Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Takeaways from a First Time Company Retreat

If you are considering hosting a Company Retreat, the below article I wrote for a client's blog, may be of interest. Bringing your team together in a relaxed, casual atmosphere allows them to bond while continuing business conversations. If designed correctly, its a win-win and you'll see a stronger team post event. 

On November 16, 2017 Sonoma, California was greeted with 37 virtual CFOs, and accountants from all over the USA. They flew in from places like Casselberry, Florida and Fort Wayne, Indiana to spend four nights at the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn with their fellow colleagues—whom they never met.   Over the course of the Retreat, which broke all the rules of typical events, the group bonded and became friends over DISC assessment sessions, group dinners, cooking class, and 2am swimming sessions. (Yes, plural.)

Designed by a seasoned experiential marketer, the agenda facilitated lots of learning in different environments. For example, the group spent time in compelling and engaging interactive main sessions, and then broke away to have casual smaller group conversations at the pool. They enjoyed old-fashioned ice cream floats during breaks, and then continued the conversations over small group dinners nightly, and capped off the retreat with a day of activities such as go kart racing, historic walking tours, cooking class, and a biking winery tour. The farewell group dinner was held in a wine cave—a first-time unique and memorable experience for most.

For a team that is 100% distributed, coming together and meeting colleagues for the first time in person vs over a video conference call was eye opening. Apparently, a few team members that came off as “shy” via video, really weren’t so timid in person.

When the group was asked to share memorable experience from the Retreat, overwhelmingly they responded that simply meeting colleagues in person was the coolest experience.  Someone shares they ate wine grapes for the first time. Now there’s an unforgettable experience! Others really enjoyed the day of activities and seeing the local area for the first time.

Having face-to-face time with the CEO and COO was also an important experience for some team members.

The company utilizes several innovative technology platforms to communicate. Many people noted that they were surprised how willing people were to enjoy the pool, as well as, have drinks after dinner.  Perhaps that speaks to how comfortable the team is with each other and how effective the technology platforms have been.

At the end of the day, everyone (hopefully) realized that they work for an amazing company that really cares for their employees. It was a truly rewarding experience to meet and mingle with everyone and get to know them even more.

It’s now nearly four weeks later and the group is still talking about the Retreat and are looking forward to the 2018 event. The destination is still TBD but if I had to guess, it’ll be on the East Coast.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

The Importance of Play (in Meetings)

It’s important that meeting professionals take ownership of how learning is delivered at events. Participants respond to events in different ways and there are many tools to improve these experiences. Incorporating play is one way to enhance your participants’ experiences, and
their learning.
After setting through hours of sessions for multiple days, incorporating a change of scenery and a change of focus, will help attendees continue to learn, but in a different way. Breaking a larger group into several smaller groups allows more sincere, honest conversations and a chance to connect on a different level. Add to that opportunity a relaxed, casual atmosphere where attendees are focusing on play and the fun—and learning--really begins!
The types of play I include at my clients’ meetings and events incorporates a local  experience. For example, when a group is in Sonoma, they may be engaged in a wine blending activity where they break into teams. The best tasting wine –as determined by a proper winemaker—wins and that blend is bottled and the group takes home bottles of the winning blend—complete with custom label. When a group is in Los Cabos, attendees are encouraged to break into smaller groups and choose a thrilling activity such as zip-lining, ATV, horseback, or to ride, feed, and kiss (yes!) a camel. (I know, not your usual first choice for an activity in Cabo, but a unique and memorable experience nonetheless.)
Just as there’s always room for dessert, there’s always time for play. It’s important to carve out time in every agenda for play to truly see results of the classroom learning. Play opens the minds of the young and old alike and brings theories and concepts to life through practical use. It also facilitates cross team/function relationships and team bonding that is priceless.

I’d love to hear how you incorporate play into your experiences.