Off-site meetings – they can be an invaluable use of time, with teams inspired and motivated by different surroundings and an agenda that encourages new thinking.
Or, of course, they can be a day locked away in a windowless hotel room with drab décor and memorable only for the lunch, which then turns out to be utterly unmemorable.
Thankfully, the Zeno team in London had its annual summer off-site meeting recently and it fell into the invaluable, rather than the unmemorable or unmentionable, category. A day spent looking back on achievements, looking to important challenges ahead, and getting to know a few things about colleagues that never get aired in an office environment.
So here are 10 ingredients of an off-site meeting to remember for the right reasons:
- Venue: yes of course the surroundings make a difference, but being at a country estate that dates back in its present form to 1630, with a lot of water under the bridge before that, was certainly different. Plus it was very affordable. And the former home of the first chairman of the BBC, so even a media link
- Expectations: set in advance, with some preparatory exercises for everyone, to get the whole team thinking well in advance
- Interaction: a relaxed environment but clear focus, to prompt full and frank conversation, and group exercises that produced real ideas
- Surprise: some content that no-one had seen before, and that got people talking. And some personal revelations that did the same
- Decent WiFi: yes, even in a 17th Century outbuilding
- Lunch: rather than a predictable buffet, how about home-made soup made by the person who grew the veg and made it? Check
- Actions: an agenda that lends itself to action and improvement when back in the office, so each point has purpose
- Laughter: an informal atmosphere and an appreciation of perspective amidst the big challenges and issues covered during the day
- Sunshine: yes, even in Britain. Sunglasses for all meant groups went to sit on the lawns for breakout sessions
- A country pub afterwards. OK, not an essential ingredient but it felt like one. A totally different environment to Piccadilly Circus yet just an hour away
It’s never easy to get a whole team out of the office for a day for this kind of meeting, but this one was very much time. The only question is how do we top it next year?