The great news: you’ve just gotten the OK to travel somewhere cool on your company’s dime. The less-great news: even if you find yourself on a tropical beach, you’ll still have to, you know, get things done.
We’re here to make the “getting things done” part a little bit easier. Although you may groan at the prospect of off-site meetings, there are ways to make them more efficient -- and even enjoyable. (We promise!)
In partnership with Marriott Hotels, we’ve gathered some expert tips that will lead to more stimulating meetings. So get out of the conference room, go beyond the office building and step far, far away from the PowerPoint.
Check out Marriott’s Meetings Imagined, where you’ll find more than enough inspiration to do meetings the right way.
Get Out Of Town
Off-site meetings are great for team building, group training and exploring strategic issues. How do you do it the right way? One important first step is to ensure you have concrete meeting goals in mind. As John Coné, former VP of learning at Dell, put it to Fast Company: "You need to spend time on the critical questions: What are we trying to accomplish? How should we go about it? How will we know if we've succeeded?" Then focus on a great location that combines the amenities you need (conference rooms, food service, good accommodations) with the amenities that your colleagues really want (recreational activities, great weather).
Stand And Deliver
Although “stand-up” meetings have become synonymous with “status” meetings, we’re talking about this in a very literal sense. Researchers at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, have found that workers are more engaged, less territorial and more collaborative when they’re working on a project while standing upright.
Take A Hike
Standing not enough for you? Try a walking meeting. Our very own Arianna Huffington is a big fan, with good reason: Not only is walking good exercise, but it may also increase morale, boost productivity and enhance creativity. Pro tips: keep the group small, ditch the smartphones and get ready for some inspiration.
Take A Break
If, during a meeting, you feel that your collective creative well is running dry, try taking a break. At an off-site meeting, “activity spaces” where meeting attendees can congregate during breaks are essential. Think about light activities that encourage discussion, like mini-golf, bowling or -- if you’re lucky -- beachside lounging.
Bring The Indoors Outside (And Vice Versa)
If you’re having an outdoor meeting, try furnishing it with traditional living room furniture for a fun and comfortable setting. If you’re afraid that the weather will get in the way of your meeting, Greg Jenkins of Bravo Productions suggests scheduling outdoor venues with some sort of shelter, whether it’s a covered veranda or pavilion or a hired tent. That way, you don’t have to trudge back indoors when a little rain comes your way.
We don’t know about you, but nothing kills our productivity more than the gnawing feeling of hunger. Skip the sad tray of sandwiches and try these creative solutions from Meetings Imagined: Hire a food truck, schedule an al fresco lunch, or plan for dinner or cocktails (to be consumed after your meeting, of course). Check out some more inspiration for great snack stations here.
Watch That Clock
This is a must for any kind of efficient meeting -- no matter what time zone you’re in. In the Harvard Business Review, David Silverman proposes a radical idea: the 50-minute meeting. Instead of forcing workers to run to and from back-to-back meetings, give them some time to travel and reset their brains. It’s not a cure for unnecessary meetings, but it’s a step in the right direction. And it’s just a hunch, but we don’t think anyone’s ever complained that a meeting ran too short.
Don’t Forget To Stop and Smell The Roses
Do some research before you plan your next business trip. You’ll find some really creative ways to incorporate your locale into each workday. Begin with a unique welcome reception that makes your team feel like they’ve truly arrived, then incorporate fun giveaways into team-building activities -- think spa packages, a gift card to a can’t-miss restaurant or tickets to an excursion or tour. Also, if your work is officially done by Friday, encourage your colleagues to extend their stay through the weekend by providing them with information and resources.