Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Seven Tips for Curating a Memorable Company Retreat

This article was originally published in the May 2018 Group Travel Leader Magazine.


More companies, especially distributed ones, are implementing company retreats into their budgets. It’s a smart move as it allows employees to bond in a more relaxed, open environment and for leadership to receive candid real-time feedback. It’s also a great way to kick off the year and set goals. As with any event, all the elements are a big puzzle—that you the planner—need to fit together. Andrea Cannistraci, CMM, President & Founder of andgreat, a marketing, branding , and events agency, shares seven tips to ensure a successful and memorable company retreat.

1. Send a pre-planning survey
Survey your attendees before the company retreat. Find out what destinations interest them, what topics they would like to discuss, what goals they hope to achieve from attending, and what activities interest them. Getting attendees onboard at the planning stage will ensure better participation, excitement, and a much more focused and successful event.

2. Develop a strong team of suppliers
Reach out to the local CVB of your chosen destination. They are the experts on the area and will be essential to helping you navigate the area and source the best caterers, AV, entertainment, restaurants, transportation, off site venues, and team building activities.

3. Conduct a site inspection
It’s imperative that you know the area and your way around. Meet personally with all the suppliers you’ve received quotes, experience the activities, restaurants, venues, entertainment. Start to build the relationships. Take copious notes. Know where the closest hospital, pharmacy, Kinkos, and grocery store are located.

4. Schedule free time
One of the biggest mistakes you can make is not building free time into your agenda.  Give attendees an hour each later afternoon before dinner to check-in with family, refresh, relax, or hit the gym. Often, you’ll see the attendees will want to continue the day’s conversions at the bar, or around the pool. Those unstructured moments where employees bond on their own can create the most insight—and best memories.

5. Use natural meeting space
If your company retreat is in a warm climate, definitely take advantage of outdoor meetings places for casual breakouts and meals. There’s nothing worse than being in an awesome destination but stuck inside four walls all day. Let your attendees see the sun and feel the breeze! A simple U-shape of chairs under a tree, or a few cabanas at the pool are excellent non-traditional meeting spaces for breakouts. Many conference rooms have patios—use those for breakfasts and lunches. Trust me, your attendees will thank you.  (And the Instagram pics will be the envy of all.)

6. Consider meeting floor plans
The setup of the meeting room matters.  Know how many attendees you are expecting and plan accordingly. Your General Session should be configured so that everyone can see everyone. A flat oval shape works well.  Will attendees be taking notes on their laptops? If so, they’ll need a bit more space.  The last thing you want is a room full of sardines.  A good rule to follow is two people per six foot table. And make sure the room has windows—preferably doors that open to a patio (see #4.)

7. Plan an unforgettable group activity
Almost every company retreat has at least one group activity incorporated.  This is a great opportunity to make your company retreat memorable. Look at your destination. Look at your demographics.  Keep it local. If you’re at a beach, consider SUP or surfing lessons, or chartering a boat for a dinner cruise. If you’re in wine country, schedule dinner in a wine cave or a biking wine tour with lunch. If you’re in New Orleans, plan a hands-on Creole cooking class for dinner or a scavenger hunt through the Garden District.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Post Mortem Best Practices: an interview with Prevue Magazine

What is a post-mortem? Hint: it's not (only) an examination of a corpse in order to determine the correct cause of death, it’s a "discussion" to identify and analyze elements of a project that were successful or unsuccessful. It answers the question, “How’d we do?”

So...how'd I do on this article?