Designing Intentional Retreats in 6 Steps, Part I

Here at Marco, we guide clients through the entire retreat planning process from A-Z. This intensive planning process (of 50+ steps!) requires us to hone in on the client’s top priorities for their team’s time together.

Whether the goal is team-building, connection, celebration, or goal-setting, we take your top priorities and design a retreat that hits the mark.

Throughout the course of planning hundreds of retreats, we’ve seen that the real opportunity to take your retreat from good to unforgettable lies in the thoughtfulness of the content and intentionality of your programming.

Here’s our tried-and-true process for designing team retreats that create lasting connection and impact. Feel free to use this approach for your next team offsite, and/or let us guide you through the VIP process (by planning your retreat with us!).



This is an analogy that we like to work with — think of designing an intentional retreat like the process of baking your favorite treat!

Here’s the first three steps…

Step 1 — What’re you making?



In other words, start by defining your main objectives! What do you want employees to feel during the retreat?

If you were a stranger sitting by your employees on the airplane on the flight home, what would you overhear them sharing about their offsite experience?

How would they summarize their takeaways in 1-3 words, whether that be “team connection,” “company vision,” or “celebrating our wins!”

In the same way that baking a scone differs from making homemade custard, your retreat can vary dramatically based on what your end outcome is.


Step 2 — Does anyone want to eat this?



After you’ve identified your objectives, it’s time to collect data and all relevant cultural inputs. This is about using every piece of data available to you to design an experience that truly supports your employees, which might include culture surveys, exit surveys, past retreat surveys, etc.

For example, you might be jazzed about creating an offsite focused on rest and recovery from burnout….but if your team is stressed about the company vision or the safety of their role, it’s unlikely that they’ll be able to rest and relax! Instead, a retreat focused on defining the company vision moving forward might be a better fit.

When it comes to ream retreats, your employees are your customers! Design for them and what they want.


Step 3 — What type of kitchen do I have?



This stage is about honoring the constraints of your offsite. While it’s fun to shoot for the moon and design the “ultimate” experience, we want to ground your planning process in reality.

The most important constraint to design for is your budget, which will dictate if you’re able to bring in an external facilitator or speaker, offer multiple activities for an afternoon, have a steak dinner, etc.

We also take into consideration the timing of your offsite and reset expectations accordingly.

Do you have 36 hours or 5 days? What time of year is your offsite taking place, and how does that impact employees and the type of venue we select?

Other factors like headcount, the team’s availability, company projects, etc all play a role in configuring your team offsite for success.  You want to make sure the oven you cooking with is on and up to date.

We’ll leave you with this for now. Check back next week for the final 3 steps in this process!

The Future of Culture in your Inbox