A Management Retreat should always be run externally at a good venue. Here are a couple of tips from our experience that are important to consider when choosing the right venue.
1. Natural light
Natural Light it key and ideally with some perspective. Sitting in a room without natural light all day feels dismal and the only air you get comes from the air-conditioning. When you have natural light people are far more engaged and happy to be in the room plus you can open the windows to air out the room after a particularly intense discussion.
2. Spacious room
The room should be spacious enough to allow people to walk around and have breakout sessions in the room. If it is not possible in the room, then breakout rooms and or outside workspaces should be available. Also ensure that they are able to remove the tables from the room and just have chairs. It is distracting if there are tables stacked up at the back of the room… Management retreats need headspace as well as space for discussions and new ideas. Being in a spacious, clean and comfortable room with perspective creates the right atmosphere for this to happen.
3. Good temperature control
To ensure the perfect environment that everyone can feel comfortable in make sure that there is temperature control for the room available. Nothing worse than being in a room where the sun shines in in the afternoon and you feel like you are in an oven. Also make sure that the temperature control can be fine-tuned. Some venues either have hot or cold or have temperature control that is linked to the temperature control of the whole building.
4. Technology infrastructure
The venue provides a modern infrastructure with Beamer, Speakers, 2-3 Flip charts with ample paper, 2-3 Pin walls, Facilitators Materials like whiteboard markers in various colours, colourful cards for notepads, blue tack and or pins. That way it is one less thing to worry about.
5. Quiet surroundings
Ideal is if the venue has quiet surroundings and not too many other conferences happening at the same time. Noise or building works going on at the same time creates unnecessary distractions and you want your participants to be absolutely focused on the matter at hand. Quiet surroundings also have the benefit, that people can step out in nature during break times to reenergise. This is also key if you have a retreat over 2 or 3 days where participants stay overnight at the venue.
Preferably there is ample free parking for participants within easy reach so that participants can arrive without having to worry about finding parking or having to pay for it.
7. Healthy food
Ideally the venue can offer healthy food options and snacks that some people call performance food. This includes nuts and fruit rather than cake and other sweet treats. Sweet treats cause a sugar rush and then the energy drops and ideally the venue provides food and snacks that are easily digestible and keep your participants performing at the highest level during the whole day. A light 2 course lunch is best – save the 3 course meal with desert for a joint dinner. Participants also appreciate decent coffee so check if the venue just provides instant coffee in jugs or has a coffee machine that caters for the participants’ preferences.
8. Good service
The venue has to be well organised so they can address any technical issues quickly without much fuss. The restaurant also needs to be able to serve a 2 course lunch within 60 minutes. This is especially important when the group is larger than 20. If the kitchen takes too long then the agenda and the schedule of the rest of the day is impacted. The opportunity cost of a whole leadership team being off site is a big investment for any company and you want to make sure you can draw maximum value out of the time together. The venue can help by making everything around the event run smoothly.
9. Private dinner room
If you organize dinner for the group as well it is beneficial if the venue has the possibility of offering you a private room for a dinner. This creates a more familiar environment for informal discussions and the participants don’t have to worry about other people in the restaurant overhearing things they shouldn’t.
10. Activity option
Finally ask the venue what possibilities exist at or near the venue for an interesting joint activity for the team. So that the facilitator can potentially integrate one or several of these activities into the program, if it suits the context of the retreat.