It is important for an organization to take some time to gather its collective thoughts. A retreat is one way to accomplish this task. Retreats can provide groups with the opportunity to work together, plan together, and have fun together. Bonding is the key word. Whether the organization has problems to solve or needs an opportunity for new members to get to know one another, a retreat may be the answer! A little time and some prior planning is all that’s needed.
To plan a successful retreat, first determine what the focus will be and motivate members to attend and contribute. Identify a clear purpose, goals, and objectives for the retreat. Above all else, a retreat should be a positive experience where the participants will share, laugh, learn, and bond.
A retreat should provide members with the opportunity to get to know each other better, improve relations, solve problems, set goals, and/or collaborate. Do this by planning activities to meet the goals that have been set. It is a good idea to make the activities fun and entertaining. Some suggestions include having games, icebreakers, songs, guest speakers, and discussions. Then, relate the activities to the goals. Finally, end the retreat with an activity that ties it all together. Most importantly, through it all, have fun!
Follow these tips and you’ll be on the road to a successful retreat:
- Keep things flowing and try to keep everyone interested. If you sense boredom, have a game or an icebreaker ready to go.
- Allow members to relax and enjoy themselves. All work and no play can lead to a lousy retreat!
- If the activities allow, give out prizes and rewards to members during the retreat.
- It is important to choose a time and place that is convenient for as many people as possible. You want them to want to come, so make it easy for them to be there. Do not pick a site too far away from campus (although off-campus is often a good idea to get people away). In addition, try to plan retreats for weekends or afternoons/evenings when no other big events are scheduled.
- Make sure the length of the retreat fits the activities that are planned. It is better to have a retreat be too short than too long. Try to accomplish all your goals without boring the participants. Remember, breaks (with food and/or games) are important!
- Food is a plus. Often times it is smart to plan a retreat around a meal in order to motivate people to attend.
When planning a retreat always be flexible with the schedule. Get as much done as possible, but most importantly make it an enjoyable and worthwhile experience. At the end of the retreat, the group should feel as though they’ve accomplished something, and had a good time doing it.
RETREAT PLANNING CALENDAR
Two Months Prior:
- Determine date and location
- Determine the purpose
- Reserve a site
- Contact outside resources (speakers, facilitators, etc.)
- Appoint members to help
One Month Prior:
- Determine Format
- Send letters to members regarding various costs, travel, what to bring, purpose of the retreat, etc.
- Reserve Equipment
Two Weeks Prior:
- Make arrangements for meals/food breaks
- Copy maps, handouts, etc.
- Confirm site arrangement
- Make checklist of who is bringing what
One Week Prior:
- Gather Equipment and Visual Aids
- Manage last minute problems
During the Retreat:
- Relax and participate
After the Retreat:
- Evaluate and put information together to help the next retreat planner
- Send thank you notes & follow up activities
- Implement action plans from retreat