Corporate events are an effective way to engage employees and clients, but these activities—and the industry responsible for planning them—were left reeling as the COVID-19 pandemic led to widespread cancellations.
In March 2020, the start of the pandemic, 96 percent of event organizers saw their meetings and conferences shut down, according to Meeting Professionals International (MPI).
As the pandemic loosened its grip globally in 2022, however, businesses returned to booking these important events. All American Entertainment Speakers Bureau reports that by March 2022, a total of 73 percent of the events requesting the organization’s speakers were in-person functions. A 2022 survey of MPI members revealed that more than 80 percent were optimistic about business conditions for the coming year.
Business professionals—including event planners, who organize and manage meetings and special events—may have questions about how to plan a corporate event as industries return to hosting these activities.
What Is a Company Retreat?
A company retreat is a type of corporate event in which team members get out of the office and away from their usual responsibilities. Generally hosted for specific teams or all employees and management, company retreats can include activities such as:
- Collaborative work projects
- Learning opportunities
- Team-building activities
- Informal socializing
The Benefits of Company Retreats
A company retreat is what many organizations turn to for building relationships and morale among employees. The retreats generally combine work and fun in a relaxed environment to achieve objectives such as:
- Strengthening employee connections
- Emphasizing the company mission or vision
- Reenergizing employees in their work
Positive results from company retreats can go beyond these overall objectives, however. For example, they can yield great ideas that employees might not have had in their typical office environment. A 2021 survey by TravelPerk, a business travel management organization, revealed that more than a third (34 percent) of employees had their best ideas when they were away from work.
Following are many of the ways that company retreats can benefit employees and their leaders—and organizations as a whole:
Encourage Creative Thinking
Company retreat activities that take employees away from their normal responsibilities and provide opportunities to interact with corporate leaders can build trust between team members and unleash creative thinking. Simply encouraging trust between individuals can bolster creativity, according to a 2021 article in Frontiers in Psychology drawing a link between stronger relationships and thinking outside the box.
Build Worker Morale
Fostering stronger connections between employees and teams can make a difference for the morale in the workplace even after the retreat ends. A 2021 report from Wildgoose, a company that provides corporate team-building activities, showed that 57 percent of employees believed that having a good friend at work made their job more enjoyable.
Lower Employee Stress
Planning a corporate event with recreational activities can help workers focus on goals and activities that are outside the scope of their typical responsibilities. These sessions can alleviate the stress of day-to-day work by removing the focus on deadlines and workloads.
Reduce Staff Turnover
A company’s willingness to host retreats for employees can help ensure that the staff feels valued—and that can lead to levels of employee engagement that encourage talent retention. In fact, a 2021 report from Quantum Workplace, a human resources technology provider, showed that only 11 percent of employees who were engaged in their work had interviewed for new roles in the past six months; 28 percent of disengaged employees had done so.
This feeling of belonging and engagement also affects potential employees’ interest in a company. Businesses known for offering opportunities like corporate retreats can be an attractive perk for those seeking new roles.
Uncover Hidden Talents
The varied activities of company retreats can reveal employee strengths that were unknown to colleagues—and, sometimes, to the employees themselves. Employee interaction in handling different types of projects and scenarios can help clarify the types of roles that are the best fit for each team member.
Find Opportunities for Improvement
Just as discussion and team-building activities at retreats can uncover strengths, they can also show areas that have the potential for improvement for teams and individuals. These findings can inform plans for team assignments and training when employees return to the office.
Align Corporate Goals and Culture
Locations and activities for retreats that align with corporate goals and culture offer an opportunity to reinforce the mission and vision for the organization. Employees can take part in programming that highlights the organization’s values and discuss shared interests with colleagues.
Provide Employee Recognition
Company retreats are an opportunity to celebrate the achievements of employees, including those who may not receive frequent recognition in the typical office environment. Bringing members of different business areas together makes it easier to educate teams who may not typically work together about the good work that other departments do.
This recognition often increases engagement; a 2020 study from Quantum Workplace study found that employees who believed that they’d earn accolades for their efforts were 2.7 times more likely to be engaged in their work.
A formal getaway for employees and management can deliver key benefits, according to Inc. and Workable: 1. Encourage creative thinking. 2. Build morale. 3. Reduce stress. 4. Uncover hidden talents. 5. Align shared goals with work culture. 6. Uncover opportunities for improvement. 7. Show employees are important. 8. Reduce turnover.
Company Retreats for Small Businesses: Ideas, Locations, and Resources
Company retreats may include every employee at a company, but what about small businesses with fewer employees and, generally, fewer resources? As long as the event meets the requirement of offering a relaxed environment that encourages participation, various ideas for how to plan a corporate event are available for smaller organizations.
Company Retreat Ideas
From taking trips as a team to volunteering in the community, options abound for retreat activities for small businesses. Following are some ideas:
Vision Board Party
Employees can gather to brainstorm and create visual images of their personal and work vision and goals. This activity offers an opportunity to plan for the future and build understanding of one another.
Informal Annual Meeting
Annual meetings for sharing company activities and results can be informal, including team-building activities and workshops. The meetings can also include time to recognize the work of employees and teams.
Mission and Vision Discussion
Gathering employees to seek their input on the company mission and vision can help them feel included and valued. This meeting could begin with leaders outlining ideas about direction, followed by staff input and discussion about those ideas.
Local Site Tours
If financial or health restrictions make it inconvenient to host an out-of-town event, touring local sites of interest is an option. Ideas for planning this event include walking or taking bus tours.
In-Person or Online Games
Outdoor games and sports tournaments can be effective for fostering teamwork among employees. If in-person activities aren’t an option, online games can encourage the same spirit of camaraderie.
Company retreats can focus on teaching employees a skill that’s outside the scope of their work. Learning through activities such as drawing or painting can help people develop their creativity.
Gathering employees for volunteer work in the community provides them with a shared sense of purpose. By working as a team, staff members can develop stronger bonds.
A multiday seminar focused on various facets of wellness—from sleep to nutrition— can help encourage employees to live a healthy lifestyle. Learning how to incorporate healthy habits into day-to-day life can help prevent employee burnout.
Company Retreat Locations
Whether planning a big out-of-town trip or a casual visit to a coworker’s home, various options are available for hosting company retreats. Some potential locations for these events are:
- Camping or glamping facility
- Out-of-town resort
- Local park
- Coffee shop
- Bowling alley
- Employee’s home
Company Retreat Resources
Online resources are available to assist with the company retreat planning process, with information and tips available from:
- Help Scout, “How to Plan a Fun and Productive Company Retreat”: Explores the benefits of retreats and offers planning and budgeting tips
- Moniker, “How to Plan a Company Retreat: The Complete Guide”: Provides guidance about how to structure retreats and shares ideas for locations
- Offsite Co., Planning a Corporate Retreat? Read This First: Outlines the steps for planning retreats, providing information on topics such as timing, venue, and catering
- Outback Team Building & Training, Online Guide: Everything You Need to Know About Planning the Ultimate Company Retreat: Offers a five-part overview of preparing for and evaluating the success of retreats
- Refreshing Mountain, The Ultimate Guide for Retreat Planners: Planning a Retreat: Leads event planners through the process of getting approval for a retreat and coordinating its activities, and includes a planning checklist
- Retreat Central, Free Retreat Planning Guide: Offers access to a guide about establishing goals for retreats and determining the location and participants
- Zuddl, “Design Your Own Virtual or Hybrid Retreat to Build Trust & Connection”: Includes tips for planning and presenting a retreat that’s virtual or both virtual and in person
Event Planning Checklist for Small and Large Companies
Corporate events can be great for celebrating achievements, building office culture, and planning for the future. However, ensuring that they run smoothly and benefit the participants requires careful planning and preparation. An event planning checklist is a valuable resource in coordinating activities. Key steps to take in planning a corporate event include the following:
- Establish event goals and objectives. Write down the reason for the event, such as gathering shareholders, celebrating milestones, or announcing products.
- Select a date. Ensure that the timing of the event works for key stakeholders who need to attend and that a venue is available.
- Set the agenda. Establish a set schedule for event activities, with programming that aims to help the event achieve its goals.
- Plan team-building activities and recreation. Include fun sessions, such as icebreakers or group competitions, that help forge relationships.
- Determine the type and size of the event. Choose activities ranging from trade shows to training sessions to establish what to present and whom to invite.
- Create and finalize the budget. Determine the cost of the event and related activities, such as transportation, food and beverages, and venue fees.
- Book the retreat venue. Consider whether the appropriate location for the event is local or out of town and whether it should take place in an urban or a remote setting.
- Determine transportation access. Evaluate how those attending will get to the event and the transportation arrangements.
- Choose a caterer. Keep in mind issues such as whether people will eat together for meals and the quantity of snacks and drinks required.
- Determine audiovisual needs. Take stock of what entertainment, speakers, and other presentations will require assistance like microphones or video screens—and whether the venue will provide it.
- Identify and contact potential speakers. Determine whether to invite presenters to help meet the goals of the event, and determine their availability.
- Develop materials. Produce all printed pieces needed for the event, with a list of attendees developed just before the event.
- Manage event day setup. Arrive early to ensure that those working at the event are in their assigned places and to allow time for presentation run-throughs.
- Prepare a written summary of the event. Gather feedback from attendees, evaluate how smoothly the event operated, and compile a report to help with measuring results and planning the next event.
Event Planning Resources
Event planning checklists, tips, and strategies are helpful resources for ensuring the smooth operation of activities. These materials address topics such as schedules for planning and considerations for accommodating health and safety protocols:
- The Bash, “A Simple Corporate Event Planning Checklist”: Offers a downloadable checklist and ideas for event themes and activities
- Endless Events, “Tips for Corporate Event Planning in 2022”: Provides tips for setting goals, selecting venues, and evaluating the event’s success
- Eventbrite, Your Essential Conference and Corporate Event Planning Checklist: Outlines the steps to take to conduct a corporate event and when to take each of those steps
- Glue Up, “A Guide to Corporate Event Planning With Checklist and COVID-19 Tips”: Describes different types of events, how to market them, and what steps to take to ensure participants’ health and safety
- SnackNation, “The Only Corporate Event Planning Checklist You’ll Ever Need”: Lists the steps for planning corporate events, starting with actions to take more than a year before the gathering
- Social Tables, “How to Plan a Corporate Event: 8 Tips to Know”: Gives key tips for successful event planning, including evaluating what tasks to outsource and who will be the central contact for information
Corporate Event: Ideas, Locations, and Resources
Corporate retreats are just one of the many types of corporate events, which also include the following:
- Appreciation and awards events
- Company meetings
- Product launch events
- Seminar and conferences
- Trade shows
There are many types of corporate events, including the following, according to The Balance Small Business and Hubspot: 1.Seminars and conferences. 2. Trade shows. 3. Appreciation and awards events. 4. Product launch events. 5. Company meetings.
When hosting anything from a conference to a company meeting, various corporate event ideas can help in presenting an engaging, productive function. Here are some of those ideas, along with potential event locations and resources for more information.
Corporate Event Ideas
A mix of business-related programming and social events can help hold attendees’ interest and encourage them to share thoughts about their experiences with others. Following are some ideas for corporate events:
- Escape room challenge
- Catchbox, a throwable microphone, for audience comments
- Scavenger hunt
- Virtual reality training session
- Live band performances
- Puppies for attendees to play with
- Visual artist rendering of event activities
- Photo booth
- Arcade games
- Cooking class
Corporate Event Locations
Professionals planning a corporate event have various options for where to host the function—whether it’s in an inexpensive, casual environment or a pricier, luxurious environment. Potential corporate event locations include the following:
- Gardens or pavilions
- Convention centers
- Breweries and wineries
- Golf courses
- Cruise ships
- Art galleries
- Historical estates
- Community centers
Corporate Event Resources
Blogs, podcasts, software, and influencers are among the sources of help and information that can ease the process of planning a corporate event. Following are some resources for corporate event ideas and inspiration:
- Amelia, “The Best Event Planning Resources Every Pro Should Use”: Describes different types of useful software for event planners as well as organizations and informational resources
- Constant Contact, “Event Planning Resources: From Start to Finish”: Explores topics such as promotional events, fundraising activities, and end-of-year functions
- Endless Events, Free Event Planning Resources: Provides links to articles, handbooks, webinars, and checklists on topics ranging from developing budgets to planning hybrid meetings
- Event Solutions, Event Planning Resources: Provides event-related articles on topics such as marketing activities, product launches, and holiday themes
- PC/Nametag, “Corporate Event Planning Resources Every Professional Should Bookmark”: Lists various resources for event planning, including blogs, podcasts, guides, and influencers
Tips on How to Plan an Event Successfully
Planning a corporate event can be a time-consuming and nerve-wracking experience. Following these key tips for how to plan an event successfully can help ease the stress for event planners and other professionals:
- Research and plan early. Establish event goals and begin as much as a year or more in advance to help ensure smooth operation and allow for timely invitations to attendees.
- Communicate effectively with vendors and staff. Ensure that vendors, clients, sponsors, clients, and team members have the latest plans and can reach a central contact easily.
- Have a backup plan. Safeguard event coordinators from corporate and attendee backlash by having contingency plans for issues like vendor mix-ups, weather problems, or changes in health and safety requirements.
- Conduct a run-through. Plan several hours of time to conduct dry runs of presentations, identifying and correcting any problems with equipment or content before the event.
- Implement event promotion strategies. Build interest in the event through channels such as social media and online advertising, and consider promotional items for event giveaways.
- Assign responsibilities. Manage workloads by assembling a strong team, and then delegating responsibilities as appropriate, relying on tools like planning software to help with coordination.
- Remain flexible. Acknowledge that issues will pop up, and develop a thorough plan that allows for flexibility with event timelines and activity schedules.
- Ask for feedback. Solicit input after the event from participants, staff members, vendors, and corporate officials to help guide future event planning.
Resources for Planning Events Successfully
Various online resources provide tips to streamline processes, save time, and delegate responsibilities. From beginner to professional, event planners can find useful tips through the following sources:
- Color Reflections, 11 of the Best Event Management Tips for Beginners: Provides beginner tips for planning events, including managing expectations and taking a big-picture approach
- Social Tables, “Tips Tuesday: 27 Top Time-Saving Event Planning Tricks”: Lists actions and strategies for handling issues such as last-minute changes, staff training, and task organization
- Indeed, 16 Tips for Planning Successful Events: Describes steps for avoiding some common pitfalls in event planning, including budget concerns, unclear vendor expectations, and unclear communication
- Peerspace, “13 Event Planning Tips—The Do’s and Don’ts Straight From the Pros”: Outlines some key steps that event planning professionals recommend following—and avoiding—to help ensure a smooth planning process
Plan for the Perfect Corporate Event
From launching products to building morale, corporate events offer a host of benefits to businesses and their stakeholders. With these events—including in-person functions—reemerging after years of COVID-19 restrictions, many event planners and other professionals have returned to coordinating these activities.
The process for planning corporate events that yield positive outcomes can feel overwhelming, however. The right plans and resources are essential for creating events that inspire and inform—with fewer headaches for those leading them.