HOW TO HOST THE ULTIMATE ONSITE MEETING
Meetings should excite and inspire. So should your office onsite.
Planning an offsite meeting? Stop.
Here’s why. In the past, the office was the place where employees gathered to work on a daily basis. An offsite meeting, in contrast, provided an opportunity for employees to get away from the daily grind, spend dedicated time on strategic planning, and bond with teammates outside of the usual work environment.
Circumstances are different now. Today, 53% of employees expect to continue working on a hybrid schedule indefinitely, while 23% expect to be fully remote, according to Gallup. For these employees, in-person meetings are rare, and the place where people gather daily is video.
Knowing this, you might consider holding your next team meeting at what may seem the least logical place for an offsite: your office.
In the age of work from anywhere, the office is the new offsite.
In-person team meetings have never been more important. Many workers have rarely seen each other since 2020 and some have never met in person at all. Hosting a team meeting, onsite or off, is a great way to bring your team back together – physically, mentally, and emotionally.
Why hold your meeting at the office and not a swanky hotel? First, it brings everyone back under one roof. Before the pandemic and hybrid work, individuals had a greater chance of organic interaction with coworkers outside their department. Bringing teams back to the office gives them the chance to meet new faces and connect with people they don’t normally interact with virtually.
Hosting your meeting on-property gives new employees the chance to explore headquarters and gives you the opportunity to take care of housekeeping tasks in person, tackle sensitive topics, work a little, play a little, and build team cohesion, on your own time and terms.
But how do you successfully organize a team meeting that achieves all this and more? Use the following do’s and don’ts to plan the ultimate onsite meeting in the age of hybrid work.
Do: Have a Clear Business Objective
Employees should arrive at your onsite knowing exactly what's on the agenda and why.
Goals for your team meeting should be specific and tangible. Reinforce your objectives by highlighting each one in your breakout sessions, discussions, and presentations.
EXAMPLE: If you want to work on collaboration, avoid single-person presentations. Instead, ask teams to come together and present ideas collectively. The topic is less important than the exercise of working together.
Do: Focus on Employee Connection
According to Keith Ferrazzi, author of New York Times bestselling books Never Eat Alone and Who’s Got Your Back?, getting together should be reserved for times where you can focus on celebration and bonding, as well as deeper, more complex or emotional topics that don’t lend themselves to video calls. Ferrazzi says this is the right purpose for in-person meetings.
Use these opportunities to focus on discussions that matter to everyone regardless of role, experience, or seniority. Topics like respecting boundaries, enhancing communication, or achieving better work/life integration.
Your meeting should excite and inspire. If you’re not sure what topics matter most to your team, ask them.
Do: Take Time for Important Housekeeping
A number of your newer employees may have never seen the inside of your building, especially if they were hired during the pandemic. With everyone onsite, you have the opportunity to check off some important (and fun) housekeeping activities like the following:
- Offer professional headshots. This activity is a great way to provide an additional benefit to new and veteran employees.
- Give the grand tour. A proper tour makes offsite teams feel less like they are intruding. Your office is “home base,” and individuals should feel confident when navigating headquarters.
- Make introductions. Remote workers may seldom be in the same room as C-suite executives. If high-visibility leaders are onsite, introduce them to your team.
- Celebrate success. A proper pat on the back is difficult to give remotely. Take the opportunity to honor hard work, give shoutouts, and present awards, in person.
TIP: The above all serve well as opening activities.
Do: Balance Work and Play
All work and no play will make for one dull, counterproductive meeting.
Give your team time and space for actual togetherness, away from the confines of the office. We’re not talking about team-building activities or “mandatory fun” (which is just another way of saying team building). Mandatory fun is never fun.
Happy hour, lunch, or even a group yoga session should do the trick. Give people opportunities to be social.
Do: Encourage Remote Participation
In the age of the Anywhere Economy, onsite meetings should be accessible from anywhere.
We get it, you’re hosting an onsite to get everyone together, in person. Unfortunately, that might not be feasible for everyone. Assuming you’ve already invested in video collaboration tools, use them to ensure everyone has an equal seat at the table.
Here’s how you can configure your space for a hybrid meeting:
- Have multiple screens
Use one screen to constantly show your virtual attendees and a secondary screen for meeting-related content such as graphs, videos, and powerpoint presentations.
- Arrange desks for video
Arrange desks and cameras so that everyone can be seen in the frame. If virtual attendees need to see both the speaker and participants simultaneously, use an additional camera.
- Provide clearer views
A front of room camera is great for breakout sessions, but a video bar mounted to a mobile cart is better for open spaces. Consider how the activity in the room will look and sound to remote attendees so you can ensure a more equitable experience for everyone.
- Capture audio
Place additional mics strategically around the room so virtual attendees can follow conversations. This will also help block out environmental noise and background chatter.
- Prepare for technical difficulties
Work with your IT team ahead of time to avoid common tech hang ups like Wi-Fi connectivity and video system deployment.
Do: Ask for Feedback
Ask for honest feedback as soon as your onsite concludes. Let your team know that their responses are anonymous and essential to planning future meetings.
Consider holding a discussion as part of your closing activity. This is a great way to get creative as a team, brainstorm without restriction, and dream big.
TIP - Don’t surprise attendees with a feedback session. Let them know there will be time for an open conversation about things done well and what can be improved. Make sure to add the discussion to the agenda, so quiet thinkers have time to prepare.
Don’t: Relinquish Authority
Try not to step outside your role of “boss” to be “one with the team.” Your team will look to you for guidance during the onsite just as they rely on your leadership in business.
Use your position as leader to manage and guide meeting activities, model participation, and promote engagement.
Don’t: Invite the Universe
Creating an unwieldy meeting by extending the invite to everyone could dilute meaningful conversations, cause distractions, and lead to decision paralysis.
According to Neda Mansoorian, Co-Founder and CEO of Leviti, Inc., an event planning and research company, less is more.
“We have conducted extensive studies on the power of frequent, smaller gatherings. ‘Microevents’, as we call them,” said Neda. “Bit sized, one to three hour daytime outings are when people learn something new and real about each other. It’s these outings that lead to rarified, meaningful connection.”
Be critical about who needs to be in the room, virtually or in person. Attendees should benefit directly from, or contribute to, the onsite meeting activities.
For individuals who would only view your onsite material as “nice to know,” consider removing them from the invite list and sharing a video recording with them later.
Don’t: Include Competitive Team Building
What’s worse than mandatory fun? Mandatory competition in the name of fun.
Competitive team building has no place in the corporate workplace. You can create cohesion and connection without pitting one employee against another.
Team-building activities that create togetherness:
Humanitarian efforts (building a house)
Cooking a meal together, and enjoying it as a group (may need to be done in small groups)
Escape room activities where everyone must work together to solve a problem or work out a puzzle
Competitive team-building activities to avoid:
Olympic style games (tug-o-war / relay races)
Your mantra for your team onsite should be “all for one” not “one against all.”
Don’t: Put People on the Spot
Speakers and presenters should be briefed ahead of time. Putting people on the spot may cause them to feel resentful and embarrassed which could lower morale and inhibit participation.
Your onsite will serve a number of personality types. Keep in mind that introverts may need extra extra time to prepare before they feel confident enough to address the group or present ideas.
Encourage engagement by responding favorably to those who participate naturally. By providing your team with a safe space where opinions and ideas are welcome, you’ll foster an environment where quiet attendees are more likely to speak up.
TIP: If you want someone to present at the last minute, talk to them about it. If they’re not comfortable speaking off the cuff, suggest that they create a video presentation that can be distributed to the team.
The Optimal Onsite is Planned with Purpose
“An optimal onsite is a mix of programming split between inspiration, team fun, and collaboration and planning, in about equal parts.” – Hayley Nelson, Global Head of B2B Marketing, Logitech
Planning a successful onsite is doable if you plan with purpose and set intentional goals.
Cassie LaMere is the founder of Cassie LaMere Events, an agency that has planned team meetings for fortune 500 companies. According to Cassie, a well-planned onsite is a great opportunity to reinforce brand standards and ideas.
“Your team will likely post about their experience on social media, so treat this as an opportunity to reach current and future customers as well as potential new hires,” she says. “Plus, an intentional onsite is a great time for your team to build more meaningful connections, whether they are joining in real life or virtually.”
This is your opportunity to bring everyone together — and back to the office. Whether you’ve reimagined your space or not, it’s your chance to welcome your team home. It’s a time for you to connect with new employees, celebrate great work, and steer your team forward.