Tips for Virtual Offsites and Remote Retreats

Retreats or offsites have been a great way for organizations and teams to take a step back, connect, and reflect on the past period or year. However, COVID-19 has disrupted these in-person retreats and forced businesses to get creative with virtual offsites and remote retreats. These virtual meetings can be just as interactive and collaborative as the old way of doing things – they just require a different mindset! In this post, we’ll share some tips for hosting one of these remote events as well as provide guidance on how we can help you design your own event using Zoom or another remote collaboration tool.

Provide the tools employees need for your virtual offsite

Whether that’s an itinerary, sharpie markers, or a high-definition webcam and monitor, make sure employees have everything they need to participate in the virtual retreat and enjoy their time together. Let them know what software you’ll use. We like to do Zoom Workshops in concert with a realtime online collaborative whiteboarding tool like Mural or Miro.

Make your remote retreat interactive from the start

Avoid the boring online meetings they may be used do and do something different. That’s the nature of an offsite or retreat…to step back and get away from the normal place and way of working. Make the entire event fun, interactive, and engaging from the start. Design it for engagement. Consider ice breaker activities, break times for social interaction, and other activities that allow employees to work together and interact. Consider pairing up people in groups so everyone has a chance to get involved in the social aspect (even those who consider themselves introverts or more reluctant to participate).

Minimize presentations, maximize reflection & discussions

Virtual meetings can be tough for our concentration and attention. To make the most of this medium, limit long presentations and instead focus on maximizing the amount of discussion time or interactions that take place. If a brief presentation is required, use screen sharing to show the material so everyone can follow along and be more invested in the message. It’s OK to not have a single power point slide for your virtual retreat or offsite.

Use virtual offsite technology to its fullest

Technology is more accessible and useful than ever before. There are digital tools for whiteboarding, taking quizzes, surveying, and collaborating in ways you may not have even considered. Use this technology to empower your attendees and keep them engaged and focused throughout. Breakout sessions, voting, and text chat are some of these tools.

Incorporate lots of breaks in your virtual retreat

Hold shorter sessions and spread the meetings out over a few days for maximum results. Encourage attendees to also interact and reflect outside of these hours – keeping the momentum going across the different sessions or days. We like to do 3 hour sessions. You’d be surprised at how quickly the time flies at a remote retreat when you design and facilitate engaging activities. We’ve even done 2 day events when needed breaking every hour with a reflective activity participants think about during their break.

These are just a few tips for hosting a successful virtual offsite or remote retreat. If you’d like to create your own unique virtual event, our team of innovative retreat experts are here to help. Contact us online today to see how we can help you accomplish your goals in a remote session.

Remote Offsite Virtual Retreat Story

We recently design and facilitated a virtual retreat for a smaller tech company based out of San Francisco with a team across the globe. It’s a lot easier to get everyone together virtually for an offsite. This CEO had never brought his team together for a retreat – but this year was different. Here’s his story about the difference it made.

“We are marketing tech company based out of San Francisco that has been working as a remote team for over 5 years. We have never brought the whole team together for an event in the same time and place, or had a single video call together with this unique group with new members. We all were used to working together over email on a daily basis.

When Darin approached me with the idea to do a virtual retreat, I was a bit hesitant. My team is used to being behind the screen and on the technical side. We also live in different parts of the country and world, so I wasn’t sure if a team bonding activity would really work.

I have to say I’m really glad we did it. Darin’s virtual retreat got us to see that we have so much in common. We were able to bond as a team like never before. The entire team feels closer together and not just an email thread. We got to learn that we have lots in common and have similar past experiences that have shaped all of us. The retreat and focus on reflection of a year was very positive for our culture.

This is something I now plan on doing the retreat on a quarterly basis. My entire team came away energized and inspired. As the CEO of the company, I came away refreshed. I got to learn what my teammates value in the company and culture. Through a “gratitude card” activity I saw what my team was grateful for from our year together and how they viewed our business.

The experience of saying yes to a virtual retreat (and for it to go so well) transformed me as a leader. It was transformational for our team and our culture. Doing a virtual event or retreat well is extremely challenging, that’s why I was hesitant at first. Darin was a natural with it and made it look easy. Every person on our team shared and engaged at a high-level thanks to Darin’s welcoming and creative style of facilitation.

I highly recommend Darin’s virtual retreat to organizations, especially those that are remote (which is everyone these days). Do not compare this to a typical webinar or Zoom meeting. Darin innovates what an online group experience can be. He uses an interactive virtual mural whiteboard to get people to engage with fun activities and share things. He also has physical activities that get you to draw, create, make and sends you on expeditions to find things you can use to tell your story. You spend time away from the screen and when you are on it is very engaging.

I was hesitant to devote much time to another online meeting because I felt it would be fatiguing for the team after an exhausting year. This virtual retreat was the opposite, the time flew by and it was energizing, reflective, and a highlight experience for our team to do together.”

Are you interested in offering a virtual treat for your organization remotely? Contact Darin to learn about how we might help with the design or facilitation of the online retreat or just coaching you on how to do it yourself. 

1 Comment

  • Amy

    Reply Reply January 4, 2021

    Darin,
    Great to see that you keep reinventing! I hope you and your family are all well.
    I still use your book “Innovation Step by Step” and the resources you taught us in workshops.
    Amy McIlvaine
    (Formerly from NIATX)

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