Bye Bye, Boring: Six Steps to Nailing a Corporate Retreat

Employee engagement. Work-life balance. Wellness, productivity and job satisfaction. On paper, these sound like a bunch of corporate buzzwords.

But we’re here to tell you: they matter.

As an agency, Approach Marketing was founded on the principle that it’s possible to have a big job AND a big life. Here, work-life balance is a reality that we stand by, root for and fiercely protect because we believe our personal and professional lives are connected.

From a business perspective, investing in your team’s engagement, wellness and culture isn’t just a nice thing to do. It’s critical for business success. According to a recent Forbes article, highly engaged teams show up every day with passion, purpose, presence, and energy. Engaged teams are 21 percent more profitable for the company, and employees who feel their voice is heard are 4.6 times more likely to do their best work.

That’s why every year, Approach Marketing hosts an Annual Meeting—taking a step back to work on the business, not just in the business. During these two hyper-focused days we all get together in person to reflect on where we’ve been, discuss our goals for the upcoming year, participate in professional and personal development, and have fun in each other’s company.

We’re shocked by the reaction many of our friends in corporate America have at the mention of an annual team meeting. To many people, corporate retreats bring up thoughts of boring presentations, stale conference rooms, awkward team-building activities and forced socializing.

But friends, it doesn’t have to be this way. Ask any member of the Approach team, and they’ll tell you this is one of their favorite weeks of the year.

We believe all teams deserve engaging, productive and fun corporate meetings. So, coming off the high of our 2019 meeting, we want to share our step-by-step guide to planning a corporate retreat your team will actually want to attend – and will truly enjoy!

Step 1: Don’t skimp on the venue

One of the best parts about a team retreat is shaking things up and getting out of your normal work location. But don’t just move from your everyday office environment to a stuffy conference room. Look for venues that foster creativity and fun. Find a space that gives your team some freedom to move around, gather in small groups or take quiet personal breaks when needed. And, if possible, choose a location with high-touch service where everything is provided, making your team feel well-cared for. We personally love changing up our location from year-to-year to keep everyone on their toes. In the past, we have held our meetings at sparkspace, Vue Columbus and Brick House Blue. This year, we enjoyed the beautiful spaces at Hotel Leveque and Wolf’s Ridge Brewing. A little thinking outside the box on venues will go a long way in setting the stage for a fun and engaging meeting.

Step 2: Invite your team members to take center stage

There’s a saying we live by and that is, “If you are the smartest person in the room, then you are in the wrong room.” Sure, the members of your leadership team have lots of valuable insights they can and should share. But if you only call on the C-level team to lead sessions, you’re missing out on a huge opportunity to engage your team and tap their talent. Identifying employees as internal thought leaders within your organization gives them the chance to contribute their knowledge, best practices, and key learnings with their peers. Plus, sharing the spotlight not only lessens your meeting workload, it also gives your leadership team deeper insight into your employees’ day-to-day experiences, pain points and successes.

Step 3: Do a good deed together

Banding together to give back to the community can foster shared feelings of teamwork, humility and goodwill. This year, we started our team meeting with a volunteer event at the Ronald McDonald House. Together, we cleaned and prepped rooms for incoming families—and learned more about their mission in the process. If your company already supports a specific cause or nonprofit organization, you can reach out to ask how your team can get involved in person. Or, if you aren’t sure where to start, you can check out organizations like Besa to find out what volunteer opportunities are available near you.   

Step 4: Mix personal and professional development

If happy and healthy employees matter to business success, then it’s important to invest in your team’s happiness and wellness. We loved taking time at this year’s Annual Meeting to focus on stress management, positive thinking, self-care and finding a better balance personally and professionally. Laura Cooke, founder and CEO of the Positive Foundry, and Executive & Life Coach Regan Walsh led sessions that left us all feeling positive, energized and inspired with concrete steps to achieve our personal and professional goals.

Step 5: Get candid about the business

In many companies, the behind-the-scenes process of business planning and goal setting is kept, well, behind-the-scenes, with the company leadership and a few select others being part of the process. But at Approach, we’re all about transparency. Because engaging the entire team in business planning and goal setting builds more engagement, ownership and trust. Our sessions this year focused on our new Approach Marketing Core Values (more to come on that later!) and the EOS (Entrepreneurial Operating System®) we are investing in to set measurable goals and hold ourselves accountable across the board for meeting those goals. We firmly believe that when your team knows where you want the business to go, they will rally together to help get you there.

Step 6: Sprinkle in lots of fun

Of course, team retreats should be productive and business-focused. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t a lot of opportunities to have fun. And for us, as a virtual agency, being together for a few days in person with some of the best and brightest ladies in PR is the icing on the cake. We look for ways to infuse fun and excitement throughout the meeting. Activities like kicking off the Annual Meeting volunteering at the Ronald McDonald House, to team happy hours and a killer dinner at Watershed Kitchen + Bar, to a morning yoga session to energize us for the day kept us smiling and laughing throughout the week. While social outings are a much-loved part of our retreat, it’s important to honor the fact that everyone has different personalities and needs. We always note in the agenda which events everyone is required to attend, while making some of the more casual get togethers optional. When you allow people to recharge their batteries in their own way and choose which events to join—you’ll find they show up as their best and most authentic selves.


Since our Annual Meeting earlier this month, we’ve received a ton of feedback from our team about the experience, and how they left the meeting feeling energized, refreshed and more excited than ever to be part of the Approach team. We can’t think of a better testament to the power of the team meeting than that!

If you’d like to hear more about our approach to our Annual Meeting and why it’s such an important part of Approach Marketing, contact us at We’d love to chat more!