I've never had to organise a retreat - apart from the ones I've done on my own without any other bodies involved - but if I did, I'd certainly be thinking about at least some of the ideas Seth Godin proposes in his latest blog post.
He doesn't actually want to call them retreats, but advances - something I concur with entirely, and which I've said also they should be called, for years.
Basically he reviews the 'advance' as a place to do some real forward thinking, innovative network building, and a heap more. He comes up with some twenty points, any one of which would be a good addition to most retreats as they're presently conducted.
You may already do some of these (all of these? nah!) but even if you do, his post is worth a read and some reflection.
Here are a couple of my favourites:
- Never (never) have people go around a circle and say their name and what they do and their favorite kind of vegetable or whatever. The problem? People spend the whole time trying to think of what to say, not listening to those in front of them (I once had to witness 600 people do this!!)
- Instead, a week ahead of time, give each person an assignment for a presentation at the event. It might be the answer to a question like, "what are you working on," or "what's bothering you," or "what can you teach us." Each person gets 300 seconds, that's it.
- Use placecards at each meal, rotating where people sit. Crowd the tables really tightly (12 at a table for 10) and serve buffet style to avoid lots of staffers in the room. Make it easy for people to leave boring tables and organically sit together at empty ones.