Retreats are a critical part of a forum’s long-term health because deep emotional bonds are built through shared experiences and physical time together during retreats. However, these connections don’t happen magically because a great retreat requires dedicated planning ahead of time.
Some Forums host week-long retreats but most run 2-4 days because that’s about how much time the whole group can commit to being away from their family and work.
As you build out the retreat agenda, take into account travel time and the official start time. Some Forums use the travel time as part of the retreat, and so they make the official start time when they meet at the airport or rental car place before departing. Other Forums make the official start time at the destination so every member can coordinate their own travel.
Once the retreat gets going, a great retreat is made of these six parts:
- Adventure – Think about things that your group can do that are new experiences for everyone. Some groups use this time to do adrenaline-pumping experiences, while others use it to engage in culturally stimulating activities. Get in touch with the local culture to determine the best adventure activity for your group. Groups create many memories during this part of the retreat.
- Food – Eating is surprisingly a big part of any retreat. Some groups make it a point to have every meal at a different restaurant, while other groups like to buy their own groceries and collectively cook a meal together. The shared experience of cooking/eating together often produces a vivacious conversation. Keep in mind that if you want to cook your own food, it does require planning ahead of time to have enough food for each meal so that you don’t waste time at the retreat buying groceries.
- Hang Time – Don’t over plan every minute of the retreat because there is a lot of value in the side conversations and laughs during downtimes. Maybe the group can strike up a bonfire or go to a local pub without an agenda and let the moment take over.
- Health – Not every Forum will care about this part, but I’m a believer in using some time at the retreat each day to stay physically healthy. Think about doing morning yoga, run, or group hike. Starting the day with some movement will get the group going for the rest of the day.
- Deep Dive – Retreats are not all fun and games, however, having an extended period of time in which to dive deep with a personal, family, or career issue can be very valuable. During this time, some groups might bring an outside facilitator who is an expert on a specific topic. Some deep dives ideas include setting goals for the year, reviewing financial documents, creating healthy habits, or addressing personal blind windows.
- Forum Work – It is also important to use the yearly retreat to check in on the forum’s health. This is a good time to review the forum’s Code Of Conduct and go over the yearly Member-To-Member (M2M). If you review the M2M make sure that you have everyone fill it out before the retreat so as not to waste any time, and it also gives people to collect the thoughts ahead of time.
As I mentioned in the beginning, amazing retreats don’t just happen; they are made through dedicated planning ahead of time. Commit to including all six of these key elements into your retreat, and you’ll be on your way to creating an experience the group will be talking about for years to come.