Planning an "Away Day"

Getting the Most From Your Off-site Meeting

Plan what you want to achieve.

© iStockphoto/asiseeit

Does this sound familiar? Your team is getting out of the office to do some strategic thinking at a local conference center. More than 30 people attend the event.

Everyone listens to a presentation from your boss, splits up into small workshop groups to discuss ideas, and enjoys a delicious buffet lunch. Then you spend the afternoon back together, trying to combine all the plans created by the smaller groups that morning – many of which have duplicate, and sometimes conflicting, ideas. By the end of the day, you've filled up a big flip chart with all of the ideas.

On the surface, you believe the day has been a great success. You enjoyed spending time with your colleagues outside the office, doing something completely different from your "day jobs." But you wonder how effective the event really was. Will the group's new plan really be used? And did you really need so many people to create it? Sadly, the answer is usually no.

An off-site meeting can be a wonderful way to escape office distractions to focus on long-term planning or brainstorming. By going to another location that's completely new, and possibly more inspiring, people often find it easier to let go of traditional, routine thinking. But this will probably only happen only if you, as the team leader, do some careful planning first. After all, you want your team to have fun and be productive – but you also want to justify the cost to the company, especially in the current economic climate.

In this article, we'll discuss how to organize and plan a productive off-site day for your team.

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