Experiential offsites are an engaging and transformative way to improve employee experience, support internal change management initiatives, innovate recruitment processes and elevate business performance on all levels.

Planning such an offsite, that goes beyond traditional team building and delivers on objectives, is a multi-step process that requires time and careful consideration.

Think about the last time you attended a festive dinner party.

What made it a memorable experience?

Most likely, the following “ingredients” made it happen:

  • a generous sponsor
  • the right people
  • the right date
  • high-quality ingredients
  • a welcoming environment
  • great hosting

To turn this dinner party into an experience that would leave a lasting impact on you, maybe even transform the way you will be hosting events in the future, there is a “secret ingredient” that needs to be there.

It is the moment that you, as a guest, become a meaningful part of the experience.  

And that is what experiential offsites are all about.

Experiential offsites are like immersive dinner parties – on a much larger scale. You want your team to feel well taken care of and nourished, and you also want them to be inspired by and grow from the experience.

Here are the six most important ingredients to create an transformational offsite experience that delivers on these objectives:

1. Your key stakeholder(s)

To satisfy and fulfil the requirements of your key stakeholders, you will have to identify them, involve them, and keep them engaged during your offsite planning process.

Who has a major interest in or is greatly affected by the outcome of the offsite?

Who do you need to consult with to define the scale, timing and main objective of the offsite?

Who sets the budget?

Keep your stakeholder(s) informed about the flow of the offsite during preparation and execution.

Check back with them on any major changes and make them an essential part of the experience as much as time and resources allow.

2. Your participants

Before you start inviting people, decide on the scale of your offsite: Are you planning a leadership meeting, company offsite or a team retreat?

Leadership offsites clarify roles and responsibilities while creating alignment and cohesiveness amongst the leadership team. They are a great opportunity to set or redefine objectives that serve as a guiding value for the rest of the company.

Large-scale company offsites boost employee engagement and morale to reinforce the organization’s business strategies and culture for continuous growth and improvement. They serve as a powerful catalyst for organisational change programs and help create an inspiring place to work.

Small team offsites are ideal to onboard new team members, embed company values and objectives within the team, increase team effectiveness and build trust within the team.

Once you have set the scale, think about who would need to participate to create the best result possible.

Are there any cross-functional roles that would need to be included?

Employees that are currently on maternity leave and will be returning to the organisation soon?

Think beyond the obvious set of participants.

Who would benefit from being a part of this experience?

Everyone has a busy schedule and conflicting priorities. Make it attractive for people to attend the offsite to the best of their abilities. Transformation occurs for and in between those who actively participate.

At Collective IQ, we often start with a leadership offsite to align the leadership team, followed by a company or business unit offsite (depending on the size of the organisation) and smaller team offsites.

3. Timing

The timing of your offsite should be defined in alignment with your offsite objectives and your organisation’s overall flow of business.

Choose dates that create the most positive impact: the beginning of a new year is a great way to boost employee morale and set powerful intentions for the new year, while an offsite that is scheduled right before the kickoff of a new project increases team effectiveness and accountability.

If you have just onboarded a new team member, an offsite meeting helps to integrate him / her quickly and enhances the overall employee experience.

Follow the flow of your business: while a team of auditors won’t schedule any offsites during the months of January through March, this could be a great time for companies whose business kicks off slowly at the beginning of the year.

4. Clear Objectives

In order to deliver a solid return on investment, your offsite needs a clear objective.

Before you start the planning and design process, one way to get clear on your intended outcome is to go through the following three questions:   

  1. What does your company/team need to achieve in the next 3/6/12 months? [company/team objective]
  2. What does your company/team need to get there? [skillset to be enhanced or developed]
  3. What main skill(s) should be built during the offsite? [offsite objective]

Your offsite objectives will largely be determined by the set of skills your company/team(s) need to enhance or develop.

Break down your company/team objectives into the set of skills that you would need to get achieve them.

Then, filter out the most important skills and turn them into offsite objective(s).

An example: Your sales team needs to be more effective in closing deals. You have identified two main skills that would help your team achieve their objective: Active listening and effective communication. The main offsite objective is hence to improve interpersonal communication skills.

The level of transformation that will occur during the offsite is based on how well you define and upscale the exact outcome you need to accomplish.

5. The Right Venue

Contrary to common thought, an offsite venue is not just about the place you book for your event.

Everything from interviews, pre-survey structures, meeting spaces, the park next door, the restaurant, the food preparation process up to photos, videos and even the bathroom layout, are an integral part of your offsite venue.

A venue is a container that holds your offsite experience from the very first moment to the very end.

Here is an example. If you want your team to relax and recharge after a challenging project in order to regain their creative spirits, your container would include:

  • Early and clear communication of offsite details to reduce stress and uncertainty
  • A pre-survey to ask participants for their most loved recreational activities
  • Catering that consists of healthy, light and easily digestible meals
  • Activities built on the recreational activities that have been suggested in the pre-survey. Each activity mentioned by the participants would be included during the offsite in a certain way, designed to catalyse relaxation, playfulness and creative thinking.
  • A location that stimulates peace and calmness
  • Bathrooms and spa areas that invite participants to linger (avoiding the bright neon lights!)
  • Close access to nature and enough free time for outdoor activities and personal reflection
  • Unintrusive, creative photography to capture special moments and experiences that team members can use as a visual reminder after the offsite

Think back to the dinner party and all the different aspects that were needed to make it a transformational experience.

It is the same for offsites: The magic lies in the details.

Find a venue that supports the outcome you want to create but don’t confine yourself to it: The key is to alter your container as needed to create a transformational experience and fulfill your objectives, rather than to be altered by it.  

6. Great facilitation provokes great results

The quality and depth of your chosen facilitation defines the level of impact your offsite will have.

You need facilitators who can design and execute an experience that deliver on your objectives, get your teams out of their comfort zone and create a lasting impact.

A facilitator, in that sense, is the catalyst for long-term internal growth and transformation.

Designing and facilitating experiential offsites takes time and preparation. If you lack the resources in-house, look for a service provider that offers all-inclusive offsite solutions including design, preparation, execution and follow up support.

Collective IQ specialises in the design and facilitation of experiential offsite solutions for a wide range of applications (including leadership alignment, remote team engagement, recruiting and onboarding, and the practical implementation of agile methodologies) with a lasting impact on teams and organisations.

Get in touch with us for more information.