Almost every organisation has a staff away day, which by my reckoning makes it the fourth post popular event in the world; after weddings, birthday parties and funerals. It’s understandable why the other three aren’t organised by the ‘event professional’, but it’s not so clear why the staff away day isn’t: the sheer number of these events doesn’t explain the paucity of the event professionals involvement.
And here we meet the problem and the opportunity. There is no other example when the events industry can better demonstrate its skills and show why we are so important to business. And as such it’s going to be the focus of my next two blogs.
So why are we not more involved and engaged with these types of events? Don’t companies see the direct expense; the opportunity cost and the positive impact that a great event can have on the success or otherwise of their organisation? If they don’t it’s our job to show them or at least offer them some help.
We all have a story to tell about an away day
Let’s face it, you will find more horror stories than tales of joy, when we all recite an anecdote from a staff away day. From tales of the most nervous girl in the office being dressed up as a princess in role play and told to hold court in some kind of “it will be good for her” staff-diagnosed- physiological nonsense, to the Event Agency staff away day being organised by the Chairman’s PA: she who has as much event planning skills as elephants have feathers. And perhaps my favourite, the organisation who added wine tasting to the programme (a great idea) and then asked staff to say how each wine reflected the organisation (bad idea; it’s OK to just have wine tasting you know!)
Staff away days are littered with mistakes that any worth her salt orgnaiser would spot. But in order to help some organisations avoid them here’s where they tend to go wrong:
1. Not view them as a crucial element of their interaction with their staff;
2. Not view them as an ideal opportunity for some genuine staff development;
3. Have a set of very mixed objectives (learn a lot, meet new people and get very, very drunk);
4. See them as a short term event and have no pre or post engagement with the content;
5. Not use them to showcase the organisation to its’ staff;
6. Try to make un fun things fun; (it’s OK to be serious you know);
7. Never set or fully understand their objectives;
8. Expect them to deliver the undeliverable;
9. Have someone who isn’t an event organiser in charge (perhaps HR / Secretary / person who draws the shortest straw);
10. Book the venue (a classic mistake) and then decide what the day should be like
And in general most organisations don’t treat these events like the real business that they are. And like any true event they need an event organiser involved.
Please pass on the list of mistakes in the hope that organisations will realise that the expert has to be involved.
And please comment on your staff away day nightmares!