Oct. 30, 2023

Crafting memorable offsites


Are you ready for some game-changing tips on running transformational offsite events? 🎯💼

I've got an incredible speaker today, who's a pro at designing offsite sessions that leave a lasting impact.

Pedram Parasmand has over 11 years’ experience working with executive teams to new entrants in the corporate, public, third and education sectors - nationally and internationally.
 
His clients include Accenture, Barclays Bank, Ministry of Justice, Red Bull, The European Union Commission, and The British Council. Previously, Pedram worked in Leadership Development at the education charity Teach First and started his career as a high school Science teacher.

Our conversation focuses on everything you need to know about crafting a memorable offsite. We start with how to get clear on the outcomes of the offsite, the power of using verbs in the objectives, how to use storytelling to create a transformational experience. He shares his tips on how to gather feedback, and close effectively. And Ped shares his own unique framework that you can use today to help craft a memorable offsite.

Connect with Ped on Linkedin and find more about his work on his website

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Big shout out to my podcast magician, Marc at iRonickMedia for making this real.

Thanks for listening!

Transcript
Pedram Parasmand:

Ideally, for a smooth running of an off site, nothing new should be presented to people presenting things beforehand. So people have a chance to collect their thoughts, and then giving them an opportunity to process those thoughts together in the off site. It gives you as a offsite facilitator, more control over what's happening and be able to be of service for the entire group. Otherwise, it could just be an absolute just a massive spanner in the works, because people would be like, hang on a minute that I don't agree with anything that was just shared. And this is all just performative now. So yeah, trying not to spring a week ago. What do you think on people?

Catherine Stagg-Macey:

And welcome to answer at work. I'm your host, Katherine Stagg Macy and executive and team coach interested in the conversations we don't have at work. And today's topic is about crafting memorable off sites. I've gotta admit, it's been a long time since I was a participant at an off site. One of the last ones I attended was in, I think it was in New York City. And this was before I started out as a coach, I was still working in corporate as a consultant, we were a global consulting company in New York and Boston, we're usually the easiest places to meet up as a global team and I love visiting New York City, I'd arrive a day early and take the day off wandering around the noisy, chaotic streets, I'm dropping to the Mets or the Guggenheim, you did build mandatory dose of culture, and feel completely overwhelmed. Standing in the front of the queue, just trying to order a cup of coffee from the deli with other choices, and everyone else seeming to know what they were doing around me. The pilot offset I do remember staring out the window, I think we want to make the 33rd floor or something like that. These magnificent views done in the south part of Manhattan and thinking how cool it was, and that I was super cool. Can't say I remember much of the off side. And I guess it was more than 10 years, I guess I call myself a pass of being able to remember the impact of this off sides. But listening to my clients today, I know it's a reality for many of you that offsites are not memorable. And the event doesn't leave any sort of fingerprints on the business. Like I think few of us would call it off site an outright disaster. I think that's rare. But it's just even more rare. The team can look back there six to 12 months later and say that meeting really changed the way we run this business. And the sad thing is that offsets really are a powerful tool for team building for strategy alignment for fostering creativity. It's great to take people away, you know, out of the normal routine and disrupt those patterns and have the deeper, longer conversations that need to happen that we don't seem to find time when we're in an office. But you know, planning and executing them to be successful is a challenge. And I know that from my own experience. So I called him the expert, someone who's a pro designing off site session that leave a lasting impact. And so my guest is Pedro embarrasment, who has over 11 years of experience working with exec teams to new entrants in the corporate and public and education sectors, both nationally in the UK and also internationally his clients. It's a very impressive client list includes Accenture, Barclays Bank Ministry of Justice, European Union Commission, the British Council, and previously he worked in leadership development at the educated territory teach first and he actually started his career as a high school science teacher. And our conversation today is about crafting memorable offsides. And we focus on everything you need to know to be able to do this, we start out about how to get clear on the outcomes of the off side the power of using verbs in the objectives that you set, something that I'm still struggling with, after all these years, and how to use storytelling to create a really transformational experience. He's very generous and sharing his tips on how to gather feedback or close effectively and shares his own unique framework that you can use today to help craft that offer that your colleagues will thank you for. And I just want to say I'm really grateful that you had to have you here as a listener and I know you're going to find this conversation enlightening. But before we go in Listen, I have a request for you my wonderful listener, I as you probably worked out now I really believe in the power of open dialogue and and fostering a community that embraces the true challenging conversations that we often avoid. And so subscribe subscribing to this podcast, you will never miss an episode, where I take all these kind of topics head on. Subscribing is simple it there'll be a subscribe button on your favorite podcast platform, whether it's Apple podcasts or Spotify or something else that you prefer and by subscribing you're gonna be the first to know when there's new episode released and ensure that you never miss a chance to engage in these conversations. So that's it again really appreciate you being here. So let's go listening to my conversation with paid on how to craft a memorable offsite Well here we are paid Welcome to answer at work. I am excited to have this conversation about offsites.

Pedram Parasmand:

Thank you so much for inviting me. I'm excited for the conversation too. And I

Catherine Stagg-Macey:

am doing a little pivot yet on until it work. And I'm going to start asking guests a little chicken question your as a trainer as a coach. So you know, these chicken questions and fun to experiment with my guests. So I thought today's one is the following if you had to go live in another country for the rest of your life, where would you pick? And why?

Pedram Parasmand:

The question, I don't know whether I can pick a specific country, but I did watch a documentary recently around the Blue Zones, Blue Zones, places in the world where there's a big proportion of people that have long lived, I think, like over 100. So somewhere in the blue zone, I think they're a little bit warmer. It's a bit rainy outside in London at the moment. Yeah, so I think somewhere warmer, something which has access to the outdoors. I like cycling. So hills, water would be good mountains. I mean, it's not too much as far as it. So I don't know exactly where that is.

Catherine Stagg-Macey:

Well, anywhere that's not London to say, Hello, you say cycling and hills in the same sentence, most of us who cycle like I would fit flat. If I had to answer and it's only fair answer the question myself as well, my guests in the spotlight entirely on their own. However, this recording to go to Bali, recently, four months? Wow. It's a slower lifestyle. I've got a client of mine, he's going to move out there. And I always have signals of warmth, more laid back. There's a remote working setup company that runs and you can do remote working from there. So I think it would be rest of my life. I don't know I that's a big commitment. I'm not too worried about that. But the rest of the year is next year. So I'm coming. I'm coming for you. So there we go. Okay, well, thanks for playing along with that. And today we're gonna do what offsites it was such a timely conversation, I had a conversation with a client of mine this week, who's preparing for an offset of three weeks, and I find myself in my head going, can we just wait until I've done the recording of the pair? And then you can really find out all the mistakes? So I think we're going to start with mistakes that I see. And then that you see as well, where do people go wrong with the off sites, we don't want to business off site, we're talking about the one day off site at a nice hotel, we take the whole leadership team, we're doing something that's the kind of offset we're talking about. Maybe it's a two day something like that. Some of the mistakes that I see, I think it's winging it, like there's no outcomes, and which is wasn't my client this week. We're just gonna go I think it's a good idea. Yeah, that's people together. Because I mean, headings, yeah, can happen from that. Yeah. What do you see in this area?

Pedram Parasmand:

I think underlying the thought that goes through someone's head around bringing offside is knowing that there's actually benefits of bringing people together, especially since the pandemic when people were separated for chunks of time. There's, there's definitely a recognition that bringing people together, some magic can happen. But as you said, there's it's not often thought fully through in terms of what is not just the purpose of the off site, but what are the specific outcomes of the off site. And even when I ask a question like that, outcomes can be very vague. And so I'd have to ask a lot of questions around what does that mean? Or what does that look like? And what are you going to do about that, and all that stuff. So definitely around vague outcomes. And I think what's linked to that is, the person or persons who are wanting an off site, often have done menacing about it, but they have an agenda that say, there's something going on some business needs, that needs to be addressed. And so they go, we're going to bring people together. But of course, when you're bringing people together, then you're taking them out of their business as usual, they've got things that are going to be like emails are going to be piling up from wherever, like whether it's internal stakeholders, external stakeholders, customers, clients, etc. And so it's a big ask to ask people to take time out. So I think the first mistake is not recognizing what the value proposition is, for the people coming to the off site, know what's in it for them, that can be varied, and that we can talk about how you can understand that. The second big mistake I see is wanting to jump to designing the like the activities are going on, what shall we do, even before you've established what the value proposition is and what the outcomes are, and then just having a splattering of random activities, and dare I say cheesy icebreakers and energizers. Where people are going, What the hell are we doing? Why are we doing this particular because even an energizer can have a very specific context and purpose behind it. So basically having a transactional approach to the activities rather than something that's a bit more transformational, one that takes people on a journey meeting them where they're at taking them to those outcomes. They feel like they've actually just had an experience that's worth remembering. I suppose the final thing you mentioned that the whole thing about winging it, just showing up and expecting magic to happen, because people come together, which does happen. But it's I think there's a lot more to be said about being intentional about that specifically about what happens afterwards. Because there is always a kind of a broader goal that an intervention like an off site supports. And so it's about making sure that there's the those dots are joined, like, Okay, this specific thing is going to be produced or created or aligned around or whatever. And then that means that we're going to have to do something about it. Almost immediately afterwards, once the so what of that that drives something forward? So yeah, that's, those are three main buckets of mistakes that I see.

Catherine Stagg-Macey:

And I think they match up to the complaints that I hear about offsides? Well, I hear a lot of says united team coaching, which is a form of intervention, but I can see the cynicism and people going, yeah, we've talked about this before nothing ever happens. That's your point about like, connecting the doctor what comes afterwards. And then the cynicism around the to what transactional versus transformational. It feels like people have a magic box of things to do. And like it's got little pieces of notepads in it and they put the hand and they just pull something random out and they put it on the agenda like that feels like people's user experience of offside. Like, what the hell is that got to do with that? Yeah, absolutely.

Pedram Parasmand:

Not wrapped around the context. And I think part of what you just shared there is the so many off site and just being just meeting after meeting, because it's just taking what happens in the day to day way of bringing people together. And just putting it back to back. There's something about unstructured ways of going through a decision making process or creation process, I think then gets transplanted into an off site experience, which, again, comes back to people going, we've already talked about this, we've done this before. So well. Clearly, something wasn't resolved in a way that was satisfying for everybody to be able to move forward. So another thing has to do with process design in terms of like that transformational journey further, versatility isn't. Here's an agenda item yet the creativity that's involved in designing that experience.

Catherine Stagg-Macey:

Yeah, we're just gonna come at this problem again. Everyone's gonna say the same thing again, and we're gonna get stuck again. Yeah, having spent 20 years in corporate, where do we get taught the skills for doing off site, it's like, you might get taught how to run a budget meeting or a steering group or something. But they're very different kinds of meetings to an off site, which are normally around more centered around brainstorming or decision making, or where do you learn that people are listening to this going and putting shitty about myself, because that's me. That was me too. And I didn't realize this until I did team coaching. And that's not the path for every executive, but it would be crazy. But there are other ways that you're gonna get into here. And I think it's normal. I want to normalize people's sense of, that's how it's always been done to me as well as a participant.

Pedram Parasmand:

Yeah, it's, sometimes you don't have a blueprint to a great blueprint or example of how it's done well, or when you have seen it done. Well. It's been so smooth and effortless going through the journey that it's hard to recognize the preparation and the work that's had to go behind the scenes. And to make all of that I think all of those go smoothly, including even things like having resources prepared in a very particular way and handed out at a particular time with the instructions given in a particular way. That just means that people just immediately get what they're doing, why they're doing it, how they're going to do it, and then just get on with it. When that happens. You don't notice it. You just think it's like the group's done it. But actually, there are in terms of how do you learn it, there are some very easy wins. It's like simple strategies, and anybody, regardless of whether you're a trained coach or facilitator can use to just smooth out some of the prep that's involved, and also how to design and deliver those transformational offsites.

Catherine Stagg-Macey:

Yeah, we got my interest now. So shall we dive into the process and see if we can give listeners some practical stuff here. So we start with defining like we have this need, we need an off site. What should I be thinking about?

Pedram Parasmand:

When it comes to defining the off site, the sites purpose, outcomes and all those things? This goes back to knowing that you might have an agenda or maybe someone's asked you to design an off site and you you're tasked that so obviously this is now your responsibility to go and seek different perspective. gives so that you can get a clear value proposition. What's in it for me, for everyone involved. So everyone said the different stakeholders within the organization, within the people from the organization going to the off site are going to be varied, that they'll be the decision makers, they'll be the interested parties are the people who are going to be doing the work, right, everyone's going to have different value propositions. So go out and speak to them, or a sample of them, find out around the context of the off site, what's working, what's not working, as well as it could or should just basically just understand what's happening. And also figure out what people's ideas are around what would be a good outcome, what would be helpful in Beyond The off site. So this is where I'm looking at the bookends of the transformation. So where are things at now? And where do we want things to be? Because that then allows you to identify a specific outcome or set of outcomes that provide a stepping stone towards where they are now to where they want to be. And when it comes to those outcomes, that your friends are verbs. And active verbs are very specific, actionable verbs. And we have created a strategic plan, or we have discussed whatever and that discusses more of an objective, but there's something where you can see it, if you're going to ask people, did we hit these outcomes? It should just be pretty binary yes or no? Rather than to what degree did we meet this one? Not? So very action oriented verbs, and or specific outputs, or deliverables? What's been created

Catherine Stagg-Macey:

as a result of the business plan?

Pedram Parasmand:

Yes. When we drafted the draft, yeah, but those are the things through those conversations, there's going to be a different value proposition for everyone coming, that, nevertheless, there is going to be some united, commonly agreed here is why we're here and why it's important. And I think just taking that little bit of extra time to figure that out, we'll just play dividends, because it allows you to get people excited about why they're there to do what they're going to do. So even before the offside people aren't going to be asking for what's in it for me, and why am I doing this, people have also had a chance to feed into it. So there's a bit of ownership, you're going to be able to meet people where they're at at the beginning of the off site. And if you're really clear about what those outcomes are, it provides a bit of a compass within the off site to recognize, am I on track? Or am I off track? And if I'm off track, what do I need to do in order to bring things on track? So yeah, this is an upfront investment that pays so much dividends further downstream. Just thinking

Catherine Stagg-Macey:

back all the offsides I had had had no. I still struggle with this in with action verbs as well. That's why I wanted to dig in a bit deeper in that because I think when you see a great outcome with an action verb, there's a sort of a, you can have a visceral response to that, oh, yeah, well, like, I don't know, I don't want to be doing that. There's a very clear, it's something so tangible that you can have a response to it. Whereas if it's not done like that,

Pedram Parasmand:

so when it's done, not done like that people use still use verbs, but like the covert verbs like to understand, we're gonna understand the importance of the business plan, right? We're gonna might not even be verbs might have an agenda item might be an outcome might just be business plan. What about it? Yeah. And I mean, I've got right behind me, this is a podcast, but I've got a list of verbs. There's about 300 of them that I just

Catherine Stagg-Macey:

use in the action. Yeah, so the basically three

Pedram Parasmand:

kind of categories of verbs two of them are the most important when it comes to corporate off site. There's a cognitive domain of verbs, which was based on Bloom's Taxonomy for you learning any learning geeks out there. So this is everything from the very basic things like remembering to understanding applying to more complex things like analyzing, evaluating, creating. So usually, when it comes to outcomes, I'm looking at the kind of the creating category of verbs. And then there's also the affective domain of objectives and outcomes. This is more to do with the more intangible things like how people feel about stuff. And there are still even though that's intangible, there are still verbs that you can look at and just help yourself think about, okay, what will that look like if people are feeling aligned or people off? feeling energized or excited or whatever it is, right? Because these verbs allow you to then reverse engineer what activities you can pick and choose, which is the next phase of designing your, and delivering your off site by essentially deciding what activities and support these

Catherine Stagg-Macey:

outcomes. Yeah. And I found, you talked about about cost correction during the off site as well, I find that quite helpful to say, can we take in if we're on track, and the outcomes that we would agreed to and what we're doing? And sometimes it's like, yeah, we're going off track. But this is really important, like, great, I could gives you a solid place to come from in redefining midway, if that's what you want to do. Because everyone has seen those outcomes. We can see themselves in the head as well. I'm glad you mentioned the line, I use a lot of align aligning as team coaching, because it often I think team coaching is often about that's not a, it's not a traditional off site, there is a lot about how can we align on ways of working?

Unknown:

Yes, one of the things I will just add here as well, just because I am a bit of a learning geek is it verbs are great to share with other people. And there are times when you're going to use more labor, like people language like a line because that is just more accessible than something because there's no way like this defined piece, by the end of the defined process of having that clear value proposition and outcomes. There are two versions of what you've produced. There's the external facing stuff, which is what you can then communicate with people that gets them excited, then there's a more internal facing stuff for you as the designer of the off site to go, how can I use this as my guide to the site decide on things. So those kinds of outcomes, objectives, and I'm using both outcomes and objectives here. And let me just be really clear with this. The outcome is like a direct result of the off site, the specific thing that people leave with, whereas I see objectives, and even more specific learning objectives as one way of talking about this, because there is some learning that's happening, even if it's something around the strategy, people are learning something through a process of CO creating, but the learning objectives are the things that happen within the off site. So those are the things that you can measure your progress against, whereas the outputs, outcomes are the things that happen as a direct result of and people leave with beer, those things, either objectives or outcomes, from a design point of view, can be quite long sentences just in for you to know exactly what you're working on. And the more specific you can be ended a big top tip, the easier designing activities will be. Yeah,

Catherine Stagg-Macey:

for me the check is do I actually understand what this means? If you co creating and crowdsourcing this is like, do I know what this means? Sometimes it's like no. refinement. Okay. Okay, so we have, let's say we have outcomes. Now we've, we've checked in with all stakeholders, we have a good sense of the outcomes. And I'm gonna great, I got a blank piece of paper here. Now, I mean, going into the build

Pedram Parasmand:

phase. Yeah. Let's now go to build the workshop. So this is about deciding what to do. And this can feel very overwhelming for a lot of people because a no shortage of activities. And you can I see this in so many communities, I'm in forums, I'm on social media people go, who's got an activity for

Catherine Stagg-Macey:

yes, I've done that. I've thought about my bookshelves full of

Pedram Parasmand:

activities. And I think people get a bit too hung up on the like, trying to pick the best activity. And just to ease things out what my big piece of advice here is, to think about the I've already mentioned this, but think about the experience of giving people as if you're taking them on a journey to design the off site, like a story with a narrative arc, where the people who are in the off site are the protagonists in the story. So there are different stages of the story that map really nicely onto an off site. So you've got a story has a setup, right? This is where you're setting the scene and all that stuff. That's the context is being set. So that's where you're using the insights that you've got from speaking to people to figure out the other value proposition to meet them where they're at. It's like, this is for you. You're in the story. There you go. Soon after a setup there is inciting incidents of a story where it's a triggering event where all the kind of main things come together. So we've got the inciting incident in a story, which is essentially a triggering event that sets the rest of the story in motion. This in a off site can be anything as simple as getting people to reflect on? Why is this off site important to your role? Or what you've got to do just like a very basic checking question like that, or it could be some kind of intentionally designed icebreaker that has a purpose of dipping people into the context of the off site, right. So I'm going to use a very basic example, like, let's say, the purpose of the offside is like, it's a team that hasn't met each other. And actually, a main point of this, for this team is to get to know each other. So that there might be some kind of fun portrait activity where I love this where you get people to parer, you get a blank piece of paper, each time you take it, in turns for one person to share something about themselves, like a hobby, and the other person just pays attention to them, but then draws a picture of them without looking down the piece of paper. And you swap and monitor and it's fun, because then you have all these weird Picasso style drawings, and it's and then you can make the point and go, Well, we did this or we asked her how was it? Not that so but we did this because the purpose of this off site is to get to know each other. And we're starting the process of really understanding who each of us are. And that kind of goes, Oh, I get why we did that.

Catherine Stagg-Macey:

Love that. Yeah, it's not a random, awkward, icebreaker thing that somebody just looked up on the internet here that you're linking it to the outcomes. Yeah, it feels very solid. Yeah, so and

Pedram Parasmand:

then we think about the rest of us how a story goes, you have the rising action, these are the plot developments, the different things that happen and, and how you can think about that from an off site is it's the things that you do as a facilitator, and the things that the are the activities that the participants do. And they all kind of linked to one another. So you got to think about how does this thing linked to the other. But essentially, if you think about what the journey is towards a climax, which is where everything comes together, let's say the climax is something like we've got of that business plan that you're talking about, then go backwards and go, what are the different elements that you need to do? Like, maybe there's a bit of a retrospective, maybe we're looking at numbers, whatever it is, like, what are the different things that need to happen that build up to that climax where everything comes together. And then in a story, you have the falling action, which is where it's the consequences of that climax? It's like what happens now? And so this is a bit which I think a lot of people either skip through or don't do at all, the debrief, or what I call like integration. So you're integrating what's now happened. It's like, okay, so we've got this business plan, what's going to happen now? What's the specifically? Who's going to do what, when they're going to buy all that stuff? As well as the the questions like, how was it? What was it lined? Yeah, and all that just ease people into just going now, what am I going to do? And then finally, the last bit of the story is the resolution, wrap things up. And that's where you're reiterating what's happened. Key points have made, key actions are going to be taken. And what's going to happen again, just reiterating what's gonna happen next, because just like stories, you can have a sequel, right? It's not the end of the Sosa's the end of this particular narrative. And so, if you think about the Watson journey you want to take people on, then you can go, what are the activities that I can pick that support that journey? And so it makes filtering through the activities much simpler, because then you're not a bit too, you're not overwhelmed? Because you can be like, Hmm, you've got those outcomes. And now you've got this narrative structure. So those are the things that I think through and support my clients think through when we're deciding how like what we're going to do. And I

Catherine Stagg-Macey:

kind of co creative aspect of that design as well. I think I've sat through a lot of offsites, where it feels like a download of the senior leader, and he's just, you know, four or five slides on a PowerPoint deck that don't look a lot different for that was six months ago, and you being spoken at the end of witches. So we want to border the strategy. I'm like, is that really the question? Is it safe to say that was I fell asleep halfway through? So yeah, you're sort of idea of storytelling and bringing people along. If you care about having positive environments where people thrive and get to feel part of something and CO creating something, this is what you should be thinking of?

Pedram Parasmand:

Absolutely. And also, just to that point around the senior leader stakeholder, wanting that air time to go through things. One thing that I recommend is, like you said, having that co creation bit of deciding what's going to happen and why and what the kind of the journey is going to be. And if it's not possible to have the senior leader involved in that a slot has been created for them, asking for an opportunity to have a briefing with them, that they understand where they fit in, and also just giving them here's what we'll do, and here's what you'll say. Having that dialogue, also giving a structured way, often for people to read respond is going to be important. Because whenever you do anything new, even if you introduce a quote, like, here's a quote that I want to, like, share with you, that's interesting, right? That can spark a kind of a learning loop where people are going, Hmm, let me make sense of that poll, I've got a reaction to that, oh, I want to say something about that, or not. Or maybe I'm just going to hope but you create a new loop that like needs to be tied up. And so in presenting anything, will create a new loop. And the more you present, the more of a loop, it opens up. And the other thing I'll say about this is, ideally, for a smooth running of an off site, nothing new should be presented to people presenting things beforehand, so people have a chance to collect their thoughts. And then giving them an opportunity to process those thoughts together, in the off site, gives you as a off site facilitator, more control over what's happening and being able to like be of service for the entire group. Otherwise, it could just be an absolute, just a massive spanner in the works, because people would be like, hang on a minute that I don't agree with anything that was just shared. And this is all just performative. Now. So yeah, trying not to spring a Here you go, what do you think on people?

Catherine Stagg-Macey:

If you want a smoother outcome, you're talking about preparation as well. I mean, if you understand in this is part of the design is what do you need to ask people to think about to read to ponder on before so they can come in? And I think it also helps the reflective thinkers and the introverts who I would salute I am not, but they have taught me so much about dance, bring a question of what country do you want to live in? And why online interview? And then expect an answer in the moment, like, as a team I'm working with at the moment, and he's there's a deep introvert amongst five extroverts. And he just goes blank, if you stick them in, if you Yeah, so and so preparation, yeah, your thoughts on preparation,

Pedram Parasmand:

preparing to deliver for impact. There's the QA and I use the word impacts, because that's what these things are for, like, it's not just preparing. It's just what are you wanting, one wanting to happen? Impact, something actually happens, there's two bits to the preparation, which I think can support the smooth running. And we've already touched on so one being clear around those outcomes, which basically gives you those success criteria and just being really clear around that, to that you're walking in knowing what you're doing and what you're looking for and where you're going. But also, like you said, preparing all the different stakeholders. So preparing anyone, like any, any stakeholder, including the venue, the participants, yourself, any CO facilitators, any senior stakeholders, whoever it is, just I have a checklist of 60 items that I check, including even things like what's the Wi Fi situation? Like, will I need to get a piece of paper with a Wi Fi card? Or do I have to like log in and get someone to then give me access because that stuff will just burn through just precious preparation time on the day. And it's a small thing, but then people get like, you deal with it. But I don't I personally don't want to be setting things up. When people are arriving, I want to be settled ready, taking a few deep breaths and set an intention for myself and set intention for the participants and all that kind of stuff to really ground myself. So you're preparing people, including the pre reading, and then at the beginning of the workshop, so the off site, really doing your best to then mitigate against any thing that could derail things. So obviously setting the context so people know why they're there. And so I'm in the right place, but also having that conversation around the working agreements, or the ways that we're going to behave with each other or what we need from each other. Which can be I've seen this done so badly where it's basically a flip chart with random words like openness, trust, non joy, honesty, honesty, yeah. And then but actually just taking that step further and asking, Well, what does this look like? And just again, going back to the behaviors and verbs and all that stuff, think that stuff and giving it enough time, especially for off site, it's easy to skip those or they just give people some ground rules for a two hour session, but enough site when you're together for a day or more. You've got space to allow people to say what they need to say. And silence is great at this point, because the objections will start coming out and then you go Thank you for sharing that because it's best that I say thank you because A lot of people can feel a bit awkward about that. But I thank my lucky stars when that happens, because it means that we can address it now, rather than it festering then it's coming out as a random point where you're further down the process. Yeah. Yeah. So those are the things that are preparing beforehand, but also preparing people at the beginning of the session as well.

Catherine Stagg-Macey:

Okay. So we've moved into delivery, we would prepare ourselves. I mean, that's what I'm hearing, which I think I underestimated. If you're the facilitator, you're getting there an hour early, or you're leading the work in the leading the offside that you get there an hour early, because things will always go wrong. The chairs I'm in the wrong place, that have you in the wrong room. Yeah, they won't have the flip boards, like Yeah, it happens every day, you and I can nodding furiously, like, if something will go wrong in the setup, it'll go guaranteed. And so getting there soon enough, so you can iron that out is really helpful to get the boring stuff out the way so you can settle down. So here we are, we're here we have an off site. So we're the off site, we've done that we've done the run the check, and we've done some agreements. What else should I be tracking? Is the person responsible?

Pedram Parasmand:

Yeah, so tracking? Absolutely. Your outcomes and objectives like are you on track or off track. The other easy, quick win, I'd say as well as setting up and running specific activities in a very specific way to make sure that people don't get lost. In the activity, I've come up with an acronym, which is spark with a double p. So the first the S is set the scene. So this is where you're explaining what the activity is, why you're doing it. And the y could be anything to do with, here's what we did before. And here's what we're doing next. And that's why we're doing this particular activity. Or you could go bigger picture and go, and here's why this activity is important to this broader outcome goal that we've done. And then a very light version of like the how we're going to run the activity. So the setup is of what, why and how a sense of what's going to happen, like, we're gonna get you into groups, you're gonna have a discussion. And then the first P in the spark acronym is present information. So do people need information, in order to be able to complete the activity to present that information. The second P is provide guidance, this is your specific ask, they've got to do give clear, concise directions. And if you are getting people to, say working groups up tip, get people in their groups first, before giving the instructions by saying go find give you the instructions, I'm gonna get into groups of three, and then you get them into groups or three, or whatever it is. Everyone in the groups three, Cool, alright, so you're gonna need some post it notes, right? So just nominate somebody, and that you can even go that step further and like, allocate person a, person B, Person C, but Yeah, somebody come and get the person's nose and Sharpies or whatever. Cool, everyone ready, nice. Give the instructions, then you've got a which is activate the experience. So people just get on with things. And you're potentially roaming around checking on things. The AR is then reflecting on the experience. So how was that? What did we learn any insights, what we're going to do about it? And then k is the key points that you want to make sure that people leave with using as much of the language that people have used in their reflections can really help to help people feel heard and understood, and give them more ownership over those the outcomes of that task. So that just following the spark formula for every activity, it's like a paint by numbers, you're not gonna go wrong.

Catherine Stagg-Macey:

Yeah, that's to me, that's hugely helpful insight into how to manage that lever formula. Do you think I've learned from using something similar was your point about giving instructions in a very step by step way? It might sound silly to you if you haven't done that. But if you get that wrong, you can create chaos. Yeah, chaos. Yeah. It's so simple in your head. And why you smart people being so weird about this, it's like, you got it wrong. Yeah, but there is something about step by step. I think people are their minds all over the place of this. Yeah, I think you can break it down for them to hear it.

Pedram Parasmand:

And if I just add a little bit more to that they're giving instructions so that providing guidance is give the instructions, ask if there's any questions and then reiterate the instructions. Now one thing which is really good good about having two facilitators is having one person give the instructions the first time and the second person give the same instructions the second time but a bit quicker, but just hearing it from like, two different ways of saying it even if it's not, obviously not diverge too much and If the instructions are also laid out somewhere so like on the flip chart on a PowerPoint, or whatever it is, that's also helpful for different types of learners, or like people that have people like to engage. And what I'll say is well is not to feel awkward if your cursor just agree with the CO facilitator that you will do that. Because sometimes I know that if that's not said before, they can feel like hey, are you treading on my toes?

Catherine Stagg-Macey:

pattern? And these are the groups?

Pedram Parasmand:

And why not explain that properly? No, you did. I just want to like. The other thing I'll say about all of this, the amount of time it takes to do things always take longer. And actually, this is something to think about in the design of the session. No matter how quick you think, a 10 minute activity is, if you're going to put people into groups, and they're going to speak for 10 minutes, that's not a 10 minute activity. That's at least a 20 minute activity, because you've set the scene, you've presented information, you've provided the guidance, people have asked questions, you've maybe put people into groups, they then have the 10 minute conversation, then they finish it, and you're good to go. How What's that? It's not a 10 Minute. So just be mindful around how long something will take

Catherine Stagg-Macey:

and know that it's very experienced, this is going to be a lot longer than you think.

Pedram Parasmand:

This is more.

Catherine Stagg-Macey:

So we've defined it, we've built it, we've delivered it, what are the things that we should be thinking about? At the end, let's say that the day ends, that's what the other bookend in that you were talking about.

Pedram Parasmand:

Yeah. So again, just making sure you have that final debrief, just doing a little bit of a what was the whole kind of experience, like getting that there was like that accountability really clear, who's going to be doing what, in an ideal world, you will have had an A, a sense of what needs to happen afterwards, when you're designing things, because that's supported the outcome. But now you're getting in getting into the details of who's doing what by when, specifically, et cetera, et cetera. So that is going to be key, then agreeing with when the next who's going to check in when you're going to be talking about it. So any either standing team meeting, or any extra meeting that needs to be organized, just to make sure that those actions have taken place, and things are moving forward. And there's accountability, I think, key. And depending on the context, just getting some feedback on how that went. Feedback can be this a few different levels of it. It doesn't have to be a survey either. It could even be done as a really quick thing in the activity. But you got reactions to the experience, you got the the extent to which the objectives and outcomes were met. And then there's the sort of the longer term stuff like what's changed in the organization and a team or whatever. So you can get one and two reactions. Did you like it? What went well? What would be even better if you know, you can get to what extent did we meet these objectives and outcomes, you can get some proxy measures around what people might do afterwards. So you know, how relevant was to your role? What are you going to do next. So you can ask these questions depending on the nature of the off site. And you can do follow ups and stuff. But the easy one for if you're wanting to develop yourself as a facilitator of off site and other interactive sessions like this is you could just have a space on the wall just by the door, which is a things that went well. And like things that could have been a bit better and just give people two different colored post it notes, and just ask them to reflect on that. So that on the way out, they can stick it on. But one of the big top tips I would give is, as much as you want to collect people's opinions and thoughts around how things went, whether it's a survey or this thing, I wouldn't finish like that I finished off with something that raises the energy again. And the easiest way that again, just depends on how many people you've got. But just getting people to just share a thing, ideally, like a takeaway. And one thing that you will personally do tomorrow, or in a week next week, is just a really nice way of everyone hearing from each other. And it always, almost without fail, builds resonance around that shared experience of what everyone got out of it. So yeah, just it's a great

Catherine Stagg-Macey:

way. Because I think we can my experience of watching this as people are rushed at the end of the day, the time hasn't been well managed. We're gonna go for dinner at 630 It's not six o'clock. We haven't got any actions and accountabilities and it's, again, it's go, I think, be brave to drop something from the agenda to be able to land well. It's something I had to learn. You can be completely transparent about that, because this type of spacious kind of checking out of being clear the actions that accountability is so important that was the end of mind the whole investment?

Pedram Parasmand:

Yes. The the way to make a decision on what to drop is if the clearer you are with the broader goal that this offsite supports. And then the clearer you are with the outcomes, and then the query with the objectives. So like long term, medium term, short term, you can then pivot towards the thing that's most important. So let's say not all the outcomes are going to be met. That's okay. What's the bigger broader goal that you're trying to support? And let's just orient towards that. And just acknowledge that one specific outcome might not be met in this instance, but let's have the conversation that we need to have for this other outcome that will help the broader goal. So that again, this comes back to that upfront investment around talking to people and finding out what's important to them.

Catherine Stagg-Macey:

And repairs if and you don't have to be because I have felt this as the owner of the off site like, like I'm reading mines, this is in the old days, and a lot of responsibility and pressure to get it right. Was I think the way you're describing it as like, you told me what the outcomes, I might have the language to it, but we work on the outcomes together. Yeah, we are all invested in that. So it takes the Dow's down this overwhelming sense of responsibility, I have to get it right. As the host, call facilitator, I love that. I think there's so much information for people here, I almost feel like we need like a transcript. The key stuff, you've been so generous and sharing your time and your depth of experience, Peter that I really appreciate that. How do people get ahold of you, they want to find out more about you.

Pedram Parasmand:

I have a website, the skills lab.com. Or find me on LinkedIn, I hang out on LinkedIn quite a lot. And you

Catherine Stagg-Macey:

do some really great content shares on LinkedIn as well, if people want to, they can get some tips that way up. But there's both in the shownotes. So thank you for your time. And yes to a world that has rocking off sites that we dream about that it's true business,

Pedram Parasmand:

mobile law of sights. Thanks for having me on. I've really appreciated the time with you just now.

Catherine Stagg-Macey:

You're very welcome. That was a value packed episode, I'm sure you feel very inspired to lead the crafting of your next team off site. You know, as I shared with Ted, I create offsites in the form of team coaching nowadays of all time. And it took me going through team coaching and a specific facilitation course, to learn what pet has downloaded today. I had no side of this when I walked in corporate the fact that if off site we're successful, not felt increasingly random. So if you know if you're feeling a little overwhelmed by all this information, I think you're you're in good company. And this is not really something that we teach proactively or share or or given opportunity to learn proactively in an organization. So you aren't Yeah, you're in good company. But I hope you feel really excited to go and try out just even a handful of the tips that he shared with us today. We all deserve better offside experiences. You've got this Now go make it happen. And do remember to email me about your experiences. So that's it until next time, this is your wing woman signing off.