Harvard Business Review discussed the structure of off-site meetings recently and came to the conclusion that pre-meeting preparation was the key factor in the success of a strategic off-site meeting. The meeting planner needs to look at three key things.

Ensuring off-site event success

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First, attendees – who should be there and once they’re assembled, what are they going to discuss, and why? Secondly, what information is everyone going to need beforehand in order to be well prepared for the meeting? Thirdly, how can the meeting be planned to maximise progress?

The information to circulate beforehand

It’s important not to flood people with multiple links and documents to read. That can cause
disengagement with the meeting, since people see it as yet another unreasonable call on their time. Instead, make sure that plans are easy to read and well-presented, documents are summarised and well-structured. Any outside sources such as articles and video should be relevant, not only to the organisation, but also to the objectives of this particular off-site event.

Creating a focused, specific meeting pack with the necessary information is a much better way to approach this briefing task. If senior executives have been hugely impressed by a recent business book, attendees can be given a copy to read in advance, or to take away with them at the end of the meeting.

The meeting planner needs to understand something about the people who are coming to the meeting, their backgrounds and likely areas of interest. Only then will they be able to select some suitable tools to assist the meeting in finding the right strategic direction, and planning new initiatives.

Tried and tested tools have a role here – SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) is a key strategic tool, as are frameworks such as Kaplan and Norton’s balanced scorecard.

Let people show a different side of themselves

It can’t all be heavy analysis. Some of the most productive off-sites are informal. What about a corporate BBQ in Dublin?

If you’re stumped for an idea that would work, talk to a corporate event planner Davis Events Agency who will be able to provide a novel and engaging off-site that really works.

It can be extremely enlightening to see people in a different context, and can free people to think more creatively.