The 5 Keys to a Profitable Group Retreat within the Age of COVID – Good Passive Earnings


As you could know, Group SPI is fully distant! This implies we do not typically get the prospect to get collectively in particular person—aside from our annual summits. Throughout the difficult final ~two years of COVID, that in-person expertise has been… arduous to return by. That’s why this previous summer season, with vaccines lastly a actuality, SPI management felt it was vital for morale and planning to get our entire group collectively in particular person safely if we may.

I am Sara Jane Hess, and I’m the senior manufacturing supervisor at SPI. It might sound odd {that a} manufacturing supervisor is speaking about planning a group summit, however as soon as upon a time I used to be the operations supervisor and deliberate a number of of our previous in-person occasions. When our earlier operations supervisor introduced she was leaving, I stepped in to assist plan this 12 months’s summit and get all the small print in place. This included discovering and reserving venues, eating places, and actions, amongst different issues.

On this publish I’ll share the 5 greatest issues that went into planning and executing what was in the end a enjoyable and profitable retreat. I hope it’s useful for you in case you’re serious about placing collectively your individual in-person occasion to your distant group, particularly within the period of COVID.

Desk of Contents

  1. Choose a Nice Location (We Selected Denver)
  2. Make Positive You’re COVID Secure
  3. Make the Most of Your Working Time
  4. Eat Some Nice Meals
  5. Have Some Enjoyable

1. Choose a Nice Location (We Selected Denver)

We thought-about a couple of completely different areas for internet hosting our retreat, together with Columbus (the place Matt lives) and San Diego (the place Pat lives), however we in the end determined to go along with Denver, Colorado (which additionally occurs to be the place I reside). 

We selected Denver for a couple of causes, however the principle one was that it was a extra central location for all members of the group, on condition that three of our group members reside in Denver or inside a 90-minute drive of town.

Selecting a spot the place staff already reside is not a should, but it surely’s a nice-to-have for a couple of causes:

  1. It makes planning for venues and eating places simpler as native worker(s) will be capable of make suggestions.
  2. It permits the group to get to know the hometown of their fellow worker(s).
  3. It cuts down on some prices since native staff gained’t want resort rooms, flights, or airport transportation.

Once more, having staff already residing in your chosen vacation spot is a nice-to-have. When you’ve chosen your metropolis, it’s good to discover a venue to host your group—a house base for all of the actions of the retreat.

Why We Went with a Lodge

In years previous we’ve had our group keep at massive Airbnb homes. However due to the variety of folks on our group, we’ve required a minimum of two Airbnbs, which provides issues like proximity to one another, who stays the place, delegating an acceptable frequent space for folks to hang around throughout non-work occasions, ensuring each Airbnbs are near eating places/different sights… the listing goes on.

We’ve had all these challenges with previous summits, so this 12 months we determined to make use of a resort. I felt that it made extra sense to maintain everybody in the identical place, give them their very own non-public house, and nonetheless have them inside strolling distance of eating places and sights. Finance-wise, as soon as the price of a number of Airbnbs and extra assembly house are added up, they often change into similar to a resort.

 Listed below are a couple of key issues to remember when deciding on a venue:

  1. Accessibility to the airport and different areas of curiosity.
  2. The venue ought to be good—clear and comfy with public gathering areas (like a foyer, terraces, and/or rooftop deck).
  3. Value. It must be reasonably priced, clearly. We set a purpose for the value vary we wished to remain inside, then negotiated the value with the resort, which was in a position to preserve us in that vary.
  4. A number of choices/makes use of in the identical venue. For us, this was renting a convention room in the identical resort because the group was staying at. This allowed us to bundle prices, which allowed us to get a greater charge for resort rooms and the convention room, and allowed us to be in a location that restricted publicity to folks outdoors our group (and subsequently COVID).

Talking of COVID security, our alternative of venue was guided largely by the necessity to preserve the group secure whereas touring and assembly up throughout a worldwide pandemic. Let’s discuss a little bit bit extra about what we did to scale back our threat.

2. Make Positive You’re COVID Secure

I am actually hoping we cannot have to contemplate this in future years, however a variety of planning time went into ensuring that we minimized our COVID threat through the journey. There have been two most important methods we did this: by requiring group members to be vaccinated, and choosing a venue that would scale back folks’s general publicity. 

COVID Security: Vaccination

We required that anybody who attended was vaccinated and will present proof of vaccination.

We additionally made it very clear why we have been requiring proof. It wasn’t as a result of we did not belief folks, however as a result of we wished to construct belief among the many group that we have been attempting to deal with one another as a lot as doable.

These issues went into selecting eating places as properly. I referred to as the entire eating places we ended up consuming at forward of time to verify they’d COVID insurance policies in place like masking and distancing, and in some circumstances required vaccinations of consumers or employees. We additionally ate outdoors every time we may. That was a little bit tough with the climate, however general it went easily—and most significantly, nobody received sick.

COVID Security: Location

As I used to be planning the summit, I attempted to attenuate the variety of areas our group would wish to go to. So, we picked a resort that was centrally positioned within the metropolis, near Union Station the place everybody could be arriving and departing from. The resort additionally had a convention room on website that we may use.

This achieved a couple of various things. First, it gave folks extra time, particularly within the mornings and the evenings earlier than dinner, as a result of they did not need to journey very far to attend conferences—basically, simply an elevator experience. It additionally stored them from coming into contact with a variety of completely different folks.

The placement we’d initially thought-about for our work time through the summit was a extremely cool coworking house that in regular occasions would have been good. However I’d been to that location earlier than and knew that it was a maze of places of work with lots of people crammed right into a small space. I knew that if our group met there, we’d be coming into fixed contact with any of the few hundred individuals who is likely to be understanding of there on a given day.

I felt it wasn’t a threat that was price taking, so we consolidated the whole lot to the convention room of the Rally Lodge. This ended up being an ideal resolution as a result of we have been inside strolling distance of not solely Union Station, but in addition some actually nice eating places and bars.

I used to be actually happy with the way it turned out —and I feel the group was too. If we ever do one other summit in Denver, I’d undoubtedly take into account following this similar recreation plan.

Associated Studying: “5 Methods Entrepreneurs Can Conquer Loneliness and Really feel Extra Linked

3. Make the Most of Your Working Time

Our group has the advantage of having run a number of in-person retreats up to now, and we’ve seen what works and doesn’t in terms of the schedule and format of the enterprise portion of the occasion. This 12 months we tried a barely completely different format from previous years, and I feel it was a hit.

Our summit ran Monday to Friday, and Tuesday and Wednesday have been dedicated to working time. We usually use these working classes to recap the 12 months and begin planning for the next 12 months.

This 12 months, Matt acknowledged that in previous years we hadn’t achieved as a lot enterprise planning as we wished to in these classes. This was largely as a result of a variety of our assembly time usually concerned management presenting to the group.

To counter that, this 12 months we tried to “democratize” issues by having every subteam (advertising, manufacturing, options, and management) run their very own portion of the assembly to establish issues and alternatives of their respective areas. We additionally made these classes interactive, so the entire group was concerned in brainstorming concepts and options for every space of the enterprise.

Scheduling was additionally vital. It’s additionally troublesome to hold the eye of all the group for an extended time frame, so we broke up the schedule with completely different actions and a few downtime.

So what format must you select for the enterprise portion of your subsequent retreat? It’s all about realizing your group and the targets you’ve gotten to your time collectively so you’ll be able to profit from it. The most effective format is just not going to be the identical for each group, so my recommendation is to contemplate what’s labored (and never labored) to your group earlier than.

4. Eat Some Nice Meals

One other problem for us was discovering eating places that appealed to everybody. Our group consists of folks with dietary restrictions for gluten and dairy, in addition to a vegan. So it was fairly the method to undergo and discover eating places that supplied these choices and additionally had a bigger menu so everybody may discover one thing they preferred.

Fortunately, with Denver being a various culinary metropolis, it wasn’t too troublesome to seek out these sorts of eating places. It had been a battle up to now in different cities, however Denver supplied spectrum of eating choices. As a plus, I didn’t really feel like several two meals or menus have been the identical, which has not at all times been the case.

What’s the important thing to a profitable eating expertise to your entire group? The primary factor is simply doing a ton of analysis. Discuss to locals and discover out what their favourite eating places are. Additionally, for the folks on the group with dietary restrictions, I offered the restaurant choices to them first and had them give the okay earlier than I introduced the choices to all the group.

5. Have Some Enjoyable

Particularly after the previous virtually two years we’ve all been by way of, it felt tremendous vital to take pleasure in our time collectively. It’s vital to plan in a while that doesn’t require a lot brainpower and permits folks to get to know one another a bit extra. Along with our dinners out, which have been nice for group bonding, within the evenings some folks did karaoke on the resort’s rooftop deck, and one evening we visited a “barcade.” We additionally took an entire day to go to Rocky Mountain Nationwide Park and had a good time mountaineering and picnicking.

Considered one of my favourite elements of planning summits is to provide you with presents for people on the group. It’s a variety of enjoyable to determine what folks may take pleasure in and use repeatedly that might additionally remind them of our time collectively as a group.

In previous years we have performed tote luggage crammed with T-shirts, stickers, and pins. We stored with that theme this 12 months, however we additionally gave some presents that might turn out to be useful through the journey, particularly since we had lots of people coming to Denver (5,280 ft above sea stage) from decrease altitudes. First-time guests to town (which a number of teammates have been) do not at all times take into consideration the significance of adapting to the altitude, in addition to the excessive ranges of sunshine.

So issues like water bottles, sunscreen, and chapstick have been wonderful additions to the present totes we gave everybody. They’re all not solely nice presents, however really profit the group and their well being, particularly within the first few days as they’re adjusting to the local weather and terrain.

An In-Individual Retreat Is a Lot of Work—However It’s Value It

As you’ll be able to think about, a visit like this can be a lot of labor to plan and pull off.

It’s additionally undoubtedly a big financial expense. I used to be conservative in my budgeting and gave additional buffer to issues like meals, which paid off since we got here in underneath price range (which had by no means occurred earlier than!). And fortunately the payoff, which is measured largely qualitatively, has at all times been price it.

Additionally, realizing how a lot to plan is a balancing act. I attempted to plan for as many issues as felt applicable, whereas additionally leaving time for chaos as group members’ private preferences (like after-dinner actions and non-team meals). For those who plan each single element, the entire occasion can really feel constrained and rigid, which isn’t enjoyable, so I attempt to solely plan what I must.

As for unexpected hurdles, there actually weren’t many, which was a little bit stunning. One which involves thoughts is one in all our group members becoming a member of just about. It labored largely properly, with hiccups from a typically poor web connection, and it was arduous for her to listen to teammates speaking within the convention room. Past that, although, the whole lot ran extremely easily.

I hope this publish was attention-grabbing and useful in case you’re serious about planning your subsequent—or first—in-person group retreat. I’d go into extra element on the best way to plan and efficiently pull off a group occasion in a future publish, so keep tuned!


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