Offsite corporate retreats are great for boosting morale, encouraging team cohesion as well as creating excitement.  They provide an opportunity for key people within the organization to analyze, explore, discuss, learn, improve, and strategize while having a bit of fun.  Here are ten tips to ensure that your next corporate retreat is productive and engaging:

  1. Clarify the Goal
    Before setting up any plans for your corporate retreat, identify what’s motivating it. Different goals may require different venues, activities, etc.  Some goals that might be applicable could be: rebuilding morale, team building, energizing after a stressful year, leadership development, innovation, etc.)
  1. Review Past History
    If you’re fortunate enough to have held previous corporate retreats, especially those with the same goal take a look at the details of the past history. What destinations were most favored and why?  Were there specific format that worked or some that did not?  Gather as much information as you can including your budget.
  1. Balance Everything
    As you begin the planning stages, whether in-house or using an outsourced meeting planner, consider various factors that might not have been part of the planning process previously. For example:

    • How much time is spent in dialogue with participants before the event to discover what would be most helpful?
    • How much time during the event will be spent speaking to vs. in conversations with attendees?
    • Are there activities for introverts as well as extroverts? (For example, extroverts may love mixers, where introverts may dread networking.  However, extroverts may cringe at using technology, where introverts may light up with the idea.)
    • Is there a balance between meeting time versus downtime? How much of downtime will be free time vs. scheduled activities?
    • How many of the corporate retreat will be mandatory and how much will be optional? (For example, meetings and a river boat cruise may be mandatory, but a sightseeing trip in the city may be optional.)
  1. Assign Homework to Attendees
    Coming prepared for the corporate retreat can be extremely helpful for the event to be a success. For example, if the goal of the retreat is leadership development it may be beneficial to have surveys conducted so that leaders understand strengths and weaknesses.  Alternately, to build stronger teams and cohesion among each other gathering a list of ideas of how team A could work better with team B may be more effective.
  1. Focus on Rapport and Trust Building
    One of the surefire ways to limit open dialogue is to use name badges with titles. Instead, encourage rapport building by getting everyone, including leaders, to model collaborative behavior.  Everyone should be encouraged to be themselves, rather than model the behavior their role/title expects of them.  Some other ways to build and strengthen trust and rapport:

    • Encourage genuine compliments (and often)
    • Identify positive qualities
    • Show genuine interest
    • Be friendly
    • Balance listening with talking (and vice versa)
    • Share experiences
    • Have empathy
    • Find common ground
  1. Encourage Networking and Camaraderie
    Some voices are heard more often than others. Retreats bring more diversity into conversations to help teams work better together and foster a better working environment.  Seek out ways to get participants out of their comfortable niches by breaking into smaller groups.  Pair extroverts with introverts.Corporate retreats are also a fantastic way to get know people on a more personal level.  Look for activities that can get attendees to network with each other so that they can have a better appreciation for each other and make deeper, more meaningful connections with each other.
  1. Challenge the Current Mindset
    Getting comfortable with the status quo or believing that there’s no hope for change can be tragic in business. This is why challenging the current mindset can be a huge advantage during a corporate retreat.  Consider whether you want to challenge the status quo or just want people to think differently.Here are a couple of ideas:

    • Survival in 24 hours. Break up into smaller groups and ask participants if they could put the organization out of business in 24 hours, how would they do it?1  Once they come up with the answers, now have them come up with the solutions as to how they would survive if that really were the case.
    • Nightmares: Separate into smaller groups and ask participants to write down their worst nightmares or stresses as it relates to their department or the industry as a whole on notecards.  (Set ground rules.  Don’t give specific names.  Minimize negativity so that it’s more fact vs. complaints.)  Gather up the cards can solve these worst-case scenarios.
  1. Identify Problems and Collectively Find Solutions
    Problems can be tricky, solutions can be hard – especially when they come from only one or two perspectives. Sometimes problems can stem from other sources which can be stopped before they start.  Other times they need a new perspective with fresh insight and a creative solution.  This is where corporate retreats can truly excel.  By bringing a group together with a vested interest with a set of strategic goals, identifying problems and finding solutions can be easier together.
  1. Training and Business Development
    Whether it’s leadership development, new hires you’re onboarding, providing sales education to strengthen your sales force competency, or training on a product launch corporate retreats can mix learning with fun.
  1. Setting Goals
    Corporate retreats aren’t the same as incentive programs where a specific KPI or performance goal is focused on metrics related to revenue or business growth metrics. Rather the biggest value of corporate retreats is in building relationships and strengthening the connections of the people that drive the organization.  As you consider goals for your corporate retreat, consider goals such as:

    • Improved morale (e.g. reduction in employee turn-over, increase in employee retention rates)
    • Improved job satisfaction (e.g. fewer sick days used, higher customer satisfaction scores, etc.)

Offsite corporate retreats are an opportunity for leaders to connect with each other to discuss, engage and strategize while having a bit of fun in the process.  Keeping in mind what the goals are for each retreat, as well as circling back with those who didn’t attend are the key to having the desired impact.

Planning an offsite corporate retreat or meeting?  Contact Gavel International to learn more about our outsourced meeting and corporate retreat programs. 




Jim Bozzelli