6 Tips to Make Your Next Retreat a Success

board retreat

Why do EDOs, local governments, companies, and nonprofits have planning retreats? To spend focused time on their business plan. Every organization needs to spend quality time reviewing success, adjusting priorities and strategies, and charting a course for the next years.

Planning retreats are top of mind at Creative EDC since we recently facilitated three very productive ones: the Town of Garner’s   two-day annual planning retreat, a retreat for Dorchester County Economic Development, and the annual planning retreat for Transylvania Alliance.  The Garner town council and staff spent time celebrating accomplishments, receiving updates on current projects, learning about emerging trends, and building consensus around the focus for the coming year. This article outlines some of the Garner retreat topics. Dorchester County identified product development and organizational development priorities for 2017. Transylvania Alliance focused on their core program areas
(BRE, product development, and marketing).

Is it time for your organization or team to check in on progress against your strategic priorities? If so, here are some guides to make sure you make the best use of your time together:

6 tips for organizing your next board retreat:

1. Clear purpose. What is the desired outcome – an annual program of work, general direction from the board, strategic plan update, board education, resolution of a hot button issue, etc. Being clear on the purpose from the start will ensure the result you want at the end.

2. Define roles. Who will facilitate the meeting? Will staff support or lead? What is the board’s role? Make clear who is contributing and at what level.

3. Have a clear agenda. Often groups will review the previous year’s work, learn something new, get updates on ongoing projects, and plan for the coming year. Some retreats are all about the business plan, others seek to educate the board on an emerging trend, and some only want to resolve a hot button issue.

4. Retreat communication. The facilitator or meeting leader should clearly communicate the purpose, roles, and expected outcomes to all participants. They should engage all participants in discussion.

5. Closure. Every retreat, every meeting for that matter, should have closure on next steps, follow ups, assignments, etc.

6. Follow up. If you do not follow up on the input offered at the retreat, you will be less likely to receive input going forward.

Economic development is a fast-paced and dynamic enterprise. It may be tempting to say ‘we don’t have time’ to step back and spend a focused afternoon on the big picture and check in on team goals. But these are likely to be the activities that define your success – so don’t overlook the benefits of gathering your team and stakeholders for a check-in.

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