Retreat the Right Way

When retreats come to mind some of us might envision “kumbaya” circles and ice breakers, and you wouldn’t be totally wrong. Aside from the warm fuzzy feelings retreats usually have an end goal in mind or an outcome intended to be reached. We’ve mapped out the who, what, when, where, why of retreat planning for student affairs professionals and student governments!

Why Hold Retreats?

Why is an important question to ask yourself. Do not, I repeat do not hold a retreat just to have one. There should be a purpose behind your retreat and an outcome to be reached. Everything you plan to present or facilitate during the retreat should fit a purpose while providing teachable moments for everyone attending.Use this time to maintenance your organization. Here are a few thing to keep in mind during your retreat, this is what we consider the nuts & bolts of retreats.

  • Introduce New Members: Make sure everyone knows everybody
  • New Employee Orientation: Get new hires and newly elected SG members acclimated
  • Resolve Group Conflicts: Feuds will happen, take time to put it all on the table
  • Increase Morale and Motivate: Insert warm fuzzy moments here
  • Evaluate Progress: Assess measurable impact
  • Outline Strengths and Weaknesses: Find the weak / strong areas in your organization
  • Build leadership: Boost the effectiveness of your organization
  • Promote Collaboration: Work on joint initiatives and pick each others brains
  • Set Long / Short term goals: Set dates and subtasks
  • Get Away and Have Fun!
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Who Should Attend Retreats?

It’s vital to make sure anyone part of your organization is included. You benefit from having all parties present. There needs to be some level of facilitation and group leadership to insure everyone stays on course and the retreat stays on schedule. Try to make sure at least these people are present on your retreat.

  • Members
  • Officers
  • Advisors
  • Presenters
  • Resource Person
  • Newly hired or elected members
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When Should You Hold Retreats?

Retreats should be held during times of transition, redirection or turmoil. Regrouping after major milestones or prior to events that could shift organizational values is a great idea. It’s important to get everyone in one place so concerns & ideas can be put on the table and discussed before things snowball. Try planning your retreat during these times below.

  • Prior to the beginning of year / semester
  • Before major programs
  • Before new member integration
  • Mid year evaluation / refresher
  • Prior to conflict
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What to do at Events?

First and foremost, make it worth peoples’ time. Keeping attendees engaged is key to holding a successful retreat. Make sure there is a balance between planned activities & free time. This allows you to cover important points as well as providing moments where people can loosen up and get to know each other! Here are some concepts to build your activities around.

  • Team building activities
  • Leadership development
  • Provide a road map for moving forward
  • Increase knowledge and enhance skills
  • Assist in the retention of valued employees
  • Build staff confidence and competence
  • Stimulate systematic thinking and approaches
  • Create a working vision for the staff
  • Offer a method for providing rewards and incentives
  • Don’t forget to feed everyone
  • And of course, Icebreakers!
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Where Should You Hold Retreats?

Get outside the office! Ideally you want to have your retreat off campus. If you’re holding just a day retreat you can still come up with some creative ideas for locations that do not require tons of travel time. Remember, your aim is to tackle tasks and plan, but also try to enjoy the time spent doing so! Here is a few ideas for locations for your retreats

  • Camping
  • Joint campus retreats
  • Sporting events
  • Competitions
  • Ropes Course
  • Theme parks (Disney World)
  • Beach/Pool Day
  • Get out of your office, and get comfortable!
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Now that you have a basic outline for your retreat, right now is a perfect time to start thinking about planning a retreat if you haven’t already. Fall semester will be here in two months, making sure you set time aside to meet with your organization prior to Fall is highly important. Take time during Summer to discuss upcoming semester goals and develop bonds with new members of your organization.

Please leave us a comment below if your organization has different retreat practices or ideas than the ones listed above.

Anthony Freese

About the author: Anthony Freese is the former Director of Marketing at Check I’m Here, the complete student engagement platform. Learn how we can help get your students involved.

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