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Planning a Corporate Retreat

Dear FFTC,
I started a new job during the pandemic. Our company is moving back to the office soon, and our CEO would like to have a corporate retreat to get everyone excited. I’ve been asked to organize the event, but I’ve never done it before. I want to make sure this event is a success – especially since this may be the first time some of my colleagues will have met me. Help! – New and Nervous

Dear Nervous,
Foundation For The Carolinas manages dozens of corporate meetings and retreats each year in its 220 North Tryon event and conference space, so we’ve helped businesses of all sizes plan and implement successful events. Here are some tips to get you started.

Clarify the goal of your event
It can be tempting to jump into venue selection, but it is important to think through details – and to ensure management is on the same page.

  • Identify the purpose of the retreat. You mentioned that this retreat is meant to get your teammates excited. Does your CEO envision training, wellness seminars, team-building exercises, an inspirational speaker or other activities? Try to nail that down early.
  • Identify who will be involved. Will the event include the entire organization – C-level, management, entry level – or only a subset? Will certain groups participate in specific activities?
  • Will participants be required to be in-person? Some employees may be hesitant to return to in-person events. Will there be a virtual option for them to still participate?

Select a venue that can accommodate all your needs
Once you have those details, it will be easier to look for a venue that meets your needs. For instance, you may need a large room for a general session, but break-out rooms for smaller group activities. Perhaps your company’s board will want to meet separately, so having a suitable board room would be advantageous.

As for other services, ensure the venue has the audio-visual options you need. And be sure you plan for refreshments; look for a venue that can offer advice for catering services and can ensure it is served without disrupting the event.

Plan a realistic timeline for the event
Remember to plan scheduled breaks throughout the day. Healthy snacks and fresh air help keep participants focused.

Provide a social aspect
We recommend to our clients that they plan a social aspect to their event. This is especially important for your retreat, since the goal is to get people excited to return to the office after more than a year of isolation. Consider a cocktail party or other casual get-together to allow your colleagues to unwind and get to know each other.

Good luck organizing your first retreat. We are confident it will be a great success.

Kayla Castilleja is the Special Events Manager, Social at 220 North Tryon.