How to Make the Most of Your 24-Hour (or under) Retreat
Last weekend, the new Launchpad fellows had the opportunity to travel to Baltimore for a 24-hour retreat. We met the board (amazing), met each other (amazing), and somehow managed to accomplish training and team-building within a 24 hour span (amazing). What surprised me the most when we left was just how much we had been able to accomplish within that short span of time.
I imagine this isn't different than the position many young nonprofit professionals find themselves in. While juggling work, life, family and volunteer commitments, there might not be time for more than a 24-hour board retreat in our schedules. Given our busy schedules, how can we make our board retreats as effective as possible in a short time frame? Below, I give my five tips for making the most of your 24-hours-and-under retreat.
- Plan ahead. Have a schedule, and stick to it. Make sure facilitators have fine-tuned their sections and are ready to lead discussion. Emailing the schedule ahead of time will allow everyone time to prepare and lead to deeper discussion during the retreat. For example, if individuals know to think about strengths and weaknesses ahead of time, you can jump right into a deep, thoughtful SWOT analysis.
- Remove distractions. Provide paper, pens and any other materials attendees might need. Take the distraction and chaos out of the situation by being proactive in gathering necessary materials ahead of time. And snacks, always snacks. In a one-day retreat, you need the full attention of individuals, so even something as simple as removing the distraction of hunger with some snack options will increase the team’s discussions.
- Less review, more discussion. In a one-day retreat, focus on activities that are high in discussion. Items that are high in learning and review -- such as reading up on policies, organization structure and background, etc -- can be saved for later. These things can be emailed out later, and read individually. Other activities -- brainstorming, strategic planning, goal setting, team building, etc -- cannot be done individually. Put those activities at the forefront of your group’s time together, and trust individuals to completely other tasks individually.
- Make it personal. One of the most important parts of the retreat is that individuals walk away with a better understanding of how their role fits into the overall team. At the end of each activity, ask individuals to reflect and share how what you covered impacts their individual role within the team.
- Have fun. Don’t be afraid to get a little silly -- do a fun icebreaker, shake things up with an old-school camp song, or share a favorite YouTube video during a break. Individuals are more likely to continue giving their best effort to a team long after your 24 hours are up if they feel they made a personal connection with the other team members. (Bonus Tip) Food, all the food. Across all cultures, food is a way to build community. Use mealtimes to your advantage as a way to foster natural teambuilding, and save the retreat time for higher-level activities like planning and strategizing. When you have food (all the food), you win (all the wins).
We know many of our local chapters are kicking off with new boards, and hope you find these tips helpful for making your short time together as efficient and effective as possible! What are some of your favorite tips and tricks for effective meetings? What retreat or team building activities stand out to you as most memorable?