No matter how special your office is ---welcoming, professional, bright and airy, high-tech or high style---it’s still, well, “the office” to those who work there. In time, this familiar environment can become like a relationship that has lost its sizzle. And that can lead to the office blahs. This is not a good thing if what you want from your key staff is the “next big idea” or “the extra mile” or even occasional over-the-top enthusiasm. So why not pack up the team and head out the door to an exciting, energizing, memorable place that will tighten the bonds and turn up the volume? To do that, you’ll need to plan, and execute, with care.
1. Plan a budget that works and stick to it. Be realistic, whether your meeting will be just down the street or halfway around the world.
2. Have a goal and an agenda and make them clear to all who will participate.
3. Allow adequate time to fine-tune the details. Don’t rush the process.
4. Line up vendors and get everything in writing.
Set a budget and define meeting goalsTo maximize the benefits from an offsite meeting, you’ll need a clear goal and a realistic budget. Define your expectations and limitations so those working to make the meeting happen AND those who will attend it are all on the same page.
Tap meeting planning resourcesYou’ve agreed on your meeting destination, but now what? A good place to start is the local Convention and Visitors Bureau. They can generally help you select hotels, suggest activities, recommend ground transportation options and, depending on the size of their staff and the scope of your meeting, serve as a booking agency for hotel rooms.
Ask hotels for meeting planning assistanceHotels, especially the larger chains have Request for Proposal templates on their Web sites. Once submitted, you’ll likely be contacted by someone from the hotel sales department. Most meetings of any size are booked at least 12-18 months in advance, so don’t wait until the last minute to block rooms.
Ask the airlines about discounts and meeting servicesMost major airlines have a meeting planning desk to help you negotiate a discounted group contract which is typically available if your group size is 10-20 passengers or more.
airline Web sites. Specific information and services are usually listed under “Business Travel Services” or a similar heading.
Choose to cruiseA cruise ship can be a great place to hold a meeting, especially the newer ships that offer purpose-built meeting facilities. And you won’t have to worry about planning meals, entertainment or daily activities because they’re all part of the package.
- Don’t neglect the tax issues that can come with holding a meeting. Ask your tax advisor for information on potential tax consequences for your company and attendees.
- There can be legal and insurance issues too. Be sure to seek appropriate advice.
- Pacing can be a make-or-break element of a meeting. Don’t try to cram too much into a day. Free time can pay big dividends.
- Plan events that are in keeping with your corporate culture.
- Read all vendor contracts carefully. Attrition clauses (applicable if you have to cancel part or all of any component) can be costly.
- Consider the issue of including or not including spouses or significant others.
- Plan a debriefing session after the meeting is over and ask for evaluations from all who attended.