When I go to a conference or corporate meeting off-site for a few days, it is important to have an agenda so things get done, but please, please, please stop planning every single minute. I know your job is to plan the meeting, but when you over-plan it, I will hate you for it. Why?
1. Part of the value of such events is the time attendees get to talk to each other. When you have something going every minute, then I won’t get to talk to people. Strengthening relationships with people I’m meeting face-to-face for the first time is of real value.
I finally got to meet Mark from Chicago, whom I only talk with on the phone (though he’s not as tall as he sounds).
2. People will keep waiting for their chance to talk to each other. If they don’t get that chance, they’ll start talking through whatever it is you’ve got planned. It’s like when recess in school gets canceled — the kids have to put that energy somewhere. You don’t want your organized meeting of grown-ups to devolve into a rowdy classroom of kids acting up.
Don’t cancel recess unless you want a food fight.
3. I’ll play hooky. If I want to talk to that guy from the San Francisco office that I see once a year at these things, then we’re going to talk. And when we don’t see a time to do it, we’ll just do it now. At the bar. And we’re not coming back. Don’t be fooled into thinking you have a captive audience.
My boss isn’t here, so fat chance I’m going to sit in some seminar while the bar is open. All I need to do now is figure out how to expense it.
4. No one likes to be micromanaged. When you plan every second of my life, even for two to three days, I’m going to resent you for it. And act out. And that’s not just me being a surly jerk — that’s human nature. Ignore at your own peril.
When’s the last time you thanked someone for micromanaging you? Never, that’s when.
5. Part of why people go to these things is because they are a boondoggle, at least in part. Now, yes, it’s true that it has to be a legitimate business function so that we can justify the registration cost to our bosses, but if there’s no a chance for us to relax and buy a few drinks (and maybe a round of golf) on the company dime, then we may not spend too much effort selling it to our bosses. And they won’t send us unless we ask them to.
According to Trip Advisor, the hotel at the convention is in a dry county. Maybe I don’t need to go.
6. If I don’t enjoy myself, I’m not going to convince my boss that I need the time off to go to your event next year. Spending three days at your conference doesn’t mean I will have less work waiting for me when I go back. I’m sure I’m not the only one whose coverage at the job amounts to taking messages and putting things on hold until I come back. On the list of meetings that are easy to opt out of, things that are expensive and take time away from the office top the list.
Unfortunately, last year’s corporate retreat was monopolized by senior management spouting platitudes and patronizing stories about how most people aren’t as good as they were when they moved up. Somehow everyone is too busy to go to this year’s.