What’s an “awayday”?
An awayday is a works outing for giving in-depth consideration to matters which cannot easily be considered at the workplace because of all the distractions.
Where should an awayday be held?
As the name suggests, an awayday is best held outside the workplace, because that way people are more isolated from the pressures and distractions of everyday work. Bear in mind that if you are not at the normal place of work, people will have to travel, and special arrangements may be needed for some. Suitable locations could include:
- a school or university campus
- a hotel or conference centre
- maybe for a small group, a private home.
- People may be spending several hours in the same chairs – how comfortable are the seats?
- Will it be possible to break into smaller groups if that is desired?
- Will everyone be able to hear?
- Will everyone be able to see?
- Is it possible to display posters or flip chart pages by sticking them on the walls?
- Are there power points for any computers or projectors that will be used?
- Will there be any access problems for any of the participants?
- If confidential matters are being discussed, can privacy be assured, including during breaks and over lunch?
You need to make sure everyone is comfortable, fed and watered for the day. Consider:
- Tea and coffee on arrival
- Mid-morning and mid-afternoon refreshments
- A buffet lunch so that participants can continue to mingle and discuss during the midday break.
Check for any special dietary requirements for any of the participants.
What will you need?
People will need to make notes and share ideas. You will want to keep a record of the outcome. You are likely to need:
- paper and pens (people often forget to bring their own)
- a computer and projector for PowerPoint presentations (check that these work before the day starts – a lot of time can be lost if the equipment does not function properly)
- flip chart and marker pens (bring plenty of pens, they often run dry)
- Blu-tack, white-tack or similar for posting completed flip chart sheets
- post-it notepads for people to put down their own ideas.
Useful tips or techniques
- Consider using an independent facilitator
- Consider expert presentations from outsiders, which are often better received than those from internal staff
- Have a clear agenda for the day, even if in the event you have to depart from it
- Make sure you know what needs to be prioritised if time runs short
- Share information about any challenges you are facing so everyone can participate on as equal terms as possible
- Involve all the key individuals who will need to be persuaded if new ideas are to succeed
- Give people a chance to write down their ideas both before and after a discussion
- Ensure that there is an opportunity for everyone to contribute
- Encourage people to come up with seemingly impossible or fanciful ideas – these can often trigger more practical ideas, or be more sensible than they appear at first
- Consider using small groups with the group putting forward ideas to avoid individuals being identified if this is likely to inhibit full and open discussion
- Group similar ideas together (this is one area where Post-it notes can help).
If you have participated in an awayday, what have you found to be particularly helpful or harmful? Please add your comments in the box below.