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No presence informationBethany Phillips - BPhillips8/21/2015 9:42 AMRetreat Planning Tips0 
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Young Life Colorado Camps > GREAT RETREATS Blog
August 21
5 Tips for a Successful Adventure Retreat


Photo courtesy of Pam Bonney

The following is an excerpt from the July 30, 2015 edition of MeetingsNet by Chuck Paton, general manager of Larsmont Cottages:

A whitewater-rafting trip, a hike in the mountains, or a “boot camp” all foster camaraderie and get teams into new environments. You may be familiar with Ropes Courses, with a variety of stations designed to teach different skills such as teamwork and trust. But running a good retreat has more to do with the planning than the venue. Here are five principles I’ve learned for running a successful adventure retreat.

1. Know your purpose
Why are you bringing your team together? Before your event, write out in concrete detail three goals you have for your group. Think about inside buzzwords or catch-phrases or whatever you’re rallying around to energize your effort. Whatever you write should become a narrative used by your facilitator.

2. Have a guide
Leadership is important to set the tone at a retreat. You may have someone on your team who is a born organizer—but ideally you want to motivate that person too, right? Bring in a hired gun. Look for an executive coaching consultant who knows his or her stuff or a venue that has one on staff. If an adventure course is involved, look for a facilitator who is ACCT certified.

3. Time it right
If you’re not doing this once a year, you’re missing an opportunity to connect your staff. You also want to consider the timing of the event itself. For many groups, a third night is one night too many, and attendees can lose focus. Conversely, one night is too short if you factor in the travel time. In my experience, two nights is the sweet spot: time for a couple of good meetings, an afternoon of activity, and a social period or two. 

4. Mix formal with informal
All work and no play makes Jack (or Jane!) dull—and a bad worker, too. Give employees some down time. You can combine this with meals like a pig roast, or an Iron Chef competition. Or try something simple like a scavenger hunt or games. The great outdoors is a good fit, too. We’ve done cross-country skiing, hiking, canoeing, and kayaking. And of course giving people time on their own to explore is good, too.

5. Keep it fun
The obligation is on the planner to make sure that a mandatory event is in a setting that’s going to be engaging. Your team is not going to enjoy two days in a meeting room with no windows and nothing to do. Look for destinations or venues that will resonate!

Getting your team to find renewed purpose will pay off in lower turnover and higher morale. If you run it well, an adventure retreat is an investment in your staff that will pay off immediately and for years to come.

Chuck Paton is general manager of Larsmont Cottages, which owns the Larsmont Center for Strategy and Team Development.

May 21
The Staff Retreat: How Taking a Step Back Can Lead to Several Steps Forward

The following article appeared in MeetingsNet's May 19, 2015 enewsletter, MeetingsNet Today

staff retreat.jpg

The word retreat literally means “to withdraw from enemy forces as a result of their superior power or after a defeat.” There are many reasons why a staff team might hold a retreat; e.g., to avoid office chaos and distractions and address higher-level issues. But succumbing to power or defeat is not a prerequisite!

The typical work day is filled with interruptions involving urgent but unimportant matters. The pace is often frenetic; encounters with colleagues are frequent but brief. Discussions may focus on solving a problem but rarely address strategic issues that impact the business in a significant or meaningful way. Spending eight hours a day with the same people (more than with family) often results in frequent encounters without developing deep or trusting relationships.

Organizing an occasional staff retreat is an effective way to connect with team members, communicate important messages, and build morale.

Following are some additional benefits of holding a staff retreat:

  1. You get your team away from its day-to-day surroundings and into a safe harbor environment (neutral territory) to focus on key issues without interruptions.
  2. You take people away from their core responsibilities, temporarily, and expose them to the bigger picture. Helping the team understand the company’s or unit’s goals and objectives enables team members to understand how their day-to-day work contributes to the overall strategy.
  3. You celebrate recent team and organizational accomplishments, acknowledge defeats or setbacks, and learn from them.
  4. You set the tone for the future by communicating goals and expectations—and perhaps share your vision.
  5. You engage the team in brainstorming, environment scanning, or SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) analysis. These exercises can produce new insights that lead to innovation.
  6. You generate buy-in from the team because their opinions are sought and valued. Everyone has a voice. There is no hierarchy. If you’re on the team, you have an opinion and it needs to be heard.
  7. You get to know your colleagues on a personal level. The idea is to build relationships and ultimately trust.

Critics have said that not every team member wants or is able to contribute at the strategic level. That may be true. However, it is human nature to want to be in the loop, contribute, and add value.

I have proof! During a staff retreat in April, my team’s least-experienced members were rather quiet during the strategic conversations. Afterward, several thanked me for providing a higher-level view of the organization and confirmed that they had a better idea of how their work contributes to the organization’s success. They were appreciative of the opportunity to be included and feel more connected to the team.

The retreat took us out of the office for a full day and ended with cocktails and appetizers. It’s a small investment that reaps immeasurable returns. Much of the success that Financial & Insurance Conference Planners has achieved in the past 10 years is attributed to having a cohesive and aligned team that enjoys working together. It’s no secret that well-functioning teams are essential in the workplace, and they don’t function well by accident.

Is it time to schedule your staff retreat?

Executive Director, Financial & Insurance Conference Planners

December 04
6 Keys to Leading a Killer Youth Retreat

Keys to a Killer Youth Retreat.jpg 
1. Make every retreat experience a small group experience

Events have more impact when small groups are a part of them. One retreat is the same as seven weeks of weekly programming because of the memories made. For every retreat, use as many group leaders as possible!

2. Empower great administrative leaders to work the details

There are leaders who love details and they are really good at them. LET THEM HELP YOU!

3. Push students spiritually and have tons of fun

You need lots of both in every retreat!

4. Don’t over-program

Make sure you plan every gathering with focus. Don’t try to pack so many elements into every session that you lose the chance for teens to understand what you are saying!

5. Partner with facilities that work well with your ministry

Find people you enjoy working with and stay with them. We have several facilities we keep going back to because we love the partnership, and they support us every year!

6. Set your communicators and band up to succeed

Make sure they know the makeup of your group, send the band songs you have been doing, work with your communicator so that group content and the message is in sync and make sure both band and speaker have space to rest during the weekend.​

The take away | ​It doesn't take much to take a youth retreat from yawner to killer. These are just a few things you can do to make your next one something your kids can't stop talking about when they return home.

Reprinted from ChurchLeaders.com, "6 Keys to Leading a Killer Youth Retreat​" by Michael Bayne​ (www.michaelbayne.net​​)

April 06
3 Reasons Why “Off-the-Beaten-Path” Is Perfect for Your Group Retreat

Have you ever been to a working retreat where you were expected to leave your work behind, think creatively and get out of your box? Or, a personal/spiritual retreat where you just wanted to get away from the frantic pace back home? But, when you arrived, you discovered the same fluorescent lighting, din of traffic, phone distractions and wide screen temptations that you thought you left behind? Your retreat attendees have, too!

Here are a few good reasons to hold your retreat at a location that’s a little bit off the beaten path.


1. Leaving one city to retreat to another city might leave your constituents feeling like they should have just stayed home.

By its definition, retreat means “the act of withdrawing, as into safety or privacy; a place of refuge, seclusion, or privacy.” (ref. www.dictionary.com) But, often, retreats end up being booked within a city, simply for the convenience of being near an airport.

Don’t make “convenience” an altar to sacrifice your retreat on. People need, and want, to get away from it all. Whether it’s a working retreat, or a personal/spiritual retreat, the expectation is that they’re going to have some quiet space to think, pray and/or be creative.

Give them something unusual. Something quiet, peaceful, relaxing. Something restful. And a place that gives them the space to think outside the box. A place where they can be creative.

All that can be difficult to achieve in a setting that’s surrounded by the hustle and bustle of the city. It’s your privilege to give them the physical space that enhances their retreat experience!

2. The intrinsic value of a satisfying retreat outweighs the transportation cost of not being near an airport.

All too often, retreats are booked within city limits due to the transportation cost savings of being near an airport. But, have you considered this: That the little money saved on transportation by your retreat attendees may be more than offset by the feeling that they wasted their registration and travel expenses on a retreat that left them empty?

Granted, the content, programming and free time activities will weigh in heavily on whether the retreat will be perceived as worth every penny. But, the all-too-familiar mantra of real estate agents holds true for retreats, too. Location, location, location.

Give your group something different. Something out-of-the-ordinary. Consider something that isn’t just a box surrounded by concrete.

Father Son (Landscape).JPG

​3. Distractions do just that: Distract!

How many times have you arrived at a retreat location, entered your room, thrown your bags on the bed and . . . turned on the TV!? We all do it. We’re creatures of habit.

Or, how many times have you arrived at your retreat location, only to cross a busy street to get to the conference center? Or, were tempted by the numerous retail stores on the way back to your accommodations? Or, played with the notion you could skip a break-out session to catch the latest movie at the theater down the street?

That doesn’t do much for either your experience as an attendee, or the retreat organizers’ goals for you being there.

You want your guests to be focused on their purpose for being there. You want them to “leave it all behind,” and think about what you’re offering them in an unobstructed way. But, you may not have removed all the distractions you could have, simply because of the retreat location you selected.

Provide a distraction-free setting for your retreat attendees, and you’ll find they’ll be much more focused on why they’re there, and your hopes and goals for the retreat are more likely to be met.

The take away | Consider the value of offering a place for your retreat attendees that’s off-the-beaten-path: A physical location that enhances their retreat experience, intrinsic value that outweighs transportation costs and a distraction-free setting that increases the chances of your goals for the retreat being met.


March 02
5 Things Event Planners Should Keep in Mind about Food Service


Matt Pogue, Young Life's Manager of Camping Food Service, says you should keep these 5 things in mind about the food service when selecting a retreat venue:


1. What's the quality of their food?

Is it "typical" camp food (served buffet style, including fish sticks and greasy pork chops), or do they serve family style dishes that are as good as home made?

2. What's the price?

You have a budget, and food could break it. But, keeping costs down doesn't necessarily mean suppressing the food quality. The guest services personnel should be able to work with you to design a menu that's not only delicious, but fits within your budget.

3. What's the health factor?

Not only are more people health-conscious, but some have serious, life-threatening allergies. The venue you select should be able to accommodate those with severe food allergies, as well as those who have made life-style choices that preclude them from eating certain food.

4. What's the age-appropriateness?

Sure, we made fun of fish sticks, but what if your retreat is geared mostly to middle school kids. Then, maybe you WANT fish sticks. But, if you're bringing a men's group, they're probably more interested in meatier fare such as steak, than mac 'n cheese.

5. What are the choices?

You'll be a lot happier with a venue that gives you a variety of meal choices, than one with a set menu. A guest services team that sits down with you and helps plan your menu for each of your meals will pay off in dividends when your attendees return home talking about how great and varied the meals were.

The take away | Many of your attendees will return home with either fond or not-so-fond memories of the food that was served at your retreat. Do your best to make sure the quality of the food is up to par with the quality of your content.​

February 02
4 Reasons Why Dorm Style Housing May Be Right for Your Group Retreat




When planning your group retreat, you may have a particular room configuration in mind from the get-go. And that's usually a hotel-style room. But, have you considered a dorm configuration, with multiple beds in a single room? Here are 4 reasons to consider something different for your next group retreat:

1. Lower cost = lower price.

By configuring rooms to hold multiple beds and people, properties keep their per guest costs down, passing the savings on to their customers.


2. It's no less comfortable.

Sleeping on bunk beds may conjure up memories of old metal frames with rusty springs and soiled pillows. That was the old days. These days, most properties offering this kind of arrangement, and who have kept up with the needs of their customers, offer sturdy, wood-framed beds, comfortable mattresses and fresh linens.

Frontier Camper Dorms - Great for Group Retreats.jpg

3. It’s not as weird as you think.

In fact, it might be a lot less weird than sleeping 10, 12 or 14 people to a room. Ask yourself: Which is more comfortable, sleeping several to a room, or being assigned a roommate you barely know? I remember a time when I was on a corporate retreat, and I roomed with someone from another department whom I had never met. It was slightly awkward.

4. It promotes group bonding.

A women’s group who used to use a traditional hotel-type lodge was forced to look for an alternative when they outgrew it. The alternative was a great property, but the room configuration was dorm-style housing with bunk beds. At first, they didn’t think it was such a great arrangement. But, after the first night, they wondered why they hadn’t used a facility like that from the very beginning. The ladies loved rooming together as a group, as it brought back memories of slumber parties and sleepovers. Plus, it encouraged sharing, and a level of bonding that sleeping one or two to a room never did. They don’t ever plan on going back to hotel-style rooms. They prefer dorm housing, now!

The take away | 
Next time you’re looking for a great facility to hold your group retreat, don’t rule out lodging that includes dorm housing and bunk beds. It could be the very thing that makes your retreat an extraordinary experience!


January 06
2 Great Resources to Help You Plan Your Women's Retreat



I recently received an email from @GroupPublishing, promoting two great resources for putting on a woman’s retreat.

Resource #1: A guide for retreat planners that makes planning a women’s retreat stress-free!

Group Publishing has just made it easy for you to put together women’s retreats that will transform lives, without making yours miserable. They promise that, with their “relational approach,” participants won't just hear a lesson or Bible story, “they do it, discuss it, and act on it so that it becomes a part of their lives.”

The materials in the kit are designed to save the retreat planner time in preparing for the retreat, and to give guests a relaxing getaway where they'll grow in their faith and build lasting friendships with God and each other. It’ll save you money, too, as you won’t even need a speaker! The kit is designed around interaction, rather than lecture.

You can find out more about this great tool at Group Publishing’s Women’s Retreats site.

Resource #2: Create a seaside retreat . . . in Colorado!

Actually, you can pull this off no matter where your retreat is being held.

Group Publishing describes their SeaSide Escape Retreat Kit as, “A blueprint for an unforgettable beach-themed retreat. The women in your church and community take time out from all the cares and worries of everyday life and come together for worship, Bible study, and fellowship. They participate in themed activities that use the elements of sand, waves, and other items you'd encounter at the seashore as metaphors for our lives and our relationships with God and one another.”

They tout their kit as being good for:
- One-day women's events
- Overnight retreats
- Two-day retreats
- Leadership team-building
- Outreach events for women in your community
- Girls-only youth events
- Any event where women (and teen girls) of any age want to come together to
  explore God's word and His will for their lives.

If you’re a retreat planner or director, and you’re tired of the same ol’ stale programming, then check out this fun kit at Group Publishing’s store.

The take away | 
Whether you need help from start-to-finish in planning your women’s retreat, or you just need a fresh, new theme for your retreat, Group Publishing has some great resources at their Women's Retreats site to help you.
December 02
1 Simple Way to Make Your Retreat Guests Happier!


Dining hall wide.JPG 
Is it possible your guests are uncomfortable in your dining facilities?

Quite possibly, according to Harvard Business Review’s November 29, 2011 Daily Stat. According to HBR, table spacing is too close for comfort in typical restaurants (see http://goo.gl/QzeKX).

“Restaurants typically place parallel tables along banquettes at 12 inches apart or less, but research led by Stephani K. A. Robson of Cornell shows that patrons—including those who are used to busy restaurants—feel awkward being so close to their neighbors. Even at a spacious 24 inches apart, parallel tables were seen as crowded and uncomfortable by 35% of people responding to the researchers' survey.”

So, one simple way to make your guests happier may be to just spread the tables in your dining hall a little further apart. Of course, that’s easier said than done. One, you might not have the space available to do that. Two, if you try to make space, it could lead to creating meal shifts, which is costly on several levels.

The take away | It’s definitely a cost-benefit ratio: Does making your guests feel more comfortable in the dining room outweigh the cost of separating tables, or even removing some? You’ll have to calculate that yourself. But, it might be worth a try.

November 04
6 Tips for Retreat Planners When Choosing a Location


Following are six tips from event specialists for choosing the right location for your retreat/meeting:


1. Reach out and don't be afraid to go after the city you want, but keep your cards close and do your shopping first. Don't declare your top choices right away. - Stephen Hahn, Marriott International

2. Don't base site selection entirely on price. You'll always find people who are prepared to underprice their services just to get business. But how good and reliable are they? Next time you're tempted to make a buying decision based entirely on price, think again. - Susan Friedmann, "Meeting & Event Planning for Dummies"

3. Always stop in to check out the public restrooms in the hotel or facility. - Stephanie Hudson, Providence Events

4. Before contracting a hotel or convention center, ask if it utilizes a union labor force and specifically which departments are in the unions. - Monica Compton, Pinnacle Productions, Inc.

5. If a destination or property is new to you, go beyond the site visit tour and really experience a property, putting yourself in your attendees' shoes. If possible, visit on your own and spend some time in the lobby. - Cynthia Rich, independent planner

6. Anything can look beautiful on the Internet, but it's only by visiting that you realize the after-golf luncheon you're planning will be held in a tent in the parking lot and not an actual clubhouse. If you can't make an inspection trip before the meeting, ask a local member for his or her recommendations. - Mike Sorem, National Technical Investigators Association

Find more tips see http://goo.gl/h8vox.

(Reprinted by permission from Connect Magazine (@ConnectMeetings), Collinson Media and Events (@CollinsonMedia), January, 2011)


 Tips for Retreat Planners


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