Planning Successful Off-Site Meetings

October 6th, 2015 | hereschicago
john krol whirlyball off site meetings

John Krol

Planning Successful Off-Site Meetings

In a world of email, text messaging and G-chats, the art of off-site meeting planning and execution can seem lost at times. However, all this just might take face-to-face communication and human interaction to another level of importance.

It’s easy to see how a department meeting or impromptu conference in the office can be ineffective. Attendees are comfortable, in familiar surroundings – and this comfort can turn into wandering minds and daydreams. The meeting ends and many aren’t really sure what was accomplished.

A well-planned off-site meeting in a fresh setting that combines activities mixed with the opportunity to socialize a bit might be just the thing to bring colleagues together as a team. Be prepared to follow-up with a “thank you for attending” email, perhaps with important meeting notes, presenter contact information, perhaps even a photo or two taken at the event. A separate thank you to the presenters at the meeting should also be a part of the follow-up plan; drop a card with a personal note in the mail for those who came from outside the company to present.

Choose wisely, Grasshopper. When picking your off-site meeting date and time, consider the flow of your company during the week. Mondays can be tricky, since it is a popular day to take off for a three-day weekend and some folks just don’t yet have their gray matter fully engaged in work mode. Fridays can be just as difficult, as many have already “checked out” and are excited about the weekend. Unless, of course, the meeting will end early and attendees are allowed to start their weekend a couple hours sooner! Mid-week can work well to break up the week and catch people at their peak of productivity.

Communicate with your presenters. Find out exactly what they will need to properly present their information, including laptop connections, sound, old-school easels/paper/markers, and so on. Will they be providing handouts? Let them know how many are expected to attend the meeting. These details may be more important than you think. Missing something here can really break the rhythm and distract the attendees.

Search for the right off-site venue. One can start the search for an off-site meeting space on the web, but it must end at the location. Site visits may be time-consuming, but they are critical. The meeting area must 1)be away from distractions, 2)be able to accommodate your presentation and configuration needs and 3)have plenty food, beverage and activity options to keep everyone smiling and attentive. If breakout sessions are on the agenda, additional spaces will be required. If activities are included, are they meant to break up a long meeting or get everyone pumped at the end? Nearly every venue has free WiFi these days; if there’s a password, get it early enough to include it on the agenda.

Testing, testing…1,2,3. The off-site meeting venue you’ve contracted has everything you need. However, you still must plan a visit the day prior to the event to test your equipment. Make sure this is part of the plan right from the start. Bring the laptop you plan to use with necessary adapters/connectors and ask to test the sound system if you’re using it. Make a dry run through your meeting agenda; you may just find something you’ve overlooked. Good thing you caught it now!

While you’re there, go over your contract with the off-site meeting venue’s representative with whom you’ve been communicating. Check your guest count, food items, room configuration, activity time and so on.

Plan to arrive nice and early to give yourself enough time to make any last-minute adjustments, place any helpful signage to guide attendees, test sound and A/V connections again, etc. Meet with venue staff to make sure everything is on schedule, as well as your presenters just prior to start time to review the agenda.

Ready, set…GO! Host a fun and productive meeting. And remember to schedule a little time afterward to celebrate your success!

John Krol is the Marketing Director of Whirlyball Lombard,  Whirlyball Chicago & Whirlyball Vernon Hills

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