Event Management

28 Tips For Planning A Corporate Retreat

Skift Take

Regardless of your budget, plan the best corporate retreat to find the perfect combination of fun, team building and work epiphanies.

Contrary to popular belief, corporate retreats are not just for team building and enhancing work relationships, they are also for improving morale, strategizing and creating a working environment that can give your team a boost. That being said, one of the most enjoyable aspects is the fun and games that often lend to new perspectives and evolving together, but finding the balance is important. These tips will help you plan the ideal corporate retreat where everyone works hard but no one feels like it!

  1. Know The Goal

Before starting the planning you need to understand the motivations behind the retreat. Perhaps the team is in need of a morale boost, needs to be more cohesive, ideas have gone stale or your brand needs some specific injection of knowledge or skill. Knowing the goal of the retreat is the first foundation of planning and can allow you to organise the perfect retreat with the goal in mind.

  1. Cater To Introverts

Everyone is different and you will undoubtedly have both introverts and extroverts on your team and while a retreat is exciting for the latter, the former can dread it. For an introvert, retreats are draining but you can do some things to ensure they are catered for, for example have silent games or get people to write answers down rather than rely on them speaking out. This way everyone will be more comfortable with the prospect of going.

  1. Check The Tech

Even the most laid back corporate retreats require some work which means you will need either reliable internet, projection facilities, conference calling or other technical capabilities so ensure that you check the venue and destination for their tech specifications before booking! Also check the phone signal strength for the area too. Unless you want everyone to be completely cut off from civilisation…

  1. Add Downtime

Work is important but so is scheduling in some unstructured free time for your attendees. Allow them to see the sights, shop or visit the local nightlife and it will pay off in the boardroom later. Particularly if you are staying together it can be a lot all at once so downtime allows people to step away and unwind in the same way they would when they leave the office but you will find it’s a great impromptu team building exercise too as many will stick together or form new friendships.

  1. Take Key Players

Decide on the attendee list and ensure that as well as the higher-ranking office members, you also invite the key social and political players that are the most influential too. Inviting these key attendees will help encourage a better turnout and increase the chances of more inclusive involvement when you are there.

  1. Create An Agenda

Creating an agenda is essential and communicating this to attendees before you travel is key to success as it not only allows them to pack accordingly but also mentally prepare as well. For corporate retreats you probably want to stick to an event agenda and be a bit looser, rather than have scheduled timings for everything. Corporate retreats are often less structured and more free flowing to enable to program to change and adapt when you get there, and get the most out of the time and focus more on the areas that need it.

  1. Prep Before You Leave

Come up with games that you can fire off at a moment’s notice to pick up the pace, research ice breakers and ensure you have done all your research beforehand. Find the best local areas to visit, travel ideas, fun excursions and any events that are taking place that you could explore before you go so that there are plenty of options available for the participants.

  1. Know The History of Company Retreats

What form and outcomes have happened as a result of previous corporate retreats? How regularly do they take place? What expectations does everyone have? What has happened recently within the company? Who will be attending this retreat?

  1. Give Homework

Ask your attendees to prep before the retreat, give some thought to an issue, bring along questions, ideas or things they would like to see changed. A bit of pre-planning can be useful and get the best out of the retreat.

  1. Hire A Skilled Facilitator

For the execution, hire a skilled facilitator that has expert knowledge and experience dealing with larger groups. Ensure the facilitator is well briefed and works with you beforehand to ensure they understand the background, issues and aims of the retreat. Having the right facilitator is probably the biggest single step you can take to getting the most from the retreat.

  1. Avoid The Cheesy

Cheesy games and activities will just make your attendees roll their eyes and while they will probably feel obliged to get involved they will partly switch off and not fully immerse themselves. Instead come up with something different, or new activities that they haven’t seen before, it’s okay to use classics but avoid anything too cheesy.

  1. Organise A Follow-Up

After the retreat have a follow up meeting or send an email with everything that was achieved, problems raised and where you are going to go from here so that everyone is on the same page. It is also a great way to have a record and use this at the next retreat to refresh and compare what you have done and progress.

  1. Don’t Rely On Performance

Don’t link a corporate retreat to performance targets and realise that they aren’t incentive trips – they are to accommodate and improve everyone and their relationships within the organization. That being said, competitions while on the retreat can be encouraged and create a sense of fun to get things done.

  1. Include Those Who Don’t Attend

A corporate retreat is for the whole team but often there are some that aren’t able to attend. Just because they can’t make it doesn’t automatically exclude them, you could teleconference with them while away or provide access to collaborative boards you are all working on so that they can contribute and get involved in some way.

  1. Leave Titles At The Door

It can be intimidating going away with your boss, especially if you are sharing accommodation and are with each other all the time, so ensure attendees leave their job title and seniority at the door when it comes to excursions and fun so that everyone can enjoy it and relax.

  1. Pick A Facilitating Venue

Try to opt for hotels or accommodation that have board or meeting rooms because although you won’t spend all your time in them you need a traditional working place to distinguish the fun of the retreat with the nitty gritty work. Sitting outside and working are fun but sometimes you need to sit down with ergonomic table and chairs to fully focus. Choose rooms that are spacious and have natural daylight and quirky features if possible though – not a cramped, white-walled, uninspiring environment.

  1. Device Disconnect

This is a controversial one but consider asking attendees to disconnect from phones or tablets during the short working phases so that they are completely present and to avoid distractions as this can foster a better working environment to get things done much more effectively.

How To Make Your Budget Work Harder

  1. Packages

Seek out corporate packages that include transfers, excursions, catering and facilities so that you don’t have to plan individually with separate providers and you could get better deals and discounts, particularly with larger groups. Some packages even provide staff or a facilitator for your retreat as well.  

  1. Negotiate

Don’t be afraid to ask for group discounts or negotiate with venues on prices when it comes to travel, accommodation or food because in larger groups you will be spending a lot of money while you are there between you. A little negotiation can go a long way and help you save where you didn’t expect to.

  1. Book Early

As with most travel plans, booking flights and hotels early will get you the best deals so planning far in advance can help you save on a lot, particularly if you are going in larger groups or using a popular location.

  1. Start Small

While everyone would love to visit a tropical island for their retreat, you don’t need to go big to make it successful, particularly if you have first started. Try somewhere local or just outside your local city for minimal costs but the same effect.

  1. Change The Frequency

If you are used to retreats every 6 months this could be a huge drain on resources if the budget isn’t up to it. Instead, opt for yearly or every other year to have a retreat and save some of the budget to do something special a bit less often. Consider if having a few days retreat with a longer gap between is better than a two-day gathering every year. The frequency can be important. You can still have an away day in between times.  

  1. Avoid Major Towns/Cities

Generally, the closer to a town you go, the more expensive things will be and therefore you should avoid them at all costs if you are trying to stick to a budget! Opting for venues that have a little travel from the airport can pay off for budget as well as finding hidden gems in the countryside or outskirts of town. Your best bet is to find local recommendations and you will get to experience things “off the beaten path” which adds to the team building experience. Be inspired by Wikipedia and go for an unconventional destination choice.

  1. Go Out Of Season

Some destinations have peak tourist seasons and therefore the price can skyrocket. While you may not be able to enjoy the peaks of summer or the traditional tourist locations, booking in the off season can save a lot of money and you normally get full use of facilities without having to share or queue, plus you can usually get decent package deals as well.

  1. Make It Virtual

Sometimes a corporate retreat is necessary but there just isn’t a budget available at all and while not ideal you could create a virtual retreat for your attendees. Schedule large blocks of time off, allow working from home or new locations, play ice breakers, take office excursions and do team building exercises, without actually travelling anywhere.

  1. Pick Somewhere Scenic

Choose a destination with a lot of free activities such as hiking, walking, boating or areas of natural beauty because they not only promote creativity and well-being but excursions or activities are minimal cost!

  1. Piggy Back Existing Events

Is the team planning on attending a tradeshow or conference this year already? Incorporate your retreat around an existing trip and tack on a day or two at your hotel, plan your itinerary and piggy back, using the event as part of your retreat activities!

  1. Rent A House/Hire A Cabin

Instead of paying for hotel rooms it can be more cost effective to hire a shared house, cabin or villa for a few days, particularly for larger groups. It’s extra team building as everyone is living in closer quarters and cooking for yourselves can be a bonding experience and saves a lot on catering or restaurant options for 3 meals per day.

Learn how to plan perfect corporate events every time: Advanced Corporate Event Planning Guide, featuring 100 ideas, checklists and tips to plan successful events

In Conclusion

A corporate retreat doesn’t have to drain the budget but it does have to be productive and also motivational for the attendees so don’t forget about the work aspect. That being said, these tips will help you to plan a killer corporate retreat that attendees will enjoy so much it won’t feel like hard work!