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How to nail ‘off-agenda’ activities

Amy Lavelle, business development manager at Lakeside Hotel and Spa, shares her top tips on making the most of meetings and events by including an off-agenda activity

When planning a conference or event, especially one off-site, it is important to consider ways to keep the work force focused and productivity high. Incorporating off-agenda activities into meeting planning will give attendees a chance to step away from the work, re-focus, have fun and ultimately build team morale.

Here are some useful tips:

1. Understand the overall purpose of the meeting
Before you start planning anything, take a step back and identify what you want to get out of the time spent in the meeting. This insight will help you when planning the ‘down time’. For example, if the purpose of the meeting is to come up with a new creative advertising strategy, why not consider an exhilarating, adventurous excursion at the start of the day? Whereas a financial planning session could be stressful for its attendees, so a more relaxing activity such as a spa treatment at the end of the day could be more suitable.

2. Know your audience
Ultimately off-agenda activities should be enjoyable for the whole team and a chance for them to bond and build stronger working relationships, therefore it is essential that the activity chosen doesn’t single people out or leave employees with negative feelings. For example, a cocktail making masterclass may be some people’s idea for fun, but if there are members of the team that don’t drink then this wouldn’t be suitable.

3. Off-agenda doesn’t mean an add-on
Make sure that the off-agenda activity is considered and organised at the same time as the main meeting or conference, as this will mean it is seen as a seamless extension of the day, rather than just an add-on. The activity should complement the day; this includes the timings, the location and the activity itself, in order for it to have maximum impact.

4. Recognise the benefits
One of our longstanding clients recently introduced an off-agenda activity into its annual conference and reported a huge difference in team morale and enthusiasm, which lead to increased productivity overall. A number of studies report on the benefits of team-building and incorporating downtime into employees’ days, and the importance of including this into work schedules for improved physical and mental well-being. Although these activities may incur extra costs and additional time to plan the impact it will have on the meeting itself, and the team who are attending, will be invaluable.

5. Sound it out
If this is the first time you’ve considered off-agenda activities for your meetings and conferences don’t be afraid to ask your host for more information about what they offer. Here at Lakeside Hotel and Spa we have everything from duck herding to raft races just outside the conference centre on Lake Windermere, both of which are guaranteed to have the team working together, while having a lot of fun. Once you know your options, why not ask a small focus group of employees what they would like to do? Getting their insight will allow you to pick the right activity for the team and the occasion.