One of the main reasons for having a retreat or awayday is to create a different way of engaging with each other than is possible in day-to-day meetings.
For these events to work, we need to break patterns. It’s easy for teams to stick to familiar ways of working as these feel safe, but often prevent more creative conversations.
We encourage participants to take some risks to embrace more difficult conversations. .
This is more about intelligently improvising based on experience than trusting in any particular technique. It involves not always playing safe when tricky topics arise, and being willing to ask more challenging questions of the group.
We avoid long sessions in which one person talks and everyone else just listens or fights with others to be the next person speaking. That involves greater discipline in the plenaries you do have, and not simply defaulting to the loudest voice in the room; and also creating structures in which people work in pairs and smaller groups for much of the time.
It’s also important to have changes of pace during the event. Groups of people often get stuck: sometimes in frantic forms of conversation, and sometimes in flat ones. Changing pace makes it easier for all participants to engage and allows more creative thinking. Knowing when to press on, and when it’s better to pause and refresh, is an important judgement call for the facilitator.
We've run retreats and awaydays for over 20 years, with organisations as varied as Amnesty International, Johnson and Johnson and World Vision.