More impactful off sites, strategy days, brainstorms and meetings

For many of you the summer holiday break is coming up. In a few weeks time when you get back from your break you will all feel re-energized and ready to jump back into things at work. In our experience a lot of organizations start planning for their offsites (big and small) soon after the summer has ended. It is a time to formulate plans for the end of the year, wrap things up to start afresh in the new year or execute the last couple of tactics of the plan that is in place for this year. How do you make sure that those planning sessions, brainstorming get-togethers, strategy meetings and visionary offsites are most effective without hiring a professional (outside) facilitator? We can help. Here’s how…

Practice makes perfect
I’m always surprised to hear that teams in organizations have a lot of meetings that take hours and hours (sometimes even days) to develop plans, visions and strategies. Very often the result of such meetings is that they feel like a drain on energy with a lot of talk and no action at all. When they hire me to facilitate and design a session for them the response is always: this was so much more energetic and effective. The reason for this is quite simple: I’ve simply hosted and evaluated thousands of those meetings and sessions. And practice makes perfect.

Because it’s my expertise and I do it daily I have numerous techniques that I can apply, and I have a broader set of experiences to tap from as opposed to you who might only do this a couple of times a year. Sometimes, all you need to make your own session a little better is just some outside reflection on the program you have in mind and insert a few steps that I have learned are very effective to do. So: I invite you to make use of my experience for the design of your own session without having me there to run it for you.

Your session design sparring partner
Various clients that I have worked with over the years regularly come back to me with the same question as phrased above. They don’t need a facilitator to host their offsite (some of them have grown to be quite good facilitators themselves), but they simply want some feedback on what they have in mind. My role for them is to be a sparring partner in the design of a session. I hand them exercises, improve the flow of their day(s) and make sure that they balance the energy of the session they have in mind. As one client said recently: “Every time we spar together I always get new ideas to improve my meeting. You always give it a twist that has a big impact on the outcome.” This client actually motivated me to write this post to let others know that this is something we do at Minkowski and that there are more ways you could engage with us in preparation for your year’s end. So, if you need someone to help you improve the design of your session let me know.

5 tips and tricks to improve your session
If you don’t want to call me, here are a some tips to help you out. Of course the goal, the setting, group size and deliverables of every session are different, so it is difficult to make suggestions that always work. However, there are a few things that you might take into account when designing your next offsite. 5 tips to get you going:

always take time for a check-in and check-out: good check-ins and -outs are related to the goal of your day, set the stage for later on, but also allow the participants to step away from their day-to-day activities and todo-lists. Creating the time for this will highly improve the engagement of participants.
base your design on at least one design question that captures the essence of output you want. A design question always starts with the words: how might we…?
signpost regularly and think of this in advance. Participants are part of a shared narrative (or process) that has to be easy to understand. After each beat in the program, they have to be reminded where they came from, where they are now, what’s next and why you are taking these steps as a group (yes, this also means that you reflect on what you’ve done). You’re continuously creating and telling a story together, and as the facilitator you are the storyteller.
mix between moments of divergence and convergence to keep the energy high. Or in other words: make sure that you have moments that expand the thinking and moments when you make choices, cluster, rate or make decisions.
try as much as possible to sit in a circle. Make sure that people can see and hear each other always. People that are seated in rows can not see each other face to face and half of them can not be heard by the other half.