We have survived a worldwide pandemic. We kept business alive with online meetings, a lot of online meetings. We have managed training through online meetings and discussed budgets and projects.
Now that we are back to normal, people are almost craving in-person meetings again. We need to get away from screens and into rooms and be able to sit together physically in one room and have a conversation face-to-face.
There are several kinds of in-person meetings in terms of where and with whom you meet:
- Meeting your team in your office meeting room in person.
- Internal meetings with different members of your organization in your office meeting room.
- Meeting clients in your office meeting room or theirs.
- Meeting people of your organization in the headquarters where you normally do not work.
- Meeting your team offsite in person.
Each of these comes with benefits related to personal contact, being able to read nonverbal communication better than online, and sharing informal information in breaks.
The focus here will be on the last one: meeting your team offsite in person. Your team in this context refers to the people you usually work with, whom you consider members of your team, and who you usually share a boss with. Before the pandemic and hopefully now after it again, you share the same office space, see each other at least several times a week, and know each other better than other people within the company. So, if you are that close, what are the pros of offsite meetings?
Offsite meetings have one big common ground: all of the team members joining the meeting travel away from home and away from their office to get together. That implies the focus is 100% on the meeting. Nobody is distracted by an external appointment they might need to get to later, be it of a private nature like say a dentist’s appointment or of a professional nature like another meeting with somebody outside of the team. There is nowhere else they need to be. This is especially true if the meeting is held somewhere remote. Dashing off on a shopping spree or meeting friends you have in the area is not an option.
Due to the nature of offsite meetings where everyone travels there and will be present for a day or two or three, there is time to discuss business and combine it with team activities. It is very common to combine needed meetings with a team activity in terms of budgeting for such an event. A team activity on its own is often shorter, like a day of hiking. There are also activities of a more private nature where people join in their own time, like a weekend.
But a combination of both has the bonus of discussing business and creating memories of a more private kind together through activities. People who do something together, grow together. This is of course true for working on a project together as well, but lasting impressions will be created through joint activities, creating experiences together. There are endless activities to pick from. The important part is that it fits the team. If you are forced to join an activity that you hate or can’t do, there will be very little positive energy you take away from it. In the worst case, you can’t join the activity and will be left out. Try to offer something fun for everyone that is easily accessible. Don’t go overboard with ambitious sports activities or culturally challenging endeavors.
We recently had just such an event at The Cecily Group. All of us traveled to Sofia, Bulgaria for an offsite meeting for 2 days. As we have two Bulgarian team members one resides in Sofia, whom we usually invite to come to us to Vienna, it was our turn to do the traveling part. As an appreciation of our diverse team, and honoring the culture, hospitality, and great food of Bulgaria, we took it upon ourselves to fly to Sofia and enjoy the combination of meetings and activities. The meetings included getting together as a team as usual, just in a different location and meeting up with local partners. The activities included the already mentioned great food at lunch and dinner, wine tasting, and a very special guided tour through the city. And the offsite meeting has created wonderful memories for all of us, especially having the lasting impression of one of us joining the performers at the restaurant for a traditional dance upon request. I will never see handkerchiefs the same way! I think I can speak for all of us when I say we had a really good time, we got to know each other a bit better, and we highly appreciate our founder for giving us this opportunity.
Being together for a few days also allows you to see your team members in a different light, in situations you normally would not experience them in. Spending time together that extends beyond a meeting gives windows of opportunities to learn something new about a colleague, like what they do before they start their workday or when they get tired early. It also gives you more time to have a conversation beyond the needs of the business. You might learn about a colleague’s special interests simply because you have more time to get to know them.
Being invited to an offsite meeting also shows appreciation for the employee as the employer is willing to cover the extra cost for travel, accommodation, meals, and if planned, also for the activities. An employer would not do this if there were nothing to gain from it that could not have been covered by a meeting at home.
And last, let’s not forget that a change of scenery, away from the usual environment, can unexpectedly trigger creativity. Brainstorming sessions become more fruitful when people are located outside of their normal environment. A new surrounding brings fresh ideas or a different twist on existing ones.
In order not to overwhelm participants of an offsite meeting with the 24/7 togetherness, it is recommended to offer them individual rooms. That way there is an option to retreat to their own space at night or even during the day throughout breaks if all the togetherness becomes too much.
Apart from the added costs for the employer, there are only benefits from an offsite meeting in my opinion. Especially after people have been stuck at home behind their screens, the benefits might even multiply out of pure joy to be able to meet again and potentially do so in nice new surroundings.
So send your teams offsite and see what happens!