Event planners asked us: How to facilitate a strategy day? Let’s take a moment to discuss how to do strategic planning right.

Keep in mind that this type of program is a focused offsite meeting where executives and top leaders come together to discuss the organization’s strategic direction. As part of knowing how to facilitate a strategy day, we have to recognize that when done well, it provides critical time for big-picture thinking away from daily distractions. But ensuring an effective strategy day requires careful planning and skilled facilitation. Here are some tips for facilitating a productive strategic session:

Set the Objectives in Advance

Before the meeting, clearly define the objectives and desired outcomes. Is the goal to develop a new 3-year strategic plan? Analyze the competitive landscape? Determine new growth areas? Getting alignment upfront when plotting how to facilitate a strategy day allows you to design an agenda and activities geared towards those objectives.

Provide Context and Data

Have background materials prepared that capture the current state of the business, market trends, challenges, and opportunities. This data-driven context better informs the strategic conversations.

Structure the Discussions

Build an agenda that logically works through the major strategic topics and questions. Start with a broad discussion to get initial thoughts and perspectives. Then as you plot how to facilitate a strategy day progressively guide the group through more targeted analyses and debates.

Use a Variety of Formats

Don’t just rely on open discussions. Incorporate individual reflection exercises, smaller breakout sessions, creative ideation activities, priority-ranking votes, and other engaging formats. Doing so maintains energy and allows for different interaction modes.

Manage the Group Dynamics

As the facilitator, your role is to keep the discussions focused and productive. Prevent individual agendas from hijacking the conversation. Rein in rambling tangents. Draw out quieter participants. Push for clarity on vague abstractions. Resolve interpersonal tensions if they arise.

Capture the Outputs

Ensure there is a documentation process to effectively record the insights, decisions, action items, and deliverables from the day’s activities. It makes the time investment concrete and actionable.

Have a Plan for Follow-Up

The strategy day itself is just one step in an ongoing strategic management process. Outline how the outputs will be built upon, who needs to be involved, what the next milestones are, and how to maintain momentum on execution post-event.

With careful planning and professional facilitation, you can learn how to facilitate a strategy day and design a planning session that provides immense value by aligning leaders around the future direction. The long-term impact makes the upfront investment worthwhile.