How we created a memorable off-site experience for a remote-first team.

This happened just a few weeks ago:

There's still room in this picture for you.

We organized the first-ever Amplemarket team off-site, and it was a total success! Not only because we had a blast together, but we also learned a great deal through the whole preparation and execution process of this event, which was a precious experience.

I’d love to share with you the journey and learnings from preparing an international off-site experience for a remote-first team.

As a remote team, we are scattered around the globe in 7 different countries. Some of us work from home, others from our office in Lisbon, others from their van, and a few from stylish cafés.

At Amplemarket, we are building a unique team that rows together towards the same goal regardless of their location. At our core, we are here to disrupt the industry and facilitate the means to create connections, so it just made sense that we practiced what we preached.

That is why we wanted to take a moment to gather together to spark and strengthen the relationship between us.

And that is precisely what we did.

Since the last investment round announcement earlier this year, our growth has been exponential. We have tripled our team's size and, are still hiring!

We are growing at a rampant speed, and we need to set the ground for what's to come. We wanted to break through the camera barrier, meet the team outside of our slack channels and video calls, and offer an opportunity to connect beyond the screen.

And how did it go? It was sensational! But undoubtedly not an easy one.

Kevin and Molly staring at some pasteis de nata.

Behind the scenes: getting Amplemarket's first off-site ready.

We first managed to get some tips & tricks from our fellow growing companies. Learning from others' experiences is always a good starting point. But soon after we had gathered other's knowledge, our first questions started to arise:

Where will it happen?

We didn't have to search too far away. It felt just natural and organic to bring everyone, for the first time to the roots of where everything started, Lisboa. Lisbon is the city where our founders joined to give their lives a 360 shift.

Traveling the team.

"Great, Lisbon it is!"- we thought - "Now, how do you get people to the off-site location?"

We used Travelperk, a platform that allows employees to book their own travel arrangements autonomously. We wrote down a step-by-step guide on how to book a flight with Travelperk and shared it on our Notion page. We also shared Q&A’s with the team to make sure that all questions were being answered. It was simple and efficient. People Ops shared the news in our Amplemarket communication channels and was available for any help the team required.

Using a tool that promoted a decentralized approach created an effortless and positive experience for the team. At the same time, it relieved the People Ops team from a significant amount of admin work, helping us focus on other tasks that would bring more value to the off-site experience.

Once the traveling was sorted, the next step was:

Finding accommodation.

Location, location, location... That was our focus. Our goal was to spend as much time as possible together and make the most out of it. That is why avoiding lengthy commutes or changing locations several times was a must in our checklist.

Fortunately, Lisbon comes in quite handy for this requirement. We were able to stay in a very centric hotel and work in co-working spaces that were just a few minutes away. Staying in the city allowed us to move quite easily and reasonably fast, making the changes between activities much smoother.

We worked in Heden, a group of co-working spaces centered around the principle of sustainability and accessibility. The spaces were open, full of light, and with stunning views. It was undoubtedly the perfect environment to host our activities.

And speaking of activities, the next step was:

Beatriz interviewing our future team members.

The Agenda.

We thought about splitting the schedule into two main focus areas.

Time together

We dedicated the mornings from Monday to Friday to have an array of activities that would be fun, ingenious, challenging, and inspiring.

Some of the activities included:

  • Icebreakers and team-building exercises
  • Workshops
  • City tour
  • Guest talk
  • Ideathons

The founders also took the opportunity to share the Amplemarket's story, vision, and mission. We opened up the floor for those forgotten questions we sometimes leave behind and we encouraged everyone to speak up their minds and exchange ideas.

But that was not all. We knew that we wanted this trip to be an immersive experience. That's why we also allocated time to get to know each other outside of the work environment. We enjoyed dinners together, a cocktail party on a rooftop, and even a boat trip along the river with beautiful views of the city of Lisbon.

But we know that sometimes these activities are not everyone's cup of tea. Being a week away from home, constantly surrounded by a big group of people, can, very fairly, feel overwhelming. Especially considering we are a remote-first team. We knew from the start that people needed to be able to choose when and for how long they were going to be engaging with other employees, exploring the city, or even spending time alone to charge batteries!

Time to work

On the other hand, we decided not to stop the clock. We wanted to be there for our customers to continue supporting them and shipping exciting features, as well as onboarding new ones!

That is why we allocated the afternoons for our sales motions to continue operating. Teams would gather together and jump into their regular day-to-day work, only that this time they would be working alongside their peers.

Michael, Beau, and someone's hands discussing Einstein's relativity theory.

What did we take away from this?

Take away #1: Over-communicate and avoid assumptions. What may be obvious to some may not be to others, which is totally normal. Ensure that the details are coming across no matter how small, and make sure all expectations are aligned.

Take away #2: Plan way ahead of time. A week-long off-site demands excellent logistics and thus a complete planning schedule that will require months of preparation. Make sure that you communicate the event with enough time in advance, allowing the rest of the team to prepare their own schedules.

Take away #3: It will be 100% off-site focused next time around. If the main goal is to get people together and improve engagement, we should focus on having fun and tightening those bonds.

Take away #4: Decentralize the efforts and bring other brains to the game. An off-site can be hard to pull off. However, it's not about working harder but about working smarter. Involving the team and bringing different skills can be a considerable advantage and accelerate the process of preparing for the event. Think about an off-site as a product launch. We are a product-led company, why would anything we do not follow the same principles?.

5 tips to plan a great team off-site

Create moments to connect

Our job role doesn't change during these events. But the way we perceive each other and the relationship we create with our teammates are susceptible to these experiences. Prioritize engaging and allow the people to gather in smaller groups to have the chance to meet each other. Remember to be inclusive and to create a safe space for everyone.

Get ideas from outside of your People Ops team.

Don't be afraid to involve other teams. It can be a great opportunity to know what your employees might want or need. You can benefit from picking their brains to prepare a tailormade experience for your company.

Choose the right place

Remember location, location, location...
Every second you can spend with your team counts, so make sure you choose the right place to stay and be together. An environment that promotes creating positive and enjoyable experiences allowing for both mingling and disconnecting.

Create an inclusive agenda

There are a lot of different people at Amplemarket, and it's essential to know your team, what they like and what they need. This also means allowing space for a remote experience. We can't dismiss this choice as a remote-first team, so preparing in advance for this option will positively impact your team.

Let life happen

Don't overschedule the event and let life happen. Things will go south, but that's ok. You can allow some time for unforeseen circumstances that would either get used to catering to those or allow spontaneous interactions with your team. You can only be as prepared as you can, and once you are there, you should enjoy it as well.

It’s just the beginning…

It was an amazing experience, a great success and we certainly learned a lot! I am grateful to my team and everyone who made it possible. We’re already looking forward to planning our next off-site!
In the meantime, if you want to be a part of the Amplemarket team, check out our careers page — we’re always on the lookout for talented people to come on board.

To be continued…

Bárbara Fonseca

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