A 16 P Checklist for Shaping a Purposeful Away-Day

Building on our earlier blog “Team Away-Days. Getting the most from your investment in time, money, and goodwill!” we want to share a more detailed planning tool with you.

We have run lots of offsite events. These have included walking workshops to explore skills such as presence and mindset, and topical issues such as the climate emergency. We have also run strategy retreats blending indoor and outdoor work, led multi-day leadership development treks, and facilitated complex simulations with mountain rescue teams for corporate executive teams.

We use this 16 P checklist to co-design events such as these with clients and ensure we collectively deliver on their valuable investment of time and funds.

Hope you find this useful.

#1 Purpose Get clear about the outcomes you need from the event. Write them down, test them with colleagues, and adjust as necessary. Remember outcomes are different from products i.e. they can be intangible and take time to manifest.
#2 Positioning How does the event link to other activities? Are there tangible inputs? Are there constraints, such as timing? How will the outputs feed into any wider programme?
#3 Products What tangible deliverables do you need from the day?
#4 People Who needs to be part of the day? How will numbers affect dynamics, and the depth and breadth of key discussions? How will you communicate your decision? Are there any inclusivity factors that need to be taken into account? For example, timings and childcare, activities and injuries etc.
#5 Partners Will you use external facilitators? If so, appoint them as early as possible, meet face-to-face, and go through as much of this check list as possible.  Work iteratively on the design together. Make sure they are experienced and qualified to work in specific environments e.g. the outdoors, where the hazards are different from the normal office workplace.
#6 Process Be guided by your facilitation team. Running a tightly timed meeting needs a different process from running a creative and experiential inquiry into a strategic theme.
#7 Place Place has a massive impact on the way people think and act.  Seek advice from your facilitation team. They can advise on the most productive environments for your needs. This may be indoors and/or outdoors and in conventional an/or unconventional venues. Be open to moving beyond the sorts of venues you have traditionally used.
#8 Programme Only now can work begin to create the programme to deliver on your event. Leave this initially to your facilitation team. Let them consider what will work given the brief you have shared with them. Again, depending on your purpose this may vary from a tightly timed programme to a more flexible flow with the minimum of anchor timings.
#9 Pre-Work Pre-event one-to-ones between participants and the lead facilitator will unearth key issues and themes; support the design process; generate buy-in, energy and anticipation; trigger early thinking and discussions; and generally de-risk the success of the day. Consider what pre-event work and reading will be useful.
#10 Props What materials are required to support the event? This will emerge during the co-design process with your facilitation team. How are these to be resourced? Where do costs lie? For a workshop these costs will be moderate. For a complex simulation, they could be more. Your facilitation team will also advise on any special clothing or equipment needed, particularly for any event involving the outdoors.
#11 Problems This is all about identifying hazards and putting appropriate controls in place. Your facilitation team should provide you with an appropriate risk management plan. Study this and be sure your event is as safe as is reasonably possible. Be clear about where liability lies.
#12 Provisions Agree with your facilitation team who will liaise with the venue regarding refreshments, food, rooms, audio-visual support etc.
#13 Protocols You are going to be investing valuable time and money in this event. What are the team’s rules around participants being distracted by emails and texts; about being late; about absenting themselves to take calls etc.? Agree this before the event.
#14 Promises An effective event will converge on personal commitments to a set of actions. How do you want these captured? Flip charts? A closing formal minuted team meeting? Pieces to video? Etc. Agree also the governance of how these will be reported on.
#15 Put to Use The only way you and your team are going to get a return on your investment and achieve your desired outcomes is to follow through on your decisions. If you have followed this check list you will already be clear about purpose, positioning, and products; and you will have made promises around next steps. Putting your collective efforts to use should therefore be very doable. Many teams FAIL to exploit their invested time together effectively! If you are in any doubt, consider extending your facilitation team’s remit to monitor and support the implementation, and to ensure everyone is held effectively to account.
#16 Price Price is last because the assumption is you are seeking value rather than focussing on cost. The previous 15 Ps will have built an idea of what goes into designing, delivering, and putting an event to best use. Select your facilitation team carefully and be prepared to invest in quality.