Holding a company event somewhere other than the office can be a good idea on several levels. Done right, a change in scenery can spark creativity, give people a psychological break from their usual routine and foster team-building. A poorly organized offsite, however, is a waste of time and money. As CEO of event space search engine Eventup and a former VP at Groupon, Jayna Cooke has seen both and has some advice on the subject.
Choose a location that's easy to get to.
Cooke remembers attending a Groupon offsite that was nearly two miles from the office--too far to walk, meaning a large group of people had to be transported there. "The transportation wasn't arranged correctly so it became sort of a two-hour disaster zone of getting people from one spot to another," she says. "Location is just so important. Like how close is it? If it's not close and your company is 2,000 people, make sure your transportation is great and it's on time and there's enough [of it] to bus everybody over there."
Make it fun.
Instead of making employees sit through session after boring session, break things up with fun activities everyone can do that get people energized. Whirly Ball, for example, is great for smaller groups. "That's more of a team-building exercise. It's always really fun," she says. "It doesn't necessarily require any skills and men and women can do it."
Opt for stand-up cocktails and appetizers over a sit-down dinner.
"Psychologically most people open up more if they're standing up talking but it also just allows you the freedom to move around and not necessarily get stuck in a two-hour dinner that you can't really relate to the person that's sitting to the left or right of you," she says. Even better: Offer signature cocktails that somehow reflect your brand.
Use an event planner.
While large companies such as Apple or Google have internal event planners whose sole purpose is putting together great meetings, in medium-sized companies the planner may be the CEO's assistant or a receptionist--someone who could probably benefit from getting some help. Professional event planners are expert at making sure everything--flow, lighting, audio-visual, food and all of the many other details that go into a great event--comes off without a hitch. And sometimes they don't even charge an out-of-pocket fee, instead getting paid commissions from vendors.
Bring your brand along.
It's a little thing, but company signage can make sure your brand isn't lost when you're meeting somewhere other than the office.
Who doesn't like to get free stuff? It could be something inexpensive that you source from a company with whom you partner, or a big-ticket item, such as a vacation someone wins via a lottery or contest.
Get decor ideas online.
"I've always found some really great ideas just on Pinterest," Cooke suggests. Just search for "cool dcor ideas for corporate parties."
Keep the momentum going with follow-up.
You've invested a lot of time, energy and money putting together an event so it makes sense to remind people what you accomplished during it. Whatever the takeaways, find creative ways to surface them back in the office later on. For example, put photos from the event on your company's Facebook page or give everyone a book written by the motivational speaker you hired. "You want to make sure that what you're trying to get out of it is continually reiterated," she says. "Not everybody engages in the same way so having those variety of ways to engage everybody on the team, especially the larger you get, is really important."