Do you have a planning, strategy or away day coming up?

As a workshop and strategic planning facilitator I spend a great deal of my time helping leaders to plan and then deliver a memorable team experience at strategy planning days for example.

One of the common questions I am asked is:

How do we ensure that our next away day is both engaging and productive?

Here are a few suggestions:

1. Ask participants to develop an agenda that is of interest to them.

My experience is that an agenda is always a top down affair.

The leader plans each of the items and who does what, when.

This is obviously of importance to the leader but may or may not be of interest to others.

My suggestion is to have a balance of bottoms up and top down impact on the agenda.

2. Focus on a few big items

Too many away days concentrate on a laundry list of 30 items or so.

I believe it’s better to focus on say 3-5 big challenges and do these well than only half doing a much longer list.

3. Make each presentation short and end with an open issue.

What if we made each presentation no more than say 7 slides.

The 8th slide is a question that the presenter is genuinely interested in having the group answer.

I am amazed at how many times i have been at a session with the best and brightest people in the company who spend most of their time looking bored and sending text messages.

If you have great people – get them involved.

4. Invite some clients or customers

This is always a great thing to do.

Inviting some of your customers, suppliers or partners to the session keeps the conversation real and grounded.

It also offers the chance to get to know these people in more informal environment.

5. Build in some free time

Team building or planning days don’t have to be times to work people from dawn to dusk.

In fact, if you say to people, here is what we have to achieve and if we manage this then we can all have the afternoon off i have found that everyone rises to the challenge.

6. Make the venue interesting and in line with the goals of the day or event

For example, I once worked with the marketing team from a packaged goods company and we were trying to develop some new concepts for a ice creams.

Given these goals it made sense to have the day at a Kid’s Museum with a nearby playground which enabled everyone to get into the swing of things.

7. At the end of the session, ensure everyone knows who is doing what, when ..

At the end of the session or day there should be a brief recap and a quick summary of what the goals were, what progress has been made and what needs to be done by who, by what time.

This should be crystal clear for all people.

Lastly make sure any follow up notes are sent out within a day or two of the event finishing.

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