Planning a Conference or Team Off-site?

The annual conference or off-site has taken on new significance at a time of:

  • Accelerating change & uncertainty
  • Increased pressure on performance
  • And, of course, hybrid working.

Today, bringing everyone together is more important than ever.

What Are Your Conference Objectives?

Away from the busyness of the day-to-day, the annual conference or off-site is an opportunity to:

Is connecting people & their passions a goal for your conference?

Some leaders fear the art of conversation and personal connection is being lost and are concerned about the impact on organizational culture.

Remote and hybrid working means people no longer interact at the ‘water-cooler’ or the canteen.

Meetings, while abundant, tend to be task-oriented and agenda-driven.

In particular, virtual meetings provide little opportunity to connect on a personal level.

Some generations (e.g. Gen Z) may feel this more than others.

Do you want to engage people in addressing the opportunities & challenges ahead?

There is so much talk about engagement, or to be more precise, disengagement. This is a challenge that conference slide presentations won't solve.

People need to feel that their ideas and concerns are listened to.

To ensure ownership, they must be involved in co-creating solutions.

This ensures that strategy is not divorced from what is happening at the point of execution.

Looking to energize people & build momentum behind key priorities & initiatives?

The level of energy evident when people discuss any strategy or initiative is an indicator of its likely success.

Yet, with so much happening within organizations, there is the risk of fatigue regarding change.

It is essential to re-energize and re-engage around key priorities and initiatives.

This requires recognizing and celebrating the progress and re-connecting with purpose & passion for all those involved.

Do you want to optimize focus & alignment regarding key business needs and priorities?

When people pull together, amazing things are possible. However, alignment is hard won and easily lost.

With so much happening within organizations, ensuring that people stay focused on key business needs & priorities isn’t easy.

There is the danger of people working in silos, with each function or team doing ‘its own thing', but without seeing the bigger picture and co-ordinating or integrating their efforts with others. 

Through the above, the annual conference or away day can help to accelerate and sustain both the performance and the health of your organization. This is especially true, given the newer approaches to annual conferences.

Looking to Maximize Conference Impact?

Organizations are turning en masse from the slideshow-driven annual conference.

With so much talk about engagement, they are no longer content for a few people to do all the talking, while everybody else just listens impassively.

At pitstops there is 3+ times the connection, engagement, energy and alignment.  Ultimately, that means 3 times the impact.

“…last week in Montreal with the executive board, the CEO said that the whole two-day conference was absolutely exceptional
and that the pitstop was the highlight for him”.

Ryan O Reilly, NUVEI

The ability of the pit stop to get you focused on what matters is critical.

Martin Buckley, NIKE

“The pitstop approach will give you and your team a different way of looking at what you want or need to do.
It provides a whole new level of clarity and focus.”

Jeff Rope

What makes the pitstop approach to conferences special?
  • Tailored based on not just your conference objectives, but your business needs and priorities.
  • Designed for senior executives of all functional backgrounds to enable strategic conversations – those conversations regarding strategy and success that don’t normally happen in the busyness of the day to day.
  • Designed to engage even the cynical (e.g. those who have ‘seen it all before’).
  • Practical and relevant. Your team dialogs business needs & priorities, in a way that generates new insight and innovation (using a series of analytical business tools and frameworks).
  • Creates a safer environment where a greater variety of perspectives are engaged and addressing difficult topics is easier (e.g. performance or silos).  Also, where a higher level of respectful challenge is possible.
  • It is zero risk (who, for example, may fear the conversation turning negative) due to the process followed and the facilitation.
  • Great event, so what? The pitstop approach ensures that the ideas and issues talked about at your conference are brought to life after the event.
How does it work?

During your away-day, conference, or event your executives will work in teams. The idea is just like in racing – to come together as a team, identify what is working and fix what is not.

Inspired by F1™ your team will be engaged in taking stock of its priorities, performance and potential.  Underpinned by the powerful Engage-Change Model, the focus is on winning (for individuals and teams).

How do I know if the pitstop approach is right for our organization?

No doubt your organization has tried many approaches to its conference, including guest speakers, alternative venues, team-building activities. You are open to new ideas and approaches, but are weary of ‘gimmicks' and risk-averse.

Like many others, you are probably convinced of the need to reduce the number of presentations and speeches at your annual conference.

Well, the pitstop approach is a low-risk approach that maximizes energy and engagement in addressing your organization's business needs and priorities and ensuring the success of its key strategies and initiatives.

The pitstop approach is designed for leaders as well as their stakeholders and teams, from all functions, incl. HR, Commercial, IT, Scientific and so on. It engages executives from all functions in shaping the business agenda.

The pitstop approach can be used with teams of 8 to 800. Our design team can tailor the approach to the needs of your organization, integrating both online and virtual attendees as required.

Is this a gimmick or is it serious?

We draw a distinction between traditional team-building and more fundamental team-development.

Out-door team adventures, zip-wires, or blindfolded trust games are helpful.  However, they cannot be expected to address underlying business, behavioral or structural problems, such as the misalignment of strategy, the wrong people in the wrong roles, or the lack of a clear and compelling purpose for the business/team.

Although pitstops are high energy and even fun, they are challenging too. Pitstops go to the heart of organizational / team performance, as well as team health and cohesiveness.

Why is the connection to a pitstop?

The ‘pitstop' is a technique tailored for sustained performance in dynamic, high-pressure environments. Its appeal to leaders lies in the need to deliver ambitious strategies with increased speed, agility, collaboration, and innovation.

However, an interest in racing or pitstops is not a prerequisite to benefit from this approach. The associated tools and frameworks are crafted to reframe business opportunities and challenges, depersonalizing and depoliticizing them. This helps in addressing blind spots and fostering more creative solutions.

What is the sophistication / science behind the approach?

The pitstop conference approach works because it is built on the following widely-researched principles:

 

The 3 Es
Pitstop events are designed to measure and maximize energy, engagement & the exploration. Here is why this matters:

Research suggests that levels of energy, engagement and exploration could account for as much as 50% of the difference between the lowest and highest performing organizations(1).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Creating an especially productive environment

Pitstop events create a safe environment which encourages independent-thinking and open debate. That includes an environment where silence is not confused with agreement, differences of opinion are welcomed and performance is center stage. Technically, this is called ‘psychological safety’ and it enables people to push through to new levels of performance(2).

 

 

 

 

 

Preventing Social Loafing

The organization and design (as well as the expert facilitation) of pitstop events prevents social loafing, ensuring that all participants are actively involved and fully engaged. Here is why this matters:

Typically, at conferences, a few people end up contributing/talking most, while many others do little. Called ‘Social Loafing’ this has many causes, key among them being group size(3).

 

 

 

 

Preventing Groupthink

Pitstop events are designed to reduce the risk of Groupthink and blind social conformity within large groups, thereby resulting in fresh thinking and new insights. Here is why this matters:

Contrary to conventional wisdom, groups and teams typically generate fewer good ideas than individuals working alone(4). In particular, research demonstrates the challenges facing teams in sharing information, questioning existing beliefs and listening to divergent views(5).

 

 

Notes:

(1) Alex “Sandy” Pentland, ‘The New Science of Building Great Teams’, HBR, Apr. 2012.

(2) Amy Edmondson, ‘Psychological Safety and Learning Behavior in Work Teams’, Administrative Science Quarterly, Vol. 44, No. 2 (Jun., 1999), pp. 350-383

(3) Daniel J. Levi, ‘Group Dynamics for Teams’, SAGE Publications, Inc; 5 edition

(4) Dawna Markova & Angie McArthur, ‘Collaborative Intelligence: Thinking with People Who Think Differently’, Spiegel & Grau, 2015

(5) The illusion of group productivity. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 19(1), 78–89; Stroebe, W., Diehl, M., & Abakoumkin, G. (1992)

What do people say about the pitstop conference approach?

Here are the key words executives use to describe pitstops:

What is the inspiration for the pitstop approach to conferences?

Imagine your team working with the speed, focus and discipline of a pit team.   That's what can happen at your conference or event.

The idea is just like in racing – to come together as a team, identify quantifiable performance opportunities and exploit them fast.

The pitstop is a technique for sustained performance in dynamic high-pressure environments where mid-race adjustment is key. Naturally, therefore it appeals to leaders who must deliver on ambitious strategies at a time of accelerating change and uncertainty.

What are Strategic Conversations and why do they matter?

Strategic Conversations are those conversations regarding strategy and success that don’t normally happen in the busyness of the day to day. The ability to have such conversations is essential to strategy, as well as to the management of performance and risk.

It is also a key indicator of the health of an organization or team as it requires the ability to balance tension and cohesion within a team, the ability for people to say what they are really thinking and to challenge group think.

The Pitstop methodology is steeped in the principles of Strategic Conversations, Appreciative Inquiry, and large format conversations for change (e.g. World Cafe, Future Search and Open Space).

What is the role of data?

We gather the perspectives of leaders, stakeholders and teams ahead of an event to inform the event's objectives and to ensure that the conversations that take place during the event reflect reality.

This is done in the most time – efficient manner, and it takes just 25 minutes online for each person to share their perspectives on business needs and priorities and other areas related to success.

The data is used to steer (or to be more precise, stretch) the conversation during the event. In particular, to prevent groupthink and illuminate potential blind spots / bias.

How long does a conference pitstop last?

The pitstop can be tailored to your event and the available time.

It could be the overall focus and theme for your event (lasting for one or two full days), or it could be an element (e.g. 2-3 hour slot) used to fill out your agenda.

Explore the options with our design team. There is one factor to keep in mind: Issues relating to performance and strategy are complex, in enabling an effective strategic conversation, one of the key factors is time. While the pitstop is designed to get to the point of clarity fast, rushing the process of dialog can hinder engagement, especially within large groups. For this reason, we typically suggest 2-3 hours as the minimum requirement for larger groups.

Are there any special requirements in terms of venue, facilities, etc.

No.  Any quality conference venue should be suited to a pitstop.  In terms of room / venue size, we will guide you are to what is required based on an understanding of your objectives, the number of attendees, etc.

The pitstop approach can be used with teams of 8 to 800. Our design team can tailor the approach to the needs of your organization, integrating both online and virtual attendees as required.

Pitstop-inspired Conferences & Events are based on a lot of published research.  You can explore this through our books.

“…an actionable agenda that managers can use for accelerating growth. “


Prof. Frank Cespedes,

HARVARD

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