From time to time the companies decide to have a meeting outside their headquarters. This is never a spur of the moment decision nor is it ever done without thorough preparation. The meetings that are taking place offsite require a specific approach and they are expected to incite out of the ordinary engagement from the participants that will in return provoke a more creative decision making. As a result, the conclusions will be somewhat different from those made in office-based meetings.
Some companies organize regular offsite meetings a couple of times a year, while others decide to have them once they realize the regular meetings stopped providing results or they notice a lack of creative thinking in the decision-making process they usually conduct. Whichever is the case in your company, one of the most important factors when it comes to the success of each offsite meeting is its venue. To excel in finding one, these are the notions that should be taken into account in detail.
Setting the date and proper timing
As you surely know from experience, proper timing is of the utmost importance when it comes to properly organize, well, practically anything. It is a well-known fact that working under pressure due to a short deadline increases both stress and the possibility of error, not to mention that it narrows the choice of possible venues. The most prominent offsite meeting venues are very often booked an entire season ahead, those that are a step down in the popularity category at least a couple of months prior, while averagely sought after not later than 30 days in advance. The best way to go would be to check the availability of the desired venues and schedule the date of the meeting according to the available slots. If you cannot set the date that much in advance, do not waste a moment. The minute the need to organize an offsite meeting is mentioned and the talks about setting the date begin, make sure that at least a couple of months is provided to organize everything and begin the process by immediately checking the availability of the venues you set your eyes on.
Regardless of the level of your creativity and the originality of the ideas you brainstormed for this occasion, the budget that you have available determines to what extent they will be implemented. To make the most out of the financial limitations you have, it is necessary to calculate all possible costs of a particular venue. Bear in mind that all the features of the venue that you plan on using need to be added to the starting price. The rental price usually covers just the venue space, working personnel, catering and all other extra features, such as bowling, billiard, guided tours and anything else they have to offer come at an extra price. Therefore, if you are working on a tight budget, make sure you add everything you plan on using to the total sum and compare several venues that have a similar offer. Prices of those individual extra services may differ significantly, which means that two venues that had similar prices at the beginning turn out to be substantially different total price-wise when you calculate the total sum.
The nature of the meeting
The choice of possible venues strongly depends on the nature of the meeting that will take place in them. This covers both the topics that will be discussed and the participant's list. If the topic of the meeting is serious and the attendees are of senior status, the venue needs to accommodate it, as well. Still, only to an extent. It should not resemble the office setting in any way. Remember, it is, in fact, the usual environment and atmosphere that you wish to get away from. What this means in practice is the venue should be formal and the atmosphere quiet and decision making friendly, with no other guest present and no interruptions allowed. An elegant restaurant would be a perfect choice since it is well-known that important decisions are more easily agreed on over a nice meal softened by a premium beverage selection. On the other hand, if the meeting is primarily attended by junior position staff and is more of a team-building nature, a restaurant setting would be overkill. A dinner with a tasty food selection, accompanied by a bowling alley or a billiard room would be a far better choice. Hosted by a person fully familiar with the business agenda that needs to be covered and capable of seeing it through, enriched by an adequate menu and a couple of games that are available on the spot, the meeting is bound to succeed.
The choice of possible locations is mostly determined by the budget available. If you are hosting a local meeting, focus on the venues that you haven't yet used for offsite meetings. A completely new setting will have a positive influence on the atmosphere and contribute to a smoother decision-making process. However, do not pick spots that are far and require a lot of time to reach since no one likes driving a couple of hours to the venue for a meeting, let alone getting back from it. This is particularly true if you have guests that arrive at your place of residence solely for the meeting. There is nothing worse than having to take a long ride just after they settled in their hotels. Taking a lot of time to get to a location sucks out the energy needed for the meeting and it is less likely that the end result would be successful. On the other hand, if the budget allows it and you can take the meeting to an offsite venue outside your town, think of locations that bring most added value. A great venue out of town coupled with interesting sites to be visited before or after the meeting is a great foundation for a successful meeting.
Studying the profiles of the people attending the meeting is another great help in narrowing the number of possible venues and could be one of the keys to selecting the perfect one. For example, if you are hosting a meeting locally and the majority of your guests come from out of town, finding a venue that is located near the sites that are good representatives of the local culture would be a winning choice. Taking visitors on a sightseeing tour during the break relaxes the atmosphere and helps them establish a friendlier atmosphere, which, coupled with everything else venue has to offer, strongly benefits the positive outcome of the meeting. Next, if several people who are coming are vegetarians, choosing a venue that is famous for its meat menu and offered no vegetarian meals would clearly not be a smart choice. The same goes for taking the predominantly young group of people to a fancy restaurant, they simply would not feel at home there. Therefore, discretely finding out all you can about the meeting attendees is strongly advisable to avoid choosing the wrong place and unpleasant situations.
Another notion that is important for the proper choice of venue is how meeting attendees will reach the location. If you opt for the usual scenario, the guests will arrive in their private arrangement. The majority of people will come in their private cars, which means that the venue needs to have a sufficient number of parking places available and it would be advisable you reserve them for your guests. Others will either use a taxi or public transportation. If later is an option, notify those using it about the closest public transportation stop. On the other hand, if the venue you wish to use has everything needed apart from parking places, here is a suggestion. Hire a comfortable van or a bus an offer an organized to and from ride to your guests. This will allow them to get into a less formal spirit of the meeting on their way to the venue, plus they will not have to worry if they had a glass or two more than allowed when driving their cars.
In the process of finding the perfect venue, it is often required to think outside the box. Therefore, when you consider the amenities of the venue you are looking at do think about them in the broadest sense possible. If catering is planned, the food and drinks selection needs to accommodate the prevailing taste of the guests. If there are any special demands, do your best to make them happen. Also, interviewing the guest whether there is something they are forbidden from having would be a smart move. Once you have taken care of all this, focus on that extra amenities value that will help the guests relax and feel different than they do in the usual meeting places. A separate billiard or bowling room is always a nice edition. A game of darts is also one of the favored group relaxation activities. On the other hand, you could aim for more. For example, a venue with a private pool and a sauna could take the meeting to a completely new level and make that offsite meeting a truly memorable event. A well versed and discreet band could improve the atmosphere, while the karaoke session could fill the room with laughter and good fun.
Time of the year and the local weather specifics are also important notions that must not be overlooked. If your area is blessed with a moderate climate and stable seasonal weather you have broader choices. Naturally, you will not choose an outside venue during cold weather, while late spring and summer would be great for an open-air gathering. On the other hand, if the weather is at least mildly unpredictable or summers are hot, the outside venues are again not the best option. Imagine the outcome of the meeting held in an outside venue when a shower storm or a cold wind followed by snow hit it all of a sudden. You will have to have a strong backup plan for those events, which will involve additional costs and effort and involve a lot of unnecessary complications that could have been easily avoided if the choice of venue was different. This is an area where it is better to play it safe in both cases and opt for a well heated and well air-conditioned venue that will be suitable in all weather conditions.
Finding a suitable offsite meeting venue is a demanding task. Meticulously going through all the phases and not missing a single detail in order to find the perfect one requires taking the extra mile and asks for both well organized and imaginative person that is capable of providing additional value. This surely is not a task everyone could complete, the whole process, from brainstorming initial ideas to double-checking all the details and following everything related to the venue until the very end of the meeting will demand that you give all you have at all times. However, it will be a very creative and rewarding task and you will surely find both professional and personal satisfaction in the fact that the meeting in a place you picked has been so successful in the end, thus making all the effort, energy and imagination you provided a well worthy investment.