharing with everyone, essentially to get everyone on the same page during the presentation, and bonding with individuals, creating more personal connections. Similarly, even after the workshop with your team where you set goals for next quarter, it will be processed and discussed later at the hike or at the dinner table.

That brings us to planning the actual agenda. We will cover this in the next article where we will share more information on how to put all those activities in a meaningful agenda that will be efficient, purposeful and enjoyable.

If you already know that you want to have a team or company offsite and that you could use help from professionals, let us know! To get in touch and set up a meeting with us to learn how we can help you in your offsite planning journey, please fill in this form, so we can get to know you better before the call.

If you haven't, make sure to download the table that will help you to match team offsite objectives with team offsite activity types for a more effective and purposeful team offsite meeting planning. Stay tuned for Part 3!

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