Producing a successful offsite part 2/6: Does your next offsite have a Theme? It should!

Good to see you again :)

Ok, onto the second component of a winning company offsite.  We have our budget, because we properly aligned the investment required to produce this event with our company's (or our organization's) business and operational goals. Now it's time to think about making sure the ROI we defined will be achieved.

1 + 1 can equal 3.. and 4... and even 5.  The more consistently a single thread goes through each one of the offsite’s components, the greater the value of the whole over the sum of its pieces.  That's what having a well defined and relevant Theme is all about

This unifying idea, represented by the Theme we identified/selected, must be incorporated into EVERY SINGLE aspect and dimension of our offsite.  It must be like a thread woven into every interface we have with our participants.

For instance, if we are thinking about bringing in a guest speaker, or having an internal manager address our participants, we must inform them of the Theme of this event and ask that they try and incorporate this theme into their presentation (this can actually be quite helpful to these presenters and is especially true if our agenda calls for multiple presentations, as is frequently the case in multi-day offsites).  I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to treat all of the presentations as one big unit, assuring that our theme runs through all of them, creating a whole that is worth much more than the sum of its pieces (not to mention that is that much more interesting to our participants. 

Granted, I am clearly biased when it comes to the importance of speaker preparation, but just think about what portion of your overall offsite is allocated to presentations and that should give you an indication of how much time and resources you should be spending on making sure each presentation is aligned with your offsite's Theme and KPIs AND is interesting enough for your participants to actually pay attention retain its key messages.

Your average spend per presentation will amaze you – so make sure they’ll be worth it - each and every one of them.

Here’s an interesting exercise for you:  A) Divide the total cost of your offsite by the number of hours your offsite will take place.  B) Calculate how many of your total offsite hours have been allocated to presentations – that’s the total cost of all of those presentations.  C) Divide that number by the number of presentations you have and that’s how much each presentation is costing you.  


In an offsite I was invited by a large international company to assist with , one of the KPIs defined in the ROI component was “Driving more sales within existing accounts”.  

The means by which to achieve this was leveraging the daily access the company’s on-site technical support staff has to periodical business opportunities (simply by virtue of them being located on the client site).  One of the obstacles we listed was the reactive mindset of these people, mainly due to the nature of their roles: tech support is reactive by nature).

The question we were addressing was: “How do we trigger a shift in their mindset, from a reactive a proactive one, in a way that primes them to identify business opportunities (which they are currently overlooking) and communicate these opportunities to the sales team managing that their account?

We therefore defined the offsite theme as revolving around two words: “ Pro-activity" and  "Opportunity” and the offsite primary message as “ Opportunities are everywhere. You can and should pro-actively seek them!”

Once we had the theme defined, the rest was easy and mainly required creativity (that’s always the fun part!).  For example, we decided that we would scatter hidden opportunities throughout the venue, with free drinks at the bar for the first person to identify and communicate each of the opportunities:

  • During the registration at the start of the offsite, each participant got a name tag. n the backside of the name-tag We printed othe following questions:  “When [name of the head of our organization first join our company?”.  The key of course was that this question was printed in very small font that required the use of a magnifying glass in order to read it (When did John Smith first join our company?)  


  • Several magnifying glasses were left lying around in different areas of the venue – without us mentioning them of course. The first person who noticed the small print and managed to read the question AND submit the right answer, won some free drinks.
A cool and unexpected development was when some people realized that they could use their smart phone to take a picture of the text and then enlarge the picture – exactly the kind of proactive attitude we were hoping to instil!
  • Another hidden opportunity was during lunch.  When people were eating lunch, we placed a 'Find Waldo' diagram as place-mats, and the first person who actually paid attention and got up and said “I found Waldo!” won some free drinks.
  • In one of the professional presentations, we wrote on the bottom of one of the slides “Text the word ‘OPPORTUNITY’ to 555-5555” and the first person who noticed it and did so won some free drinks.

We used our creative minds to think of every single way that we could create hidden opportunities: we planted something in their hotel rooms, in the coat rack room, in the rest name it – we did it.  I'll discuss this further in my next post in this series, dealing with the power of Total Immersion! 

We celebrated each found opportunity – no matter what part of the agenda we were in at the time it was “captured” by one of the participants (even if this happened in the middle of a presentation).  

We never told the participants how many opportunities were actually hidden - so from their perspective, this part of the offsite wasn't over until the very end of the offsite.

One of our KPIs was to prime them to seek out opportunities all the way to the end of the event, even as they were leaving the venue - it worked!

From the HR point of view, we were paying close attention to the growing number of participants who engaged in this specific ongoing activity as well as to the time it took them to find the next opportunity – viewing the drop in time it it took to find one opportunity to the time it took to find the next hidden opportunity.  The shorter the length of time between opportunities found - the deeper we knew our impact on their mindset as it related to pro-actively seeking opportunities. 

OK.  Now that we have the proper foundations: 1) defined ROI and 2) Theme, we can start moving into the execution stage... starting with the 3rd component of a winning offsite: Total Immersion.  I'll dedicate my next post to this component.