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7 Keys to Success for a Great Offsite Retreat Meeting for your Team

Posted on June 8, 2022 at 2:40 PM

After a COVID hiatus, in-person retreat meetings are back with organizations in a big way for a few reasons. 

– First, after a two year absence, there is pent up demand for retreat meetings, which many organizations had on an annual or recurring basis.

– There has been a lot of turnover in team members, so there is a need for team building.

– The challenges in the world (e.g., COVID, inflation, war in Europe, supply chains, staff shortages, etc.) means organizations need to regroup to update or rethink their strategies.



If you are putting together an offsite retreat for your team, here are 7 keys to success.



1 - Clarify Meeting Goals - Retreat meetings can serve several purposes, ranging from team-building to strategy development. It is important to set a clear and reasonable goal for what your offsite retreat meeting will produce. If your goal is strategy development, for example, producing a 50 page strategic planning document by committee is probably not a reasonable goal in a one or two day retreat. Perhaps coming up with a prioritized list of a handful of strategic initiatives for the organization is a more reasonable goal. 


 

2 - Set Logistics Early - Setting the dates and venue as early as possible for your retreat is key. With added demand and staff shortages this year, meeting venues that are available can be harder to find than before. A long lead time will also be key to ensure that you block out the times on the calendars of the attendees.



3 - Choreograph the Meeting - The attendees of an offsite are often managers who are used to being the leader of their own teams and organizing a lot of their own workdays. When you have a bunch of independent leaders working as a team, it is important to have structure around the “who does what, when, and where” in the meeting. Where do you need to mix in fun and higher energy activities to break up more tedious activities? How do you ensure everyone participates? One key to creating a great agenda is to look at it from the perspective of the meeting attendees, not just from the perspective of the meeting organizer. 



4 - Have Ground Rules - The most valuable, and scarce, resource in offsite retreat meetings is time. Retreat meetings are often only a day or few because the attendees cannot be away from their regular responsibilities for long. In addition to the short time, the attendees may not be used to working so closely with each other. Having effective ground rules can be a way to shorten the team forming/storming/norming phase to ensure the time together is efficient. The best ground rules are ones that the team comes up with themselves and are also fun and easy to enforce.



5 - Get Help - Offsite retreat meetings can be big investments of time for the attendees and expenses for the organization. That means the stakes are high for the meeting organizers. Since meeting organizers probably don’t organize meetings full time, it can make sense to bring in expert help from elsewhere to make sure the meeting is a success. Hiring an external facilitator can be a wise investment. They will have learned how to avoid common retreat meeting derailers. Having an independent newcomer in a facilitator role can also break the mold of typical day-to-day meetings of the organization and get the meeting attendees in a new attitude.



6 - Build Skills - Team-building is often a goal for offsite retreats. Smart meeting organizers often insert a training module into a retreat as an activity that builds skills while also providing team-building. Find a common individual skill that all the team members could benefit from learning and make it a module. Leadership, communication, and problem-solving skills are common training components to add to a retreat.  


7 - Share Results - The true measure of success for a retreat is the output from the meeting. Having a before versus after survey of attendees´s assessment about topics ​can be a useful way to show attendees how the meeting had an impact. Creating a high level document of the output from the meeting that can be shared with others in the organization can be a clear way to coalesce around an output too.



When managed well, offsite retreats can be a powerful way to build teamwork and direction for an organization. When done poorly, they can be viewed by senior management as big time wasters that reflect poorly on the retreat organizers. Following these 7 rules can make sure your offsite retreat goes well and not off the rails.


Categories: Meeting Effectiveness, Strategic Planning, Executive Assistant Tips