We’re running our training program off-site this week and it brings to mind all the small things that seem insignificant but can have a drastic impact on the outcome of the week.  Through trial and error we’ve come up with some solutions  to handle these potential landmines even when we’re off-site.  So here are the top three hidden killers for innovation programs and some potential solutions to them.

  1. Room Environment:  An easy go to for conferences or training programs are hotel conference rooms.  They’re equipped to handle it and are easy to schedule; the only issue is they tend to be windowlessinnovation session ideas and a drab grey color all around the room.  Sitting in these rooms for a full day is draining but all day for a week is unbearable.  There’s two strategies that can help to alleviate this.  The first is to add some verbal energy to the room, keep people close together so as groups are collaborating they can hear the other groups and the energy can work together.  When it’s in more of a down time play some music that can fill the room, just don’t let the big conference room suck up all the noise and make it grey and silent.  The second option is to get rid of the grey on the walls, put up things on the walls.  Materials that the might use, motivational posters, or some temporary white board sheets for groups to write on.  Just something to break up the drab grey of the room. 
  2. Being Away from Home:  This works in both ways, helping people that have traveled to feel like they’re still at home and can get comfortable and helping people that didn’t travel escape their daily lives so they aren’t constantly sucked back into it.  For this one the solution is simple to understand but hard to execute.  You want to take care of everything innovation session breakfastfor them so people can feel like they don’t need to worry about anything.  This starts with breakfast; have it there when they arrive ready to go so all they have to do is fill up a plate.  Have a place for their bags and coats, have lunch ready before they know it, basically your job is to anticipate what they’ll need and have it before they need it.  This way people that are away from home can feel comfortable and relax while those that are close to home can get lost in the program and pull away from the day to day as you take care of everything.
  3. Have Fun With It:  Most importantly make it about more than just the meeting.  The easiest time to do this is, for a day long program, is dinner.  At the end of the day have a plan for dinner, get them out of the room and remind them that there’s more to this week than the innovation happy hourconference room and their hotel.  It’s good to show them that the people they’re there with are real people and not just the one they see in that dull grey room.  It’s important to get out and see the daylight, or moonlight, so take advantage of it whenever you can.  If you can get them out for lunch do, set up dinner plans even if not everyone plans to make it, just do something to make it about more than just the program.

Running long programs requires a lot of logistical planning, especially for off-site programs, but once you learn to handle all the small things you’ll be able to get 110% out of everyone that attends.