A CMO Show Blog Post
The 7 secrets to great company offsite planning
A CMO Show Blog Post
The 7 secrets to great...

It may feel like a daunting task, but company offsite planning doesn’t have to be stressful or difficult – it simply requires a bit of organisation, an open mind and a dash of flexibility. 

It’s that time of year again: Your company offsite is fast approaching and you’re facing the usual challenges of deciding on a theme, finding the time to prepare and selecting the right team to involve in the planning.

Whether you’re planning a day for five, 50 or 500 people, the process is identical. Stop, take a deep breath, and stick to these seven steps:

Set your limits
It may not sound like a very logical place to begin, but if you start by taking into account all of the constraints on your day you’ll avoid having too many surprises thrown at you further down the track. Limiting variables is a proven technique for eliciting creativity.

company offsite planning
We hosted Filtered Media’s 2016 company offsite at Ovolo Woolloomooloo. Source: Instagram.

Start by pinning down a budget. This gives you the parameters you need to make decisions. Then make a list of details including staff dietary needs, venue requirements and location limitations, and restraints around transport, access and timing. The sooner you’re across all of these details the less likely it is you’ll have to change plans once things are in motion.

Set an intention
Surprisingly enough, this is one I learned from yoga. As important as it is for an office to be fun and exciting, make sure you have a clear idea of what you’d like people to get out of the day.

Setting an aim or intention before you begin planning is a great way to keep a clear vision as you’re thinking about the flow of the day.

For instance, at this year’s Filtered Media company offsite the aims were to let off steam during an intensively productive season, strengthen the social glue that holds our people together, and to dig deep into the ways our company values actually manifest in our business.

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Our intention to pull together and have fun definitely helped plan our day. We kick-started the offsite by completely clearing our minds of preoccupations and getting in synch through infectious African drumming. This meant we were then able to harness a shared sense of focus and purpose, which perfectly segued into a session that explored the numbers that drive our business and the values we embrace as part of our day-to-day.

Having grown significantly in the past year, we sought to find a way for bonds to develop between old hands and new hires, back-end and client-facing staff, the quiet and the expressive people we work with. Shared memories are so important for developing the goodwill we all draw upon during busy and stressful times, and for us a city scavenger hunt really brought out competitive elements, creative ideas and many opportunities to get seriously silly.

company offsite planning
A city scavenger hunt brought out competitive elements, creative ideas and the opportunity to get seriously silly.

Create a session plan that allows for a balance of group focus on the things that matter with the active and dispersed activities that allow for connections to develop.

Plan for fun
The number one mark of a killer company offsite is when everyone continues to talk about the day long afterwards. As you set about finding a venue and planning activities ask yourself this, “does this lift us out of the everyday?” and “what will make a lasting impression?”

Chances are it won’t be the PowerPoint presentation or the venue’s chairs that people talk about once they get home. It’s likely to be the team building activities and the moments your staff felt genuinely engaged that will have a lasting impact on your workplace.

For us, it was the silly memes in the finance update, sore hands from drumming too hard, vying for scavenger hunt medals and, of course, happy hour at the end of the day!

Company offsite planning
Ghadeer, Heather, Sam and Jonny – the winners of the 2016 company offsite city scramble.

Keep things moving 
It’s never a good idea to have people sitting down for more than two hours – after all; this is not just another day in the office. Make sure you have a plan for the day’s activities which includes movement at least every two hours, if not more frequently.

Movement doesn’t have to be running around or doing star jumps, it could be something simple like forming breakout groups for brainstorming, a standing discussion or even a 15-minute coffee break. The upside of scheduling breaks is that you’ll have a more involved and responsive team for the portions of the day when sitting is required, and you’ll have some extra breaks to sort out any last minute needs.

Food, food, food
Food and drink should be plentiful and frequently available – and I cannot stress this point enough. The first time I helped organise our company offsite I made the mistake of handing everything over to the venue without a second thought. It seems efficient but the drawback is not knowing how much or what type of food there will be until the day of the event, at which point it’s often too late to change anything.

Company offsite planning
Source: Pinterest.

To avoid a stressful or hangry situation, my advice is simple:

1. Discuss a menu with your venue ahead of time, including plans for timing of meals and coffee breaks.

2. Take care to include all staff dietary requirements. It’s also a good idea to check if the venue can cater for gluten free diets with more than just fruit.

3. Make sure there is plenty of tea, coffee and water provided. You don’t want people going home grumpy or dehydrated.

Exercise/team building
Whilst the offsite is a great opportunity to look over the company’s position, plans for the coming months and answer any questions people may have, it’s also the perfect place to facilitate some good ol’ team bonding. Consider sourcing an external company to help with this aspect of the day as it will mean you have one less thing to think about, giving you more time to actually enjoy yourself.

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For those on a tighter budget, there are many great activities that you can run yourself – anything from egg and spoon races and charades, to a group scavenger hunt and African drumming.

Time for chat/questions
Make sure there’s plenty of time for questions and ideation amongst your team. One of the most popular parts of our company offsite days is our “ask the founders” session, which offers staff the opportunity to ask our CEO and managing director any questions they may have.

Questions provide a great opportunity to increase transparency, trust and conversation amongst the team. It’s also a good idea to have some open-ended questions up your sleeve to get things rolling in case Q&A sessions are slow to kick off.

If you want help planning your company offsite, or if you want to share your experiences, get in touch with Filtered Media.

Related: What is organisational culture?
Related: The 7 keys to amazing PR event planning

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