Some employees and board members are inspired at retreats. Some aren’t. Many retreats aren’t popular because they’re viewed as a waste of time and money — particularly, in a challenging marketplace. So, decide whether you need one and can afford it.

How do you make sure you stage a retreat that’s inspirational? You need more than a meaningful purpose. You need thoughtful planning and consensus.

If you do it right, your organization will enjoy positive outcomes. That might include a successful project launch, development of a strategic plan, improvement in employee motivations, solving turbulent morale issues, team-building, or initiating change with participants’ commitments for success.

Recommended planning tips:

1. Lay the foundation to define and achieve your objectives.

Start early – months in advance, if possible – to develop specific intentions for the welfare of your organization.

Decide on a trustworthy convener who will be objective in planning – someone who doesn’t engage in office politics or gossip, and is successful in project management.

A retreat convener acts as a liaison to enlist the input of a skilled facilitator – an outside participant – not a company employee. The convener must think like journalists who provide answers in their articles. You, too, must address retreat quandaries, such as the who, what, why, where, when and how.

Incidentally, a skilled facilitator must be charismatic and focused who will inspire good communication, especially if you value input.

2. Minimize the likelihood of negative surprises.   

Before announcing the retreat to the entire organization, the convener develops a list of a cross-section of retreat participants to elicit their ideas and opinions. The convener and facilitator develop a list of questions for the interviews.

Next, the facilitator schedules appointments with participants or vice versa. Often, the answers must be treated with confidentiality. So, mutual trust is important.

3. Develop your agenda.

Using the information obtained from the interviews, the retreat objectives are evaluated and fine-tuned, but not structured too tightly in order to allow for flexibility and spontaneity.

Participants should know the goals in advance – whether they’ll be debating ideas, branching into smaller discussion groups or brainstorming. But don’t mislead employees into thinking they’ll be making important decisions only to be over-ruled later.

Use the 80/20 rule: 80 percent work and 20 percent fun. You don’t want participants to resent being away from their homes and families. You’ll also benefit if participants have time to visit and get to know each other on a memorable occasion.

4. Use due diligence in the retreat’s logistics.

You’ll want a friendly but not decadent environment at least an hour away. It should be functional. Require cell phones to be turned off.

Try to choose a venue with accessible activities for the participants’ free time so participants can unwind or choose to chat with others. The food should be tasty. But don’t make it pizza.

(If you’re planning a mega event, see the  25 emergency preparedness tips.)

5. Announce your retreat and the reasons for it.

Because many employees fear change, be careful to use the right tone and enough empathy in your verbiage to alleviate such fears.

6.  Ensure results.

Document everything. Hold a post-retreat evaluation as a recap. Focusing on the retreat’s objectives, review your progress and determine the next steps.

From the Coach’s Corner, here are related articles on planning:

“If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the precipitate.”

-Henry J. Tillman


Author Terry Corbell has written innumerable online business-enhancement articles, and is a business-performance consultant and profit professional. Click here to see his management services. For a complimentary chat about your business situation or to schedule him as a speaker, consultant or author, please contact Terry.