October 19, 2017

5 Tips to Consider as You Plan Your Team’s Next Offsite Planning Retreat

As an account manager, I revel in the opportunity to meet with our clients and their respective marketing teams each quarter to plan ahead. There’s something energizing and fulfilling about taking time out of business-as-usual to refocus and think forward.

Here are 5 tips for healthcare marketing leaders to follow as you plan your department’s planning retreats:

1. GO OFF-SITE

At Franklin Street, we facilitate many quarterly and annual planning days both on and off-site. In our experience, the most successful meetings are those that put a physical distance between a marketing team and their office. A change of scenery allows team members to reenergize and even feel comfortable sharing ideas and thoughts outside of the office.

The space itself can inspire and impact the team’s mood, energy and ideas. And being away from the office helps even the most focused person avoid the temptation of answering email or running to another meeting.

2. IDENTIFY SHORT AND LONG-TERM OBJECTIVES AHEAD OF TIME

Ask participants to spend time before the meeting identifying the three most important things your organization wants to accomplish in the next 12 months and the next 3 years. If your organization has a Strategic Plan, bring a copy to ensure alignment with short and long-term priorities.

Often, we generate many, many ideas in a planning retreat. Encourage your team to plan to narrow the goals coming out of the meeting. This sets the expectation that the retreat will be focused. Many times, we fail to achieve our goals because we try to do too much at once.

3. INSTITUTE A “PARKING LOT”

What is a Parking Lot? A Parking Lot keeps meetings on track by allowing participants to identify problems or solutions that are relevant but outside the scope of the day’s meeting. There are several successful ways to implement a parking lot into any meeting, but an effective way to encourage participation is to pass out sticky notes and ask team members to jot down any item they bring up that falls under the parking lot. At the end of your planning meeting, remove sticky notes that have been addressed or assign action items and responsibility to specific team members.

Parking lots are an excellent way to capture all ideas and issues, because not everything will be solved during the retreat or moved to a priority list. With the parking lot, you can revisit the ideas and issues quarter to quarter to see what feels appropriate to move to the top of the list.

4. INVOLVE YOUR ENTIRE MARKETING TEAM

It’s important to block off specific time slots where executive leadership will join your planning meeting to discuss long-term, high-level strategic goals. Involving team members who have experience in day-to-day operations is a key piece of the puzzle. Ask members of your marketing team what aspects of their job they would like additional training or support on. Building in a training or thought leadership aspect of the day can reenergize team members who might get bogged down in the day-to-day marketing operations.

5. SET A REALISTIC AGENDA

Oftentimes when we collaborate on agendas with our clients for a quarterly or annual planning day, they come up with a laundry list of items to discuss that touches anything from operations to content. In Franklin Street’s 5 Idea Presentation on Stop/Start Doing, we recommend going through the value proposition canvas to ensure that all marketing team members are spending the majority of their time on strategic tasks. The same logic holds true for a quarterly or annual planning day. Omit any items that are not strategic in nature or add them to the Parking Lot.

Follow these quick tips for successful – and hopefully more enjoyable – planning retreats with your team. To learn more about our Start/Stop Doing exercise, click here.