Offsite or onsite training... Which is better?
With one eye on the budget, this article asks whether the increased cost of working offsite is justified by the expected better facilities.
When I am in the planning stage of training clients often ask if I have a preference for onsite (at the clients place of work) or offsite (most usually at a conference venue or hotel). Putting aside requirements like very large audiences,where of course a larger venue is necessary, or times when space is absolutely at a premium or even not available at the workplace, all being equal, which is better... Offsite or onsite?
The answer for me is clear, offsite wins every time. There are many advantages, and considering most of us have to consider a budget,and want value for money, let's run through these now.
First and foremost the venue by the very nature of being separate from work requires a conscious effort to get to it. And this means that delegates travel and arrive in a state of mind ready to attend training rather than go to work, and get interrupted by training. The separation from work also decreases the chance of delegates "nipping back" to their desks to check on what's happening there, and getting waylaid by some piece of work. The other benefit of not being at the usual workplace is that we are less likely to get other colleagues popping in with "really urgent" requests for help... Interestingly enough we get a lot more interruptions onsite than offsite which, unscientific though it is, suggests to me that if delegates can be found by colleagues, they will be. Interruptions and disappearing delegates is not just an annoyance, it is also chipping away at the quality of the work you are attempting to deliver.
Further, I have noticed delegates seem a little more free and ready to express themselves and their opinions when away from the workplace. If we want a dialogue, and we want to change opinions, this works better away from the office.
Let's also remember from a budget perspective that taking up what could be meeting space at work will slow down progress there, so lets factor that into which gives better results.
Cost conscious people of course have the concern of the extra catering costs associated with an external venue. The places I have noticed that are thriving now are those which offer massive flexibility on meals and coffees, so it doesn't have to be a three course sit down lunch, and in any case who says you have to provide lunch? Of course it's a "nice to have" element of the course, but by no means essential, especially if delegates don't have a canteen at their work. Be prepared for complaints though... I still remember a session I ran... Totally for free to the delegates, a two day content - rich communications course. One person objected to having to go to the cafe next door to buy her own coffee...
An external venue of course supplies all the furniture, facilities and equipment you will need. They also ought to be ready at the drop of a hat to make whatever changes you require, since (to put it bluntly) you are paying for it all. This is not always so easy in the workplace where sometimes politics get involved. The value of being able to say "yes I know I ordered a seats twenty open circle with coffees, I now want a two hundred theatre with lunch!" must be included in any comparison. You are paying for paper and projectors and pens and so on, and if you train only occasionally, this may be a financially better option too, because otherwise you need to buy "stuff" then keep it, which means carrying it about, some of it getting damaged, stolen, lost and so on...
Finally when the session both begins and finishes, it is ready and set for you. You don't need to shift furniture about to get in, nor is there any requirement to tidy it all up when you leave. You can finish your work and be able to leave quickly. This also has a good feeling for any tired and well worked delegates.
Premium venues charge premium prices, but there will always be places who want to make a little extra money by using under-utilised spaces. We once trained in a cry centre bar which never opened before 6. It was a great spot, really dramatic, once you got used to the smell of stale beer....!
Remember the hidden costs of training on site, and a direct comparison always, in my view, comes out on the side of the external venue.