Well-planned and executed offsite meetings deliver tangible returns. The meetings foster ideation and collaboration, produce cohesion around short-and long-term strategies, solve big, complex problems, and align executives that simply don’t happen during day-to-day interactions between staff. But the flip side is also true. With over two-thirds of business meetings categorized as failures by executives, the amount of time and budget squandered on offsite meetings is huge.
So, what are some things that business leaders can do to ensure that their meetings are a success?
1. Consensus on Meeting Objectives
Preparation should begin 60 or 90 days beforehand. Much of what happens before an offsite meeting dictates its success—or lack thereof. Organizations that wait to the last minute almost guarantee that their offsite meetings fail to deliver the returns they desire. And we’re talking about more than setting an agenda, scheduling travel and hotels, and ordering catering. It starts by establishing meeting objectives and gaining consensus on them as well as the agenda.
2. Constructing an Agenda
Meeting objectives should shape the agenda. One mistake that too-often occurs is the inclusion of too many items in the agenda. This dilutes the amount of time and focus spent on higher priority issues. Meeting organizers need to decide what timeframes to include in the agenda. Indeed, research shows that between 4 and 10 key issues should be included on any agenda. Often, just as much time needs to be spent on deciding what items not to include on the agenda versus which ones should be.
3. Deciding Who to Invite—and Not to Invite
Not everyone within an organization needs to attend an offsite meeting. The number and identify of meeting attendees should be dictated by meeting objectives and agenda. This includes outside third parties and experts.
4. Scheduling Two—Not One—Meeting
Meeting experts recommend two-day offsite meetings with a one-day, follow-up meeting approximately one month afterwards. Breaking up offsite meetings allows participants to take the results of the meeting back to their teams, soliciting feedback and helping to plan for the implementation of meeting findings. They also can pinpoint unforeseen issues that weren’t identified during the initial meeting.
5. Prepping Beforehand
Participants are busy dealing with day-to-day issues before an offsite meeting occurs. The amount of data you send them to review in preparation. Sending them too much can be overwhelming, and participants opt out of reading through the piles of documentation assign to them. Rather, choose content that is specifically relevant to the purpose of the meeting. At the same time, make sure you communicate clearly to participants that they need to digest the content before the meeting; slogging through content they were to consume beforehand on their own will quickly sap meeting energy and focus.
6. Choose a Meeting Framework
The objectives and goals you establish for the meeting determines the meeting framework (e.g., SWOT, McKinsey S-7 model, etc.). The framework enables you to organize discussion around big issues and avoid getting embroiled in side issues.
7. Avoid Adamant Positions—Especially Early On
Managing politics and emotions during the meeting. This includes downplaying emotions and expressing strong opinions at the outset. Depending on which participant does so, this can quickly shut down discussion and collaboration.
8. Synthesize Data
Structuring and processing raw data and aligning those findings around meeting objectives and goals is crucial. If possible, this data extraction needs to occur before the meeting takes place (albeit with the recognition that sometimes this data extraction must occur as part of the meeting).
9. Managing Post-Meeting Action Items
Ensuring you have the right owners and agreement on the action items coming out of the offsite meeting is critical. Utilizing a responsibility matrix such as RACI (responsible, approver, contributor, informed) or DACI (decision maker, approver, contributor, informed) for each action item clearly defines the roles each participant is to play in follow-up activities.
10. Reserving the Right Meeting Space
Not every company has a permanent office space that is large enough or professional enough to host a successful offsite meeting. Too often, organizations turn to hotel meeting rooms for offsite meetings. But these are expensive and prone to disruptions from other guests. Rented meeting rooms such as Davinci Meeting Rooms are a great alternative. Organizations can vet the locations online beforehand and select the presentation tools they need to make the offsite meeting successful.