9 tips for organising an awesome B2B workshop or away day

Fun venues, hands-on activities and lots of opportunity for collaboration are three hallmarks of a successful team away day. But what else is required? Michael King does some digging to find out

Organising a B2B workshop or team away day can be a daunting task, but having the foresight to know exactly what you want to get out of it will help you prepare in advance. Here are some helpful tips and tricks to get started.

1. Clarify your main objectives

Simon Prince, marketing director, Powwownow: Workshops aren’t necessarily about quantitative results. Objectives could include a better understanding of how attendees' work contributes towards the business’ bottom line, generating new campaign ideas for the coming months, or finding out how the team can communicate and work better together.

2. Choose the type of workshop that best fits your objectives

Nick Eagleton, creative director, The Partners: There are usually two types of workshop: the first is used for generating ideas around problems that may arise within your company, and is typically used to develop creative thinking. The aim here is to provide team members with techniques they can remember and use in their daily work.

The second is based around coming up with creative ideas to existing problems. This approach requires team members to be more disciplined in how they focus. And there’s much more emphasis on planning, commitment and following up on ideas the next day. This method tends to work best in organisations where team members lack the skills required to solve internal problems on their own.

3. Ensure teams and senior management clearly communicate their expectations of the workshop

Nick: Teams expect senior management to clearly communicate the objectives to them, as well as the benefits, and explain how this is going to support their learning and development. And senior management expect their teams to clearly tell them what their current learning needs are and to identify what they want to get out of the workshop.

Emma-Louise Gaze, head of HR, Spring Studios: Communicate the benefit to the team as a positive investment by the employer for the employee. And ensure a full day away from the office is practical, given current workloads, to alleviate the risk of employee’s staying late after the workshop to catch up. If it isn’t practical, the workshop will damage any feeling of positivity to come from the overall session.

4. Clearly define how the workshop will be structured

Nick: In my experience, people like to know exactly what the purpose of the session is, what they’re expected to get out of it, and how the day is going to be structured (i.e. what’s going to happen and when). Avoid being theoretical because if people feel like they’re being lectured to, they’ll switch off. Keep information practical and bite-sized to ensure tasks don’t last any longer than 30 minutes. The optimal amount of time for each task is 15 minutes and if you stick to this time frame, it’ll help sessions run smoothly.

5. Choose a venue away from the humdrum of nine-to-five

Simon: It’s more beneficial to hold workshops off-site and away from the office. Teams tend to gain a lot more from the day when they have the opportunity to mentally and physically step away from the workplace. Last year, we ran our away day at the Metal Box Factory near London Bridge, where we booked a meeting room in its co-working space. This enabled the team to bond and improve how they communicate with each other.

6. Think about selecting multiple speakers

Simon: It can be counterproductive to get one individual to run the entire day. It’s far more important to have an agenda that incorporates a number of different speakers and a wide variety of sessions, such as brainstorming and feedback sessions to team building exercises. Also, in my experience, it’s not critical to have an external speaker. However, it’s a good idea to invite heavily involved individuals from other teams to parts of the day. Get them to share their insights and provide a variety of different perspectives on relevant topics.

7. Engage the team with hands-on activities

Nick: The best way to keep people engaged is to split them up into small groups of three to four and to encourage a playful mindset when coming up with creative ideas. It’s important to ensure everyone is involved and to keep speaking on the part of the workshop leader to a minimum. Something I encourage teams to do is to bring along something that inspires them, such as running shoes or puzzles. Workshops and team away days should instil a sense of fun and these items help to do that.

Simon: I’d recommend doing something that isn’t strictly work-related, or incorporating team building and break-out sessions into your away day. This gives team members the opportunity to get to know one another in a less formal setting. Team lunches and drinks are always a good perk too.

Emma: Also, link the topic you’re discussing with each team member’s role within the organisation. Explaining how this workshop can better inform, educate, benefit or help them improve within their roles is a form of direct engagement. And have a manager on hand who can chat with staff and respond to questions as they arise; this will reduce the risk of people forgetting or not bothering to follow up on any queries they may have during the session.

8. Keep group sizes to a maximum of eight people

Stéphane Munier, CEO, TBMS: Depending on you and your company’s needs, you can have up to 24 participants, but the optimum fit is around six to eight attendees. If a group is too large, it becomes harder to brainstorm new ideas unless you have breakout sessions where smaller sub-groups can engage.

9. Distribute feedback cards post-event to follow up on ideas

Emma: After the workshop has finished, distribute a card asking staff to feed back – in brief – on what they thought went well and what could be improved upon. And follow this up with another session the following week or month to recap on the changes and actions taken by the team as a result of the ideas generated on the day. 

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