Guest writer: Dan Hirsch, CEO, On Board Experiential
I tell this story a lot. 12 years ago, my new partner Deb Lemon tried to convince me to host an offsite event for our leadership team and spend almost $6,000 to book an “improv” specialist. Are you kidding me? We’re an experiential marketing agency in San Francisco, creating experiences for brands. I thought she was absolutely crazy. I’d never been to an offsite event in my life and had no idea why they would be useful. Nonetheless, I agreed, and our first OBE leadership offsite took place.
Fast forward 12 years later. On Board Experiential Marketing now hosts a summer offsite event for each division of our company (account, production, admin and creative) along with a full company offsite event in December where we bring all of our OBE unicorns from around the country to a great location. We’ve been to Tahoe, Yosemite, San Diego, and Palm Springs to name a few, and we are planning to head to Mexico this December. The reality is, each year there is always a moment where I have my doubts about our offsites. As the costs continue to increase, I wonder, “Can we spend this in a better way? How about more bonuses, incentives, raises, staff support, software?.” Think of any alternative way to spend the money and you bet I’ve thought of it. However, every single year when our offsite events come to a close, I turn to Deb and tell her, “You were right once again.”
The simple point is this: there is no better investment to re-energize, teach, motivate, engage and retain your staff than an offsite event.
So, here are 6 tips for planning an offsite event:
1. Go offsite. No, really. Your conference room or a local restaurant doesn’t count. Get out of town, kill all the distractions and go someplace inspiring where it doesn’t feel like work.
2. Bring in a speaker. We’ve had marines, entrepreneurs, musicians, improvisation teachers, you name it. Hearing and engaging with people outside of your company can bring fresh thoughts, exciting energy and new perspectives.
3. Work out. We try to schedule a morning workout with the entire team. It’s not mandatory, but our team always shows up. Working out with people you know actually enhances the stress-reducing benefits of exercise. It could be a hike, a run or yoga. Whatever it may be, do it as a team. This will set the tone for the day and invigorate everyone to collaborate.
4. Build an agenda and stick to it. Even though we’re out of the office, we still get quality work done. During this time, give each member of the team the responsibility to lead one section of the agenda. If time is getting tight, take unfinished items and put them in the “parking lot” to address at the end of the offsite. Just make sure you leave time at the end to finalize these to-dos.
5. Book a team activity. Set up something in the middle of the day and get out of your comfort zone or try to learn a new skill that keeps the day from feeling too much like work. We have done everything from rock ‘n’ roll camps to surf lessons. Trust me, you’ll still get enough work done, and it will be more productive when people are having fun and feeling relaxed. Almost 40% of workers say they work harder when they are happy in their workplace, and I’ve seen this firsthand at OBE.
6. Leave time for fun. Don’t overschedule the day with work. Make sure there is a nice balance between networking, bonding, fun and work. There are real business goals to accomplish while you’re there, but don’t forget the power of simply spending time with your co-workers. Retaining your best talent is the key to success.