Planning a Corporate Retreat

by Kristen-Leigh Sheft

Planning an event can be stressful. Planning a multi-day event is even tougher, especially a corporate retreat.

Typically, when employees hear the words "corporate retreat" they feel anxious about being locked away with their co-workers for an extended period of time.
But, these occassions do not have to be filled with awkward icebreakers and uncomfortable bonding activities.  In fact, they can be quite fun, informative, and invigorating.

On February 24th and 25th, LEGACY celebrated its first corporate retreat at the Gaylord Opryland Resort in Nashville.  The five team members had an amazing time sharing stories, laughing and getting to know one another.  The retreat was short and sweet and included some of our favorite things like a champagne tasting, catering in one of the beautiful suites, games, goal setting, meaningful discussions and, of course, fun prizes.

As an event planning company, we wanted to share some of our favorite tips on how to make corporate retreats more memorable and enjoyable for all involved.  

Some key items to remember:

1. Have your employees fill out a questionnaire with their favorite things and topics you can elaborate on later
Find out what your employees like. What do they like to eat, drink, and do in their off time? What are some of their proudest moments?  These questions will help you get to know others on a more meaningful level and add some fun discussion points.

2. Feed your guests
This may seem trivial, but food really does help brighten guests’ spirits. No one said you had to roll out a five-course meal complete with filet mignon and hollandaise sauce, but you should put forth some effort.  If you’re working on a limited budget, try pairing fresh vegetables, crackers, and dip with homemade baked goods for guests to snack on. This illustrates to staff members that the event was not an afterthought and you did, in fact, invest time in the preparation process. Of course, catering is ideal for larger functions, particularly ones that last several days. I read that workplace productivity and morale increase after food intake, so it really is in everyone’s best interest to eat on the retreat!

3. Create a fun environment
If individuals are going to spend time away from friends and family to invest in the organization, make the event as enjoyable as possible. Remember that balloons and party supplies do not necessarily equate to fun. Activities, meetings, dinners, and team events should always reflect the company culture. Again, you do not have to spend exorbitant amounts of money creating a fun, welcoming environment. Toss around ideas with your co-workers before the retreat to find out what interests them. If they feel connected throughout this process, chances are they will become more invested in the actual retreat.   

4. Make the event worthwhile and meaningful
This goes hand in hand with point # 3. The last thing guests want to do is waste their time on another corporate retreat. You don’t want to make them toss around a ball and memorize their co-workers' favorite colors. You’ll be met with countless eye rolls and sighs. Instead, invite guests to participate in a unique experience where all retreat guests learn from each other. If you sit around and talk about new HR policies or harp on information staff members already know, the retreat probably will be meaningless. Welcome guest speakers to share interesting experiences and advice, encourage industry experts to impart their knowledge on others, and extend guidance to everyone at the retreat. Individuals respond well to cool learning opportunities, so take advantage of that.

5. Stay Organized
Imagine rolling into a client meeting completely unprepared for a huge presentation. No PowerPoint. No visuals. No handouts. Not even a pen. Your boss stares at you in disbelief and everyone awkwardly exchanges glances across the table. Within that moment, you feel sick to your stomach. If the thought of disappointing others and being disorganized absolutely terrifies you in a work setting, it should also spark similar feelings when planning a retreat.  Make sure you gather any necessary materials for the event. Confirm the venue. Check on food. Send out reminder e-mails. Follow-up with guests. Do your homework, and the rest is smooth sailing.
6. Encourage others to open up
The last tip is arguably the hardest to achieve but far and away the most rewarding.  It can be extremely uncomfortable for individuals to share personal stories, career goals, and past experiences with others, particularly those they are not well acquainted with. If your leadership initiates these conversations by opening up first, people will follow suit.
For more information on how LEGACY Consulting, PR & Events can help you plan your next corporate retreat, contact us at or call 615-669-6058.




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