It is a fact of life that the business environment as we enter the second decade of the 21st century is more competitive than ever before. this means that organisations are under more pressure than ever before to perform. In turn, this has meant more meetings that are aimed at optimising business processes and agreeing on a strategy that will position the company for success.
Unfortunately, business meetings can be tedious – and boredom can reduce the effectiveness of the individual’s input, focus and creativity. the simple fact of the matter is that companies have to start thinking out of the box if they want employees to provide their best at a meeting- or if they want to client relations to deliver great value.
It has become increasingly clear that companies need to provide ‘experiences’ rather than simply gather people around a boardroom table. This is why human resource professionals are hunting for unusual places for business meetings (in fact 75% of meeting planners are now actively involved in providing these ‘experiences).
However, it is clear that careful thought is required in order to ensure that meetings help off-site provide value to the company – rather than merely serve as a distraction. An ‘experience’ is more than a great speaker or a slide presentation with all the bells and whistles – it involves all the senses – sight, smell, touch, sound and taste. Popular choices are outdoor venues, combinations of meetings and team building activities, culinary events, destinations focused meeting spaces and even a combination of attendance at sporting events and meeting opportunities.
Aside from engaging the senses – these sorts of meeting places and activities also provide an opportunity for socialisation, emotional buy into brands and strategy, as well as physical and mental stimulation.
For those companies that are looking for unusual places for business meetings here are some ideas that the world’s leading organisations are trying with great success.
Team building. team building, combined with breakaway sessions are nothing new – but it is the way in which these events are today being structured – and where they are held that provides the attendees with an opportunity for engagement, both with company key messaging and with other employees. As great example is to take the team to a culinary school. they can form a team to compete against each other to provide an exceptional meal which is then shared with all attendees. Research has shown that food is a powerful motivator of memory. Teamwork and discussion are emphasised in this format. Combine this with problem-solving skills and perhaps a discussion of a tactical challenge and the recipe is there for a successful meeting experience.
Removing people from the office environment and relocating to a more natural setting has also proven to engage those creative and analytical skills. Making the meeting experience an adventure can be tremendously rewarding and productive. For those who live near large bodies of water (or the ocean), a yacht party can provide the perfect experience to get the most out of any meeting. Serve up the hors d’oeuvres, pour out some virgin cocktails, hand out the notepads and let the brainstorming and status updates begin. Videotape the experience – and revisit it in a more traditional meeting setting after the event to clarify thoughts and set plans in motion.
For those companies that want to get the creative juices flowing around a specific topic the idea of leveraging intellectual capital in anew and exciting way is tremendously attractive. Whether it is sales targets, new products or strategy an in house ‘TEDx’ type of event can pay tremendous dividends. Short talks around particular topics and the idea of storytelling is one that can really bring a whole new spin to the idea of brainstorming. These stories, or a unique approach to a particular business challenge can get people thinking and communicating.
For even more fun – and a way to get employees (including senior management setting up a ‘quiz night’ can provide fun and allow employees to but into a strategic vision. The pub could be rented (many offer this service) and a set of questions submitted by staff or a ‘quizmaster’ interspersed general knowledge with strategic questions about best practice or a particular business problem and you have a recipe for getting employees to think about issues – and have topics to discuss after the quiz has closed for the evening. Add some light snacks to the mix and watch people unwind – and start to think. For best effect form teams with a mixture of senior management, sales, marketing and other business functions.
The key to finding unusual places for business meetings is to have a very clear idea of what is expected from the experience. Once the strategic intent is agreed then the format for engagement and productivity should become more clear. Planning and agreeing on a scope of requirements is absolutely key. The next step is finding a balance between fun, opportunities for communication and having the meeting provide and excellent return on investment. The days of that dry and tedious meeting held around a mahogany table are gone.
Employees have a media-rich and engaging sensory experience at their fingertips during their personal lives – they expect the same within a business setting. Some things like strategic intent and focus will not change – the journey to competitive advantage is now simply that much more challenging. Unusual places for business meetings and a unique experience can give companies that much needed a competitive edge – provided by employees who are motivated and buy into the need for a strategic and tactical advantage.