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How We Planned a Virtual Company Retreat

November 5 2020 / by Karen Mares

Filed under: How to

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It's something we look forward to every year as EventBuilder employees: our annual company retreat. We're an all-virtual company, so it's especially great when we have the opportunity to see the people we work with so closely year-round. Typically, we reserve a weekend and gather in person for our retreats, but this year had to be different. Enter: EventBuilder's Virtual Company Retreat Weekend. We're virtual events pros, right? We've got this. Here's how we pulled it all together.

Planning

Here's the straight truth: planning takes a few months. Virtual events can be deceiving because they seem so simple—turn on your webcam and go. Not so fast! Our retreat took place on October 16–17, and Robin, Lauren, and Renee started planning it in May. If you want your event to be successful, taking the time to plan ahead and ensuring you have the things you need when you need them is key.

First: Set Your Agenda

Figuring out what you're going to do comes first. Our leadership team set up an agenda with a variety of activities, both business/company-focused and social/team building-focused. Here's a peek at the finalized agenda:

EventBuilder Retreat 2020

October 16 - 17 Virtually​

ACTION ITEMS

    1. Take a picture of the beverage you keep on your desk and email it to Deanna​. We will look at pictures together and guess who has this on their desk.. 
    2. Do you have a question for Ask Me Anything? Click HERE to send it anonymously. We will answer questions at the end of the retreat.  
    3. Test your webcam. We will use it for parts of the retreat.
    4. Plan your lunch delivery.  ​We will have lunch delivered at noon on Saturday to everyone. Please connect with Lea to get it set up.

Care Package

Everyone will receive an EventBuilder care package,​ full of goodness to enjoy during the retreat.

Agenda

  Friday, October 16
1:00 PM Welcome and Whose Drink Is It, Anyway?
2:00 PM Department and Individual Introductions
4:00 PM Break
4:15 PM Core Values Index
5:00 PM Happy Hour and Family Tree - WEAR A HAT (opt.)
   
  Saturday, October 17
9:00 AM  EventBuilder by the Numbers
10:00 AM  Presentation from Gorge HR
10:30 AM  Presentation from GreenLit Marketing
11:00 AM  Presentation - David M.
12:00 PM  Lunch delivery and break
12:30 PM  Presentation - Lauren
1:00  PM  Presentation and Breakout Groups-Robin, Renee, Lauren
2:30  PM  Break
2:45  PM  AMA
3:30  PM  Closing
4:00  PM  Happy Hour - BRING YOUR GHOST STORIES

 

You'll notice we started the agenda with a list of "action items" for employees to attend to prior to the start of the retreat. The actions involved leadership and  employees.

  1. Whose Drink Is It, Anyway? - To execute the game "Whose Drink Is It, Anyway?" we assigned a point-person, Admin and Event Producer Deanna, to collect pictures each of us took of the cup on our work desks. For our opening activity, Deanna then screen shared a picture of someone's cup, and the rest of us tried to guess who the cup belonged to. The idea of the game was to offer each other a peek into our work styles and personalities.
  2. Leadership AMA - A tradition at EventBuilder, our leadership team makes certain they are open and honest with us, and provides opportunities to ask them questions—even difficult ones—in a format similar to an AMA. That willingness to be straightforward and honest is one of the things we feel sets EventBuilder apart as a company.
  3. Test Your Webcam - We recommend testing your tech prior to events, and we do actually practice what we preach.
  4. Lunch Delivery - Lea, Event Producer and Hospitality Manager, coordinated getting everyone's individual preference for where they would like lunch delivered from. Lea arranged each through various food delivery options, timed for when we took a break on Saturday.

Care Packages/Swag

Approximately one month before the event, we ordered some branded products for each employee, and once again Lea, our "Sunshine Girl" and resident gourmet, set about learning what kind of snacks and drinks we all like. She was a master snack spy. We each received a socially distanced-but-hand-delivered, personalized swag bag of our favorites and new EventBuilder gear ahead of the retreat. Our international teammates didn't miss out—we mailed their bags to them. Be aware: the timing for international package delivery can vary. 

Event Flow

Here's a rundown of how we made sure everyone who was presenting was ready, and how we blended the business side with the team-building and social side.
  • The manager of each group was informed ahead of the retreat they would be introducing their departments and staff.
  • We invited two of our outside vendors to join us for presentations, so we reached out to them several weeks in advance detailing the day/time and what information we wanted them to present so they could prepare.
  • The activities on the agenda were mixed among state-of-the-company information, discussions surrounding the tools we use to be a cohesive team and how we can best lead, a future-of-the-company discussion with breakout rooms, as well as our themed happy hours, breaks, and passing time in between presentations and activities.

Post-Event Plan 

We knew great ideas and feedback would be generated from the business-oriented sessions, and we wanted to make certain those moments wouldn't be lost forever once the retreat was over. As such, we included a post-event plan:

  • Record Your Business/Company-focused Sessions
  • Collect and Save the Slide Decks Used
  • Upload recordings and slide decks onto our internally-accessible listing page
  • Send a wrap-up email with links to recordings and slide decks to the team

The Verdict

While we certainly missed being able to have our retreat in person, the entire team at EventBuilder felt that the virtual alternative was valuable, worth the time, and the effort. The thoughtful planning and good mix of business and social activities helped us connect with each other, build and strengthen our personal and professional relationships, and come together as a team in a year of big changes within the virtual events industry. We all feel incredibly fortunate to work for a company with a people-first culture, and the virtual retreat reminded us of how much we enjoy the work we get to do with people we truly appreciate and care about. 

We're Here to Help

Our event and program management services bring you the hands-on help you need coordinating the technology, communication, and production of your important, all-company meetings and your virtual events. We'll handle the details so you can take the pressure off and focus on your content. Find out how we can help—schedule a consultation with us today!

 

Topics: How to

Karen Mares

About Karen Mares

Karen is an Event Producer and the Content Creator here at EventBuilder. She's also a wife, mom, singer, and history nerd.

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