Although it takes a lot of time, money, planning and energy to make them happen, multi-day meetings are capable of adding a lot of value to your company. Because so many resources are used to execute a multi-day meeting, it is important that the company get as much as possible out of it. Usually, there are specific agenda items – rolling out a new strategic plan, getting everyone on the same page, reviewing a new compensation plan, training on the latest technology or all of the above. While these agenda items are certainly the main focus, it is also a great opportunity to build relationships between the various regions or departments that will be attending, and ultimately create bonds that will allow them to work better together in the future. Let’s walk through a few ideas to help foster the idea of building relationships and creating a multi-day meeting that maximizes the short and long term value for your company.
Kicking off the Event
When kicking off the multi-day meeting, you want to make sure to do it with energy. In addition, you want to get everyone’s focus directed to the goals of the meeting as quickly as possible. Kicking off the day with a 1.5 to 2.5 hour team oriented event is a great way to accomplish this goal. You quickly get everyone’s blood flowing, bring up the energy of the group and start to build relationships amongst attendees. You also more quickly separate the employees from that last client call or long day of travel that might distract them from the desired focus on the event. Another benefit of holding the kick-off event early in the meeting schedule is the ability to create teams to maximize the co-mingling of groups and get attendees out of their comfort zones. Organizers are able to mix teams from the East and West Coast offices, between sales and marketing or between whatever groups you strategically want to develop deeper relationships. With groups interacting across regions or business units over the next several days, these new relationships will introduce their existing contacts within the company to their new friends helping build and create even more relationships. In addition to enhancing relationships, the kick-off team building event is customized to match your goals for starting the event – increase teamwork and communication, enhance strategic planning, further define the key takeaways from the meeting or a combination of all these goals. The key is to do it early in the meeting schedule and make sure it has high energy and breaks down barriers amongst the various teams and departments attending.
End of the First Day
After the first day is over, a big risk is having everyone end up back in their hotel rooms. One way to avoid this common meeting error is holding a reception to end the night. A reception alone is enjoyable, but you need to add just a little bit to it to entice people to attend and also add more value. A great option is to add some fun, non-team focused entertainment to the evening such as casino games, pool tables, foosball tables, Wii games on several large screens or even a green screen for some fun photos. The goal is to keep people together to continue building new relationships. It is also a great opportunity for people who met earlier in the day to spend more time together. Structured activities are not the best during this time because people might want to come and go as they wish. By adding some fun games and entertainment where people are able to simply walk up whenever they want, a fun and relaxing atmosphere is created to continue growing team bonds. This point in the meeting is also a great time to setup an area at the event to add a charitable giving component. If desired, attendees have the option to spend some time together working on a charitable activity during the reception. Whether it is giving back to a local charity, school, food pantry or community group, adding a charitable activity to the reception builds a lasting sense of team unity.
The second day is typically the core of the meeting. Often times, there is an agenda to follow so there isn’t much time for anything else. Sitting through meetings all day can get hard; minds start to wonder, people get tired and stress levels increase. A great way to combat all of these negative effects is by doing a short event that takes place over lunch. A trivia or game show competition is easily facilitated during lunch right at the tables. By doing a quick energizer activity during lunch, you get the blood flowing again and also get them refocused. Best of all, you don’t use up any of the agenda time for the day.
A Little Something Extra
One thing that is often brought up by clients that fly their employees in for a multi-day meeting is that their employees never get to see the sights of Chicago. Feedback from attendees often includes comments such as “We were in Chicago for 2 days and all I saw was the inside of the hotel”. For many of the employees, this meeting could either be their first time to Chicago, or maybe their visits are always business oriented, never allowing them to see anything other than offices. If at all possible, a great option is to schedule a team event that not only gets them out and about, but also gives them a chance to see the great sights of Chicago. On the last day of meetings, all you need to do is set aside a small amount of time during the day or possibly as an evening event the night before. Your options include either a 2-hour activity that takes them all over a specific area such as the Greater North Michigan Avenue area or, if you have a little more time, a 3-4 hour option that allows them to travel all over the city to exciting locations like Wrigley Field, Chinatown and more. These events not only help foster relationships and strengthen team bonds, but they also allow attendees to see the sights of Chicago and not just the interior walls of the hotel ballroom or conference center. Employees truly appreciate and remember their experience in Chicago with more enthusiasm and gratitude.
Planning a multi-day meeting has its own set of challenges for the organizer. Adding some of these high energy team orientated activities to reinforce the key meeting messages and also keep the energy high throughout the week, increases the participation and effectiveness of your meetings. The activities also help build lasting relationships and strengthen bonds amongst team members. In the end, it allows you the chance to maximize the short and long term value for the company while adding some fun and excitement to your meeting agenda.