How to do an offline meet-up with your remote team

This post is an excerpt from my book DISTRIBUTED.

Let’s define what I mean by meetup first. A meetup is an event that lasts one or more, maximum a couple of days, where those who meet spend some hours together but not live together during the specific time. These are important factors because the absence of coliving but the presence of coworking really defines a meetup. Meanwhile, team retreats are long meetups with coliving and coworking, where team members live and work together for a longer period of time, for a week or even more.

Because a meetup has a shorter timeframe than a team retreat, you have to plan out the activities with more care. Usually, there are certain reasons why you have a meetup. A conference, a hackathon, a sales event or a trade show or just one or two members of your team are happened to be in the same city. 

Because you are not living together through that timeframe, the ‘fun’ part is a little bit limited to end-of-the-day drinks or eat-outs. But keep in mind, these fun parts of a meetup are crucial and you should not skip it. On the work-side, meetups are for two type of work-related challenges: hackathons, where you produce or sprint on a product or a product feature and strategic meetups, where you discuss and decide on mid-term strategies on a product or a company. Because of the limited amount of time, you have 2-3 max 4-5 days of working together, so only a short sprint or an extended strategic session can be done within this timeframe. But let me give you a personal example.

At the time I am writing this article, I have a client, which I am working with as a marketing consultant. They are an active startup in the legal space, helping other startups to realize their dreams through intellectual property protection. It’s a distributed business, the founder and CEO lives in the US but extensively travels in Europe, especially in the Netherlands and Switzerland. The core team is less than 20 people with a small marketing team, – led by me and my team – an account management team and a client services team. Account management is based in the US, client services are in Israel, plus I’m based in Hungary. The marketing is a big part of the business so all relevant bits and pieces should be decided on a higher management level – therefore the CEO and I are meeting every once in a while in-person. Of course, we have the usual weekly calls, day-to-day online distributed business management of workflows but we tend to meet offline if we can, usually every 2-3 months for 2-5 days. The location doesn’t really matter, everyone can travel a bit, but we usually meet in Europe as it is more convenient for both of us. During our meetups we do three things:

Evaluate the current business strategy and agree on the next 3-6 months plan. Delegate and conceptualize the workload in order to reach our goals and work on the tasks a little if we have time together. Having fun. Spend an evening at a lavishly high-end restaurant and eat & drink till we fall down. We are both foodies so we value great gastronomy experiences and having a drink or two and discussing even personal stuff is a great way to socialize together. 

Before we meet, I always prepare an agenda for the meetup on what we need to discuss and what are the goals we need to reach so everyone can go back home and do their legwork online to work on achieving these goals. I would recommend you to do the same and plan out the whole meetup according to this:

Write up an agenda on what you want to address and why. Decide on common goals you want to achieve during the meetup. Agree on a place where you want to work together, I recommend a coworking office. Look up a great restaurant or pub or any place where you want to spend non-work time. 

Having an agenda makes your life easier, you will come prepared. To stick to my personal example, I always go to these meetups with an extensive report on the state of things, where I report back personally on how we are doing in terms of marketing, sales and brand awareness. Deciding on common goals also helps to track your progress during the meetup and you will feel accomplished after the meetup by meeting the goals and clearing out the checklist. You should also find a coworking space before the arrival and if it’s possible, schedule your visit online first. Make sure you have a private space at the coworking office, I would recommend a personal office room or a meeting room only. You want to work together and together only. You have limited time together so make sure you spend it well and not wasting time on other coworkers at the office. Then, reward yourself with a non-work related experience. For us, it’s a great restaurant and a couple of drinks but that should depend on your personal taste. Do something fun together. 

Offline meetups are amazing, embrace them and do them if you have the chance. Once you do it, you will feel more connected to your team and more grounded and alive. You can also accomplish amazing things which are harder or impossible to do online. 

 

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At Anywhere Consulting, we help entrepreneurs to launch, build and grow their remote business. We provide support and consulting services as well as educational products to overcome the challenges of remote businesses. If you are a freelancer who wants to launch a distributed business or you already have an established business but want to grow remotely, we can help you.