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A Guide to Creating Awesome Company Offsites and Meetings

Running a company meeting, whether in-house, remote or offsite, is time consuming and expensive. Building a theme, agenda and content is often done last minute and misses the mark, making your event...forgettable. Don't do that!

MX Growth's Clayton Moulynox wrote, produced and directed (with the help of an awesome production crew!) this opening at the Auth0 2019 Company Offsite in Cabo, Mexico. It stars the two Auth0 founders.

Clayton was highly creative. He was a great speaker and always kept his audiences highly engaged and entertained.

SMB Lead, Microsoft

I owned the delivery of company meetings at a US$1B startup with 500 staff. I know what it takes to do it successfully, to make it memorable and to be impactful for employees - making the event a cultural icon for your company and something your investors will see as indispensable.

Hi, I'm Clayton

5 Steps to Creating an Awesome Company Meeting

Work through these 5 steps to build awesome company meetings, company offsites and team offsites (even "virtual" remote offsites!):

1. Form your theme 

Every team or company gathering is an opportunity to highlight, reinforce and develop your company culture. Company culture is underpinned by how effectively its leaders "act out" the company's values as observable behaviours. Considering every company meeting as a culture opportunity is particularly critical if you have a large remote workforce, where the opportunity to physically observe leaders is limited. Even being able to observe leaders via remote video and presentations is impactful - much more so than the typical text communications we're so accustomed to.

With that in mind, form a theme which aligns with your values and current priorities, but is also engaging, interesting and inspirational - from its concept to creative elements. Your theme is critical - it'll inform most of the next 4 steps, especially agenda and content.

Experts tip: Define an objective and agenda to help build out your theme. Check out this video for more info!

2. Design the agenda

What types of sessions will you run? Slide presentations? Talks? Workshops? Hackathons? Social events? Panel sessions? All these options must be considered with a few things in mind.

 

Firstly, are attendees in person, remote or a mix? Are they watching live or will much of the content be consumed on-demand (often a consideration for global companies with employees across time zones).  Choose session formats that will work effectively for your audience and how they'll consume it. Ever tried to do a hackathon remotely across different time zones and supporting an "on-demand" element? No, nobody ever has - it'd be a disaster!

 

Once session formats are in place, assign session owners and work with them to draft broad session content descriptions - again using the objective and intention framework discussed in the above video.

 

With these two things complete, take a step back and look at the agenda as a whole. The last test before moving forward is to make sure it aligns with your theme and overarching objective and intention.

3. Create content

Arguably the most time-consuming part - but it doesn't need to be. With a strong theme and broad session objectives and intentions in place, content magic starts to happen! Repetition and recurrence of key content (which is critical to reinforce your key theme) means a lot of sharing between content owners. 

 

And, we're all guilty of death-by-powerpoint at some stage in our careers, right? Well, ease off - have a mandate than no deck should be longer than X amount of slides, or no more than X amount of words per slide. Or even better - don't use slides. Use video, animation, or have your influential leaders speak and make a genuine connection, sans-slides.

4. Coach presenters

Yes, it's true - not every person can step into the limelight and wow an audience...but most can certainly be coached to improve their ability. Do you have great presenters in your company already? Then get them to run a workshop for others, and have them coach specific individuals who need it. Failing that, hire an outside company for a basic workshop or two on presenting effectively. Or at least ask your presenters to practice.

5. Messaging and promoting your company meeting

Many companies don't do this, and it's a missed opportunity. Building and executing an internal messaging campaign leading up to your company or team event can have a significant impact on its success. It builds a sense of inclusivity (particularly with a remote workforce), sets the tone for the event so employees get a sense of how they should show up for it, and allows lots of opportunity for familiarity to build which helps build stronger rapport during the meeting/event.​​

How we help

  • Forming a theme (concept through to creative) which aligns with your values and priorities, but is also engaging, interesting and inspirational.

  • Design of agenda, including advice on types of sessions, evaluating session content and ensuring agenda reflects theme.

  • Content (concept through to creation) including presentation slides, video, writing speeches (usually opening or closing addresses or keynotes by Founder/CEO/Senior Leaders).

  • Coaching presenters.

  • Building internal messaging / marketing campaign for your meeting/event.

  • General input in to how to make it a kick-ass event.

Why You Must Be Deliberate About Building Face-to-Face Time (Even if Virtual) With a Remote Workforce

This is an excerpt from the article "Your Startup Can Help Fix The Loneliness Epidemic".

It’s common, smart even, for aspiring entrepreneurs to model their young startups on companies like GitLab or Buffer — building a fully distributed team and avoiding tying up precious cash on office space and its associated costs.

 

Which makes perfect sense.

When Buffer surveyed 1900 people working remotely around the globe for their State of Remote Work 2018 report the number one struggle identified was loneliness (equal first with collaborating/communicating which is obviously closely related). In a similar 2017 surveyOwl Labs determined “staying in the loop” and “maintaining relationships” as remote employees’ biggest challenges. It’s not a big leap to link these back to feeling lonely.

This could be a predicament with costly outcomes. Certainly poor physical and mental health impacts productivity and performance which, in a startup, will be quickly reflected in the top line. Add additional spending on support and programs plus the cost of staff attrition and it quickly becomes a bottom line issue. Not to mention the potential social costs — health care, insurance, as examples.

To cultivate a strong, healthy and somewhat future proof culture that supports a distributed workforce, put a stake in the ground on building an amazing relationship culture, not a remote culture. Right from the start if you’re still there.

Instead of reinforcing remoteness and potentially amplifying issues faced by remote folks, tackle it head on: when working remotely people can feel lonely and isolated so correct that by purposefully driving relationships in everything you do.

Companies like GitLab and Buffer are successful with their fully-distributed workforce because they’ve already learned this lesson and actively practice it. From a post on Gitlab’s blog in October 2018 titled “The case for all-remote companies”:

“The biggest disadvantage to remote working is that isolation can set in if there isn’t a concerted effort to create a social connection between people.”

In his September blog post titled “The Joys and Benefits of Working as a Distributed Team,” Buffer CEO Joel Gascoigne points out:

“In order to have deliberate face-to-face time together to bond and have fun, we have regular teamwide Buffer retreats each year where we gather the full team, and we hold mini-retreats throughout the year for smaller teams.”

See the words “concerted” and “deliberate”? These companies are not banking on a “remote culture” by happenstance. They are being purposeful about building relationships to enable an effective remote workforce.