Producing a successful offsite part 6/6: The “in between” spaces are just as important!

So we've talk about the importance of clearly defining your offsite ROI.  

We also discussed the value of having a Theme and applying Total Immersion in order to maximize your impact on the event's participants.  We discussed how a pre-offsite Teaser Campaign and a post offsite Follow-Up program can expand your impact on the participant well beyond the short 3-5 days during which the offsite takes place. 

This 6th and final component brings all previous 5 together, into a structured offsite Agenda.  This is a very important component primarily because of how damaging it can be.

I have seen so many agendas poorly built in a way that simply drains the value from the previous components.

All too many times, agendas get crammed in an attempt to get everything in (especially when the offsite is co-sponsored by multiple entities within the enterprise who are contributing to the budget in return for slots in the agenda when they can promote their narrow agenda).  

It’s almost as if the value of the offsite is directly proportional to the number of presentations on the agenda. As a result, offsite agendas are often built of back to back presentations from 8am to 6pm, leaving the participants in a torturous and passive state for hours on end.  To this approach I can only say this:  it’s never about how many message are communicated to the participants – it’s only about how many messages they end up absorbing in a meaningful way.

Building a great agenda is a qualitative challenge, not a quantitative one. That’s why we must make sure that our agenda is designed to take full advantage of the unique “impact opportunities” inherent to offsites.  Since it’s becoming more and more rare for people to have the interpersonal luxury of geographic proximity, we must make sure that they have ample time to spend together in a non-functional way (one of the most impact-full variables when it comes to cross-organizational collaboration – a fiercely sought after value) and we must make sure that they have a good time throughout the offsite, so that they will retain a positive memory long after it ends and want to attend future offsites (I have seen too many cases where 10%-20% of the people invited to attend an offsite call out – always with good excuses that have to do with a client needed them or an unexpected crises somewhere). Such a waste of costly resources!

Therefore, the offsite agenda should provide for all three of the following components:

  • Professional content.

  • Fun content.

  • “Free style” non-functional interaction between the participants.

These three elements together will really help us make sure that our participants are: in the best possible state of mind; highly motivated to engage throughout the offsite and more likely to attend future ones (or recommend to others to attend).

Series Summary

I hope these 6 components will help you ensure that the next offsite you produce be a highly productive and enjoyable one, while positing you perfectly for the next one. There are few experiences, within large enterprises, as satisfying as seeing the deep and meaningful impact a truly successful offsite has on its participants along with the deep sense of satisfaction by the manager(s) who funded it.  This impact stays with them for years – sometimes even throughout their entire careers, and that’s an amazing ROI in its own right.