What to Look for in a Retreat Venue

By: Laurel Farrer

Your environment has a profound effect on your productivity in that space. Whenever we plan a group event here at Yonder, we have very specific criteria for venues before we propose them to a client. What’s on our checklist? I’m glad you asked...

1. Within one hour of an international airport.

By limiting your venue search to about a 50 mile/80 km radius of an international airport, you’ll do nothing but save: save the energy of your guests for the event, save money on expensive connection flights and ground transportation, and save your agenda from being derailed by travel time.

2. Large room that accommodates the entire party at once.

What’s the point of coming together as a group if you can’t actually be together as a group? Look for a large dining or conference room with tables and chairs for dining and screen work sessions, and a living room or lounge with comfortable seating for group discussions and games. Bonus points if you can find a venue that has both.

3. Private bedrooms.

Some teams are super tight and are willing to bunk together, but as a general rule, we recommend every guest have their own bed and bedroom during a retreat. Since they are accustomed to working alone and having control over their schedule and environment every day, it can be a taxing adjustment for a remote worker to suddenly be engaged with their team for an entire week. Having a clean, private space where they can take a quiet break, protect personal belongings, or call their family is a compassionate way to make sure everyone is feeling comfortable and ready to work.

4. Reliable technology.

The necessity of having great wifi that can support simultaneous use by dozens of devices is a given. Beyond that, we’re also looking for the venue to provide a microphone and speaker (based on the group size), adequate number of power outlets (and outlet strips, if needed), and a projector and screen.

5. Local excursion option.

Whether or not our clients choose to include it in their agenda, we always make sure there is something fun or exciting to do as a group nearby. Going off-site when you’re already off-site adds a little extra pizzaz to the experience and allows guests to get fully immersed in the local culture. Get hands-on with dinner at a sushi rolling class in Tokyo, ride a team of horses to go see the sunrise in Austin, or test your bravery with some parasailing in Costa Rica.

These standards apply to every event and venue, but we also take a lot of pride in digging deep into customization to find the perfect match for each team and the unique goals and purposes of that particular event.  Here are three additional factors to consider.

1. Privacy

Consider the surroundings of your event: do you want your team to be isolated in the wilderness to keep them focused on the event, or have access to local entertainment and culture? If you want a little bit of both, ask an urban hotel about their run of house options.

2. Free Time Activities

Some of the best team bonding happens during the free time portion of the agenda, so think about what your guests can do on-site together by looking for venues with a pool, billiard room, theater, etc.

3. Food Prep Policies and Resources

Are outside caterers allowed? What is the kitchen like? Whether your meals are being served by your team or a caterer, it’s incredibly difficult to prepare a meal for a large group with an ill-equipped kitchen. Make sure that you eat well (and on time) by planning ahead.

Paying attention to these details will ensure your team is able to make the most of their time together while producing some awesome products… and memories!

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by trying to select a venue for your team’s next gathering, give us a shout. We have over a decade of experience planning events for distributed teams and would love to help you out.

Laurel Farrer is the COO here at Yonder. She always has a notebook and pen within arm's reach, never sits with both feet on the floor, and drives (safely) without depth perception.