Company retreats are a great way to build stronger communities among employees. With a new focus on work/life balance and wellness, retreats are a great platform to uncover hidden talents and connect beyond the screen. Company retreats are also proven to foster team bonding and build a sense of unity across various departments. Here are six elements to consider when planning your next (or first) company retreat.
Survey your group to get their buy-in. When attendees feel like they are part of the planning, they are more apt to be excited and involved. If this seems a little daunting, you can limit it to three or four destinations. You may be surprised at the locations your attendees suggest. Always keep a list of destinations to reference for future events. And don’t forget to look at those second-tier destinations. They offer a more economical option and often have the best off-the-beaten-path venues.
Finding a non-corporate, unique venue will allow for memorable experiences and an environment that facilitates learning. A Marriott in Philadelphia could be a Marriott anywhere in the world. Give them a retreat to remember with a more relaxed environment to grow and make those connections. If your agenda includes breakout sessions and your event takes place during pleasant weather, plan to secure outdoor space for those smaller breakouts. I’ve used cabanas at the pool, and even small grassy areas if the venue has a campus layout. Getting out of the main general session room and breathing fresh air will stimulate creativity. Your attendees will be more relaxed and eager to participate.
Agenda & Room Set-Up
Meet early on with stakeholders to determine goals and objectives for the retreat. Build on this groundwork by making sure your room set up for each session is conducive to learning that specific material. For example, a DISC assessment session should be set up with lots of room to move and gather into groups—perhaps a large square around the perimeter of the room.
Be sure you meet with the chef or your point person at the venue ahead of time to discuss menus, budget, dietary restrictions, and any requirements on food labeling. Meeting ahead of time will make for a smoother day of experience by getting everyone on the same page. Also, make sure there will be someone on hand during the event in case there are any hiccups with allergens present or a missing accommodation for an attendee.
Any company retreat should include at least one activity session. Surprise your attendees with a unique team-building activity. Think of a culinary class where the group breaks out (appetizer, salad, main, side, dessert) to prepare a course. Then everyone can dine together and enjoy the fruits of their labor.
Other great ideas for team building are a scavenger hunt and ziplining. With a scavenger hunt, your attendees will have an opportunity to explore the destination and perhaps learn a bit of local history and culture. It could include stops at local shops where they might sample a well-known dessert or drink. Ziplining is always a great option for active groups as it allows the team to naturally bond and celebrate little victories. You’ll always have someone who has ziplined before, and someone who was scared to death. Activities create memorable experiences that live on after the event.
Downtime relates to your agenda as well. Try not to schedule meetings daily from 8 am until 6 pm, instead consider starting a bit later — maybe around 10 am. This allows attendees to get in their workout and attend to client work so that taking time for the retreat doesn’t seem like a hardship or have as much of a negative impact on their regular workload.
Also, be sure to take breaks throughout the day. Finishing around 4 pm allows a few hours of personal/work time before dinner. Your attendees will thank you, feel refreshed, and likely be more interactive and participatory.
About Andrea Cannistraci
Andrea is the President & Founder of andgreat—a marketing, branding, and events firm that specializes in helping businesses design unique and unforgettable experiential marketing programs. Andrea has over 18 years experience in multiple functions of marketing. She is a member of MPI, a member and past officer of the Redondo Beach Elks Lodge #1378, and a member of the Leadership Hermosa Beach Class of 2017. She holds a Bachelors degree from Duquesne University in Pittsburgh and a Masters from the University of Alabama.