Three lessons I learned from Conga’s marketing offsite

Will Spendlove

March 18, 2019

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Now that the thrill-ride nausea has subsided and the cotton candy residue has been rinsed from my hair, I’m better able to reflect on the amazing week I just had at our Marketing Offsite in sunny (and at times rainy) Orlando, Florida. The idea to have our entire marketing team spending a few days holed up in a conference room wasn’t terrible to me. I love this team. I love what we’re doing. And the food at the Sea World Renaissance is surprisingly good. But still, two days sitting in a chair talking about plans and ideas can get old, fast. But with some ingenuity and great coworkers, this ended up being the best offsite I’ve been to in a long time. Here’s why...

1. Clear planning makes for productive meetings.

Leading up to the offsite, we received excellent communications from Daniel Incandela, our CMO, around what to expect during our time in Florida. This made it easy for me to plan my role in the offsite as well as my presentation, and helped to clarify the intended impact of the trip for the entire marketing organization. We started to receive communications well before the trip to build excitement for the team and what we hoped to accomplish. Overall, we wanted this offsite to establish and build a solid team connection—the actual learning and training portion came second. In order to meet this goal, all content planning supported team bonding and camaraderie.

2. Organized chaos is a lot more fun than it sounds.

Since we wanted to build connections among the team, creativity was a strict requirement in all presentations. This meant the leaders had to focus on not just presenting the content, but also ensuring the team was able to have an experience with the subject matter. The leadership team pulled through, and we spent all of Tuesday going through a very engaging agenda with the full group. Among the creative parts of the presentations were:

  • A Family Feud game to discuss key parts of our company’s brand and messaging
  • Dueling LEGO-assembling teams to show how different working styles apply to a go-to-market strategy
  • An interactive Q & A involving “oranges and coconuts,” in which questions were written on orange and brown sheets of paper that we then crumpled up and hurled at the speaker
  • A live messaging feedback session with the entire marketing team

While most of our time in Orlando was planned and accounted for, some time was set aside for unplanned activities (See? “Organized” chaos!). On the first night, those who were interested were invited to get together for dinner, and around 25 of us boarded a trolley to hit dinner and a show at BB King’s Blues Club. It was a great way to start the week and catch up with team members we don’t always get to see in person before the real business began the following day.

3. All productive meetings should end with a day spent riding roller coasters…

I realize this isn’t always feasible, but if the option to ride roller coasters to unwind after a day of meetings is available, always choose roller coasters. One of the major reasons we chose Orlando as the location for our offsite was its proximity to the Universal Studios theme park. Yes—we took our entire marketing organization to an amusement park. Unsurprisingly, this excursion was one of the most anticipated parts of the offsite trip. I think the first full day of presentations, learning, and planning for the next quarter was a lot easier to handle knowing the next day would be spent gallivanting about Universal Studios. In order to keep with our theme of building connections and relationships within the team, we created a photo scavenger hunt for our time at the park. Not everyone does theme parks the same way—for example, we had one group very focused on hitting as many rides as possible, while others were perfectly content with a slower pace, exploring the park and enjoying all of the themed details. We created a separate channel on Slack where the team could upload their scavenger hunt photos throughout the day, so even when we split up at the park, we were still able to stay connected and see how each group was spending the day. We wrapped the week with a team dinner at Toothsome Chocolate Emporium in City Way. We reflected on the day over delicious food and drinks, with a grand finale consisting of giant, decadent milkshakes which we all tried and shared (thanks to a generous supply of fun, striped paper straws). Now we’re back in our respective offices ready to put our newfound energy and friendships to work. Thanks to a thoughtful CMO and a passionate team, I’m excited to help take Conga to even greater heights.

Will Spendlove

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