We have all been there: the dreaded staff away day. The manager thinks it will be an excellent opportunity to discuss issues and bond as a team, but the reality is that it is a day of long lectures and total disengagement.
It doesn’t have to be like that. With the right planning and some smart facilitation, the day can be fun, inspiring and invigorating. Having facilitated many, many away days for clients, I thought I would share some top tips
- Have a clear purpose
Let’s start at the beginning. When asked to facilitate a session, the thing I do is ask what do they want to get out of the day. Don’t try and pack too much into your away days, pick an area and focus on it. It is better to come away having cracked one issue than to have touched on a number.
- Do your homework
This is linked to tip number 1, but research your attendees and the company. Find out how people behave, what issues there have been and how previous away days have gone. For one client, I went to an away day to observe. It was a hair-raising experience but it helped me shape the next away day and prepared me for all the personalities and battles that were simmering under the surface.
- Set out ground-rules
At the start of the day, make sure you have clear rules on how to behave. You can either dictate this and ask for acceptance, or you can ask them to tell you what they consider appropriate behaviour. The latter has the advantage of coming from their own mouths!
- Manage the moaners
In my experience, there are always some suppressed rage over issues within a group and you have to acknowledge that without it engulfing the day. Firstly, make sure people know they will have a chance to express their opinions, secondly, make sure that section is time-limited. Typically, I precede those sessions with a positive “What have we achieved” activities. Allowing people to wallow in the negative will kill the day.
- Make it interactive
No-one wants to sit down for the whole day listening to speeches. Ask questions, get responses, get them thinking and talking, get them moving around the room, put in a few break out sessions, swap the people into different groups throughout the day.
- Come prepared
Arrive early, be prepared, check EVERYTHING, have spares, rehearse your bits, check EVERYTHING. Your job is to make sure the day runs as smoothly as possible.
- Make sure everyone has a voice
There will be people who are only too willing to tell you their thoughts, but there are those who feel uncomfortable speaking out, so design activities where people can express themselves. One of the reasons why I ask people to write things on Post-It Notes and stick them on Flipchart paper is that it gives the quieter ones a chance to have their say.
- Design the day to match the audience
I once facilitated a day for a charity where some of the attendees were very creative and were dyslexic. I got them cutting pictures from magazines to help them express what they wanted to say. It allowed their creative and visual strengths to come to the fore.
- Keep People on Task
When setting up group discussions or break out sessions, walk around and listen to check people aren’t veering off-topic too much. If discussions get stuck, you can offer some insights or ask them to move on. If discussions become too heated, you can ask them to remember the ground-rules.
- Be Yourself
Be positive, be energetic, your buzz will lift the room and they will feed off your energy. Oh, and remember to have some fun!
- An Away Day should the start of something, not the thing itself
In the interests of “over-delivering”, I have an eleventh tip. Please, please, please make sure you capture actions. Make sure people come away from the day with real ownership of tasks and that there is a mechanism for reporting back on task progress. The day should not be an event in isolation but should be carried on into the following days, weeks and months. Otherwise, it becomes just a day away from the office, with little meaning to anyone and little relevance.
Don’t let your away days be dull and boring. Do the planning, do the preparation and make sure everyone has the chance to be involved.
I offer coaching and consultancy support for people and organisations going through change. Call me on 07595 702878 or Contact Me to find out how I can help you make change work.