How to Have an Effective – and Fun – Business Retreat

Business Retreats Barrister Executive Suites

We’ve all been to them – poorly planned or executed business retreats that end up hurting morale, confusing the team or management, or – worst of all – creating a perception that management is out-of-touch with team members.  Fear that a business retreat isn’t productive, creates new problems, or highlights the employees/management divide leads many CEOs, business owners, and VPs to avoid them all together.

That’s a poor conclusion.  Business retreats are important events.  They can be positive turning points for individuals, departments, and the company as a whole.  When done correctly, they can encourage productivity, increase morale, and create strong bonds among all company employees.

At their best, business retreats seek to find a balance between two goals.  Encouraging people to work harder, and encouraging people to relax and have some fun on the company dime.

Here are some tips:

There’s Not Only ONE Way

Many individuals who plan business retreats fail to understand some pedagogical basics, namely there are different ways you should consider presenting information (particularly new information) and there are different ways people learn and process information.  Take some time to learn about learning styles, multiple intelligence theory, and differentiated instruction.  You don’t need to create 12 different types of business retreats, but you should be mindful how to maximize everyone’s ability to get something out it

You Don’t Need to Break Your Budget

You don’t need to spend an overwhelming amount on your retreat, and it’s okay to think small if you’re planning your first one (or don’t hold retreats often).  Instead of flying everyone to a far-away vacation destination, consider an option that is local, but still a place where people can both learn AND have some kind of fun.  Also be mindful about traveling logistics, and try and find a venue that is easy to get to. Barrister Suites has 30 locations around Southern California with meeting rooms on demand and an online booking system. Many of our locations are close to restaurants and cultural attractions, as well.

More Engagement, Less Speaking

Talking at people more than with people quickly produces ineffective retreats, so don’t schedule retreats that are filled with lectures, presentations, or speeches.  Corporate retreats should be working sessions and, if you create your retreat with that in mind, you’ll likely see your retreat satisfaction rate increase.  Replace the typical long-lecture-followed-by-Q&A approach with videos of all of the information you want to convey.  Require the team to watch them prior to the retreat, so that the retreat will be a time to discuss the content, ask questions, and engage in creative brainstorming.  One exception:  there are times when information is confidential and you don’t want it to be circulated.  This information should be presently directly at the retreat itself.

Give People Options and Breaks

It’s unlikely that your team is comprised entirely of extroverts.  While it’s important to encourage engagement and bonding, you also should provide ample time for unstructured free time.  Failure to do so can result in some people feeling drained and checking out midway through the retreat.  Others simply need time to process or want the ability to choose which information is most applicable to their role.  Be sure to include intentional down times and be crystal-clear on which activities are mandatory and which are optional. When using Barrister Executive Suites, you’ll have a number of office locations that provide places for people to wind down, ponder, and recharge!

Have Fun, But Not Too Much Fun

The best business retreats make sure that people not only learn and engage in work activities, but also include time to have some fun bonding moments with their co-workers.  That said, there are still professional boundaries that must remain in place.  Be sure you don’t encourage behaviors that could have legal, professional, or personal ramifications.  Avoid strip clubs/male revues, excessive drinking, trash talking, and lewd behavior in public.  Have LOTS of fun, but always remember it’s still a BUSINESS retreat, not a bachelor/bachelorette party!

Marketing Your Retreat

We’ve already mentioned how you can consider providing videos to your staff to review before the retreat.  While that’s an important step, it shouldn’t be the only indication of a forthcoming business retreat. Encourage planners to get creative and find some fun and creative ways to tell people about the retreat in the weeks prior to it.   Consider giving your retreat a theme and use that theme as inspiration for how you can creatively market the retreat with your team.