Ross Treleaven talks us through the key highlights of White Marble's most recent annual offsite

It was just last week that we eagerly awaited the start of the White Marble Marketing (WMM) offsite. As a newish starter I’d heard many a story of the previous offsites – that magic blend between reflection, planning, fun and collaboration. It was a date in the calendar to look forward to.

So, what can you do to keep your team engaged and enthusiastic in events or offsites when not together in person?

What we have learnt

WMM usually retreats to a venue in the rolling hills of Surrey to help remove us from the work environment, but due to this virus, that was no longer possible. Alas, I was participating from the comfort of my home. However, WMM being as they are chose to adapt and put the same energy into this offsite to make it a success.

A day before the event, a care package provided by the leadership team landed on my doorstep. I ripped it open in excitement of the goodies inside – lets cover off the key items here: a bottle of New Zealand red, half bottle of decent champers (a full bottle would be uncouth) some fancy cheese, crackers, biscuits and chocolate to complement. We hadn’t even started and were off to a flyer.

Some preparation work for the offsite was required, we had to record ourselves performing an idiom – mine was ‘breaking the ice’. In my view, I did a great job, though that didn’t stop the rest of the team focusing on (and taking the mickey out of) the clothes I was wearing, the garden – basically everything other than focusing on the idiom. All in good fun, I should add.

The offsite was held over two afternoons, and one evening. The jam-packed agenda included a review of what we have achieved over the past year, updates on how the business is looking to develop our offering across consulting, learning and marketing measuring – across the UK and the US – and workshop sessions – with Zoom’s breakout room function – on how we can deliver even better service to our clients over the coming year.

One of the sessions I found particularly valuable was learning about how the business performed financially, and what we aim to achieve in the coming year. This refreshingly transparent approach really serves to empower employees with information, and gives us confidence in the way the firm is run.

The evening brought the (really) fun part: time for the idiom game. The premise was simple: record yourself acting out an idiom, and guess what everyone’s idiom was. Hilarity ensued. Even remotely, these games proved that our team can have fun remotely, and it was really good to see each other in a more relaxed setting, without having to set up a formal meeting to talk about work!

Top tips

So, if you are having a meeting/event/offsite in a digital environment, what can we learn from this experience?

  1. Give people a genuine voice, they will naturally take it seriously
  2. Make it fun, include some games, socialising and team building
  3. Build in down time – organise 1-2-1 phone catch-ups, for example, to get people away from their desk and having relaxed conversations
  4. If you have bigger teams, split into smaller, more manageable groups for the workshop parts of the event
  5. Make it interactive – it can be tiring sitting whilst being spoken at
  6. Keep the atmosphere light – the days can feel long if it’s all too serious
  7. Show employees they matter to you (care package example)
  8. Show employees the event matters to the firm (see point 7)
  9. Take action points away, create tangible goals

For me it’s a real privilege to have a voice in the direction of the firm’s future – I thoroughly enjoyed the collaborative environment that was created. We finished the second day with a summary of some of the best bits of the offsite. My favorite was this: “almost everything we spoke about in last year’s offsite has been implemented”. Knowing there are tangible action points and goals derived from these conversations and that the firm is actively trying to implement them to improve does fill you with optimism for the future.

A big thank you to everyone who was involved in the organisation of the event and all of my colleagues for making it what it was. In these COVID times this was a really welcome event and change from the routine.