Virtual Retreat : 11 Design Tips

Many executives and association strategists wonder whether viable virtual retreat options exist to replace in-person strategy development and strategic problem solving retreats. The answer is: yes. One can host a successful, virtual, daylong strategy development or strategic problem solving retreat where those that are engaged at 9:00 am are still fully engaged at 5:15 pm.

Ensuring a high level of engagement throughout the day and, most importantly, quality output at the retreat conclusion requires one to re-think traditional retreat designs and create a design that is specific to a virtual retreat. In other words, it is unlikely that you can just take an in-person retreat design and move it online with success. However, by applying the right design thinking principles and design elements one can achieve real success at a virtual strategy retreat, where participants are highly engaged throughout the day – and retreat objectives are realized. 

As you design your virtual retreat, here are 11 design tips for you to consider.

Virtual Retreat: Design Tips

  1. Change up methodology every 15 to 20 minutes.

  2. Use 15 to 30-minute long small group breakouts for a portion of every hour. 

  3. Provide breaks every 90 minutes. 

  4. Require that all participate via the online video platform. Resist providing an option for participants to call in via phone.

  5. Staff the retreat with a facilitator, host/tech person, and a behind the scenes scribe/assistant facilitator that can assist with the real-time transcription

  6. Provide clear participant instructions that include tips for setting up the virtual workstation, staying comfortable throughout the day, optimizing the use of the technology, optional use of virtual backgrounds, and food and beverage breaks.

  7. Open the retreat with a review of the technology tools that will be used.

  8. Capture brainstorming in real-time with live, onscreen handwriting using an electronic tablet, a tablet pen and notepad app.

  9. Pre-determine who will be in each breakout group. In doing so, strive for optimal diversity and consider participant personalities and communication styles. Lean toward making the groups smaller than you might with in-person breakouts; five to six people per group works well.

  10. Change the small groups assignments throughout the day. 

  11. Consider identifying and training a member from each small group as a small group facilitator.

Of course, a successful retreat relies on more than just that which happens during the retreat hours. Employing a sound process to design the retreat day itself exponentially increases the probability of success. For information on virtual retreat design process, click here.

Click here to read about a global association of surgeons who converted their planed Strategic Action Plan Workshop into a daylong virtual retreat with participants from around the world as a result of COVID-19 travel restrictions.

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