Experience of Organising a Team Retreat for the First Time

I believe team retreats are a great way to bring a team of people together outside of the usual environment, strengthen the bonds, explore some new places and have some fun.

Since our teams are spread across 3 locations (London, Czech Rep, Romania) it becomes almost a necessity to do at least one team retreat per year.

We started to organise them only last year. It was our very first team retreat and I was very curious about how it will actually go.

I’ve never been a part of any team building activity myself before so this was a bit of a challenge for me. Can I do it?

It’s part of my every day job to try and test new things out. So I’m never afraid of a challenge but this was a challenge of a different kind! Bringing 10 people together to spend 3 full days packed with activities was an experiment I’ve never done before.

Will it work? Will it be enjoyable? Will people get along well? Will they be bored? Will they wish it was shorter? Will they like the activities? Will there be something we’ve forgotten about that will spoil the entire trip?

Many things could have gone wrong but I’m extremely pleased to say that it all turned out better than I could have imagined. We had tons of fun, eat a lot of yummy Czech food and even packed two half-day all-team meetings in. And the most important thing – the feedback from the team – was great! They really enjoyed it – mission accomplished!

So what were the key points that made it all a success?

1) Thorough preparation – experience teaches me to rather over-prepare than under-prepare when one leads a group of people so I’ve put quite a lot of time into the preparation

2) Over-communication – people were travelling from 5 different places so I’ve made sure that everyone is super-clear about where they need to be, at what time and what to do if they get lost

3) Local connection – our team lead Lukas who works in our Czech office has been a great help and made things much easier, organised local team-building activities and transport

4) Great venue – this was the cornerstone of the success. Lukas found a venue that had a great boardroom, fast internet connection, food served all day, attentive staff, bowling and sauna all on the premisses. What more to ask for?

5) Just the right duration – the feedback from the team was that 3 days were perfect.

Why the Czech Republic?

1) Familiar environment – we’ve picked the Czech republic because I can speak the language as well as half of our team – if we experienced any problems, solutions would be easy.

2) Any mistakes would be cheap – that’s important rule in business! If you are learning, make sure any mistakes will be cheap. This being our very first team-building, we did not want to end up with a huge bill.

3) Prague and the Czech republic – are beautiful places to visit and popular tourist destinations, so why not? 🙂

Choosing the right venue

Since the right venue is such a key to the success of the team building, here is a list of questions to ask if you too are looking for the right venue to host your team retreat:

1) What kind of cultural, sport or entrainment activities does your venue provide? (eg. spa, gym, mini-cinema)?

2) What are the cultural, sport or entrainment activities nearby your venue (eg. paintball, hiking, tennis)?

3) Can we hire a private function room for at least a few hours a day? Is there a charge for this?

4) Does your venue provide a fast wifi internet? Is it included in the price?

Few Organisational Tips

1) Ask each team member to sign a waiver (eg. if they injure themselves during an activity, they can’t sue your company – IMPORTANT – in business, always think of things that can go wrong)

2) Print themed t-shirts – they make the team feel like part of something when everyone puts it on them and they also make for great photos!

What could have been done better?

1) More rest and personal time – if there was one thing that the team had asked for after the event, it was having larger gaps between activities for personal time or a simple break (1 hour after lunch for example). In the effort to make sure that no one feels bored, me and Lukas have packed the programme up with so many activities that there were usually only about 10 minutes left between finishing one activity and starting another one 🙂 Next time, we need to include more gaps for the team to rest, especially if we decide to make the team retreat longer (over 3 days) – the majority of us were totally exhausted at the end of the third day 🙂

2) Decreasing the travel time – our venue was intentionally located in mountains. We wanted to be far away from cities. However, to reach such destination, you need to add another 2.5 hours on top of the travel to Prague. This proved to take a lot of time, increased the overall costs and made it harder logistically. Next time I would try to find a venue closer to the airport, but probably I would still not compromise if the ideal venue was harder to reach.

You can view the agenda and our organisational master plan here.

And photos and videos from the team building on our Facebook page.

Good luck if you too plan your own team retreat, it’s good fun and definitely worth it!

And as always, feel free to let me know in the comments what was your best team retreat?

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