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5 steps to the perfect away day

The MEETinLEEDS team are not scared of putting our money where our mouth is.

So when Harriet, our Sales and Marketing Manager, was asked to be part of the team to deliver the University of Leeds’ Commercial and Campus Support Services (CCSS) Away Day in January, she relished the chance to put her event expertise into action. Over to Harriet!

Get the right people

Very few of us are experts in everything, even in our team of event experts each member has a specialist subject. Make sure you have a crack-team supporting you, making sure to include disruptors, as they will challenge the presuppositions of the group.

The organising team for our away day was made up of representatives from across the 7 services which comprise the CCSS, making sure that the perspectives and input of the teams they were representing were taken into account at all stages of the planning.

Imagine the outcome

What do you want the day to achieve for the attendees? What do you want the day to achieve for your team or company? What do you want people to say about the day? In essence: what does success look like?

In our case, we wanted to make sure people were able to have fun, meet new colleagues while building existing relationships, and be outside of the direct environment in which they work every day.

Okay, so we said it was an “Away Day”, but we held the day right here on campus. However, with nearly 100 acres of space here at the University, it is amazing what you can find!

100% of feedback said they would recommend the Away Day to a colleague and 94% said that the away day would help them work better with colleagues. That is surely a resounding success in anybody’s book!

Bring it in

I tend to err on the frugal side, it is part of our job to offer excellent value for money, but sometimes you’ve just got to open the doors – and the wallet!

The decision on who to bring in is always one that makes me nervous – nothing frivolous about my decision making! This year we engaged Paul McGee, the SUMO guy, who gave us an insightful, entertaining and above all practical keynote presentation on resilience. I found his talk inspiring on both a personal and professional level, leaving the talk with reams of notes to share with the team!

As we wanted our event management team to enjoy the day with everybody else, we gave them a day off and handed the reins over to EML, training and team building experts, who ran our morning and afternoon sessions. They were on point in understanding our needs as organisers as well as really looking to understand and deliver on what we wanted for our colleagues.


A major part of our Away Day is our Spotlight Awards, our internal recognition scheme across the services. We hold a “Winner of the Winners” award ceremony, inviting Sir Alan Langlands, the Vice Chancellor, and Tim Peakman, Chief Operating Officer, to present awards to the winners. As a large service, we don’t always get the opportunity to see the great work of our colleagues let alone celebrate it so our Away Day is a big deal for us. This year some colleagues across the services were nominated by their customers – a fantastic way to celebrate the impact of the work that our teams do. Check out the video’s here, you might even spot me in one or two!

Remember the 5 P’s

They say that in order to succeed, any endeavour must adhere to the “5 P’s”: planning and preparation prevent poor performance.

There comes a stage in the “life” for your event, I am sure, where you have planned the heck out of it. You have run all the scenarios in your head, you have double and triple checked the venues, the food, the signage – and the date!

I made a concerted effort this year, our fifth away day, to just let the day happen. Not to micromanage every element and just to let what will be, be. You know what? It worked. It worked because I had faith in the delivery, the content and the people. The delegates, in this instance our fellow colleagues, engaged with the content, enjoyed the food and looked after each other.

So did we achieve what we set out to do? Our feedback says yes!

  • “It was nice to have some time to get to know my colleagues in a more relaxed and personal environment.”
  • “A good change of scenery, nice to learn about what else goes on in the department and to spend time with colleagues, especially those you may not mix with much usually.”
  • “Spotlight and the charities section makes you proud to work in CCSS”
  • “Interaction from the mix of services is great for getting to know colleagues who you may work with in the future”
  • “I feel it made me understand everyone’s role more and the impact we have.”
  • “Great way for mental & physical development. Good socialising with colleagues from different departments.”
  • “Think I have been to every one of the away days and in my personal opinion each year gets better”
  • “Well done and thanks to all involved – it is a big undertaking to tailor the event to suit all tastes – given the wide staff demographics – and I think it gets it right each year.”