Designing a successful homesite: Follow the rule of 3s

Photo by Scott Webb on Unsplash

A few months ago, I organized my team’s first fully virtual “homesite” — an offsite held remotely from home.

We used the same format that we had for past in-person meetings. We set objectives, generated powerful discussion questions, and spun up a collaborative Google Doc. We booked the better part of a day on our calendars and set up a nice, long Zoom.

And while it seemed like everything was set up for success, discussion had slowed to a crawl by the second hour of the offsite. There wasn’t tension or angst — we were just exhausted from multiple, uninterrupted hours on Zoom.

Trying to do a “lift and shift” with our former in-person processes didn’t work. In fact, we left the session early with many important tasks undone. Over the next few months, I tried a number of different strategies and designs for homesites. After a series of experiments, I’ve identified a clear strategy for designing virtual homesites.

It’s called the “rule of 3.”

3 sessions, 30-minutes each, with at least 1 session where people are in groups no larger than 3.

Each day should have only 1 clear objective with only 90 total minutes of programming — and you can add additional days using the “rule of 3” format as needed.

Here’s an example:

Let’s say you have 2 objectives for your offsite:

  • Build clarity around the mission and vision of the team
  • Increase skill redundancy by having team members cross train each other

The agenda would look like this:

A few other important tips to try:

  • When possible let people turn off their cameras
  • Play music during breaks or working sessions
  • Over breaks offer optional “move around” options like yoga stretches or cardio moves
  • Zoom breakout rooms work very well for splitting people into smaller groups as sessions change

Following the “rule of 3” when designing your virtual homesite will reduce fatigue, generate good discussion, and help you achieve your goals!

Organizational Development Nerd, Edcamp Co-Founder, & Learning Scientist