6 Tips for Planning a Hybrid Corporate Retreat

Learn why the entire team doesn't need to be on-site to get the most out of a corporate getaway. Plus: See inside 13 luxury venues ready to host your next hybrid retreat.

6 Tips for Planning a Hybrid Corporate Retreat

Corporate retreats are an ideal way for team members to relax and recharge, brainstorm ideas and work through problems, and generally get a break from the distractions of daily work life. Of course, in our new hybrid world, not every employee will be comfortable being on-site. But yes, hosting a hybrid corporate retreat is possible, with a little extra planning and the help of a strong audiovisual partner and carefully selected venue. 

Here are six quick tips for creating an effective hybrid corporate retreat.

1. Don’t try to replicate the exact in-person experience.
“When planning a hybrid corporate event, you need to plan the event and the experiences for three different groups of attendees: the in-person experience, the virtual experience and the combined experience,” notes Lisa Schulteis, founder of virtual event management company ElectraLime Marketing as well as YourEventMarketPlace. “Be sure to focus on each of these to make sure the experience you are providing is engaging and considers the needs of the employees. Don't try to give virtual attendees an exact replica experience of being on-site, because it simply is not possible.”

Jenna Linnekens, chief strategy officer at experiential events agency Total Brand Experience, a member of Global DMC Partners, agrees. “It isn’t just about streaming the content from your in-person event to your virtual audience—so it isn’t just about bandwidth or filming in-person presenters using green screen technology and getting that content online,” she explains. “What you need to think about is, how do you bring your virtual audience into the live event? Think about in-person emcees, virtual panels, or a way to bring your virtual audience together with the in-person audience by visually curating meetings between virtual and in-person attendees.”

2. Humanize the experience and prioritize quality content. 
And don’t forget that connection should always be a main goal of a corporate retreat. “Whether the participant is attending in person or digitally, it is important to humanize the experience,” says Linnekens. “Use this opportunity to reinvent your retreat! Meet with your team and leadership, and survey your participants to hear their vision, desires and wants. Look at the reasons why you are holding this retreat with a fresh lens, and use what you find to take a deeper dive into your brand, the messages and overall goals.


And don't neglect the content! “People attend events for two main reasons: to network and to learn,” notes Rachel Andrews, senior director of global meetings and events at event tech company Cvent. “Virtual attendees should feel engaged and inspired—just as those meeting in person do—and both audiences will expect compelling content with information they need, delivered in a way that fits their viewing experience.”

3. Pay close attention to a venue’s audiovisual capabilities. 
Part of the charm of corporate retreats is that many take place in remote areas that allow employees to take a break from their daily lives and work schedules. But don’t assume that these idyllic spaces come with access to high-speed bandwidth. “Choose your venue wisely,” advises Andrews. “Venues that offer the right technology like on-site experts, audiovisual equipment, reliable Wi-Fi and streaming capabilities can help up the production capabilities and engagement levels for both the virtual and in-person experience.”

Linnekens agrees. “Look for hotels that embrace the conferences of tomorrow with built-in hybrid conference and meeting options,” she says, noting that elements she looks for include live web-streaming capabilities and seamless virtual and live event integration, hi-def video and streaming capabilities, or even a true turn-key hybrid studio if needed. “It should offer a safe and fully customizable space to prerecord presentations as well as to assist with live webinar and livestream production,” she adds. 

Schulteis suggests bringing in an LED wall where virtual attendees can be projected. “This allows the primary speaker and the live attendees to see the virtual attendees, as well as the virtual attendees, seeing themselves as part of the event,” she explains. “The venue will also need to be able to support a larger AV production team. Since hybrid events involve a mix of virtual and live programming, there are additional AV production staffing needs and equipment for the virtual side of the event.”

4. Send swag to virtual attendees. 
Your in-person attendees are being treated to all the luxuries of a corporate retreat—which means your virtual attendees should get a little pampering, too. Consider sending them meals or meal kits, along with any gifts that in-person attendees are receiving. 

At-home mailers can also be a fun opportunity for team building. “Look for team-building activities with kits that are shipped to participants, wherever they will be participating,” says Jayne Hannah, assistant director of corporate events for virtual, in-person and hybrid team-building event company TeamBonding, citing activities like her company's mixology or gingerbread house kits, which send materials to participants’ homes. 

5. Connect the in-person and at-home attendees whenever possible. 
“A key objective for any corporate retreat is to help attendees network and build meaningful connections,” notes Andrews. “In the planning process, think about how to facilitate ways to bring together in-person and virtual attendees—for example, through interactive activities and breakout rooms that encourage smaller group collaboration.”

Linnekens suggests creating "innovation lounges," where curated conversations can be held with virtual participants. “It's important they do not feel like their experience is a passive one and that they have special moments with keynotes and execs," she says, adds that curated, one-on-one brain dates can also be a great method for connecting attendees.

In terms of team-building experiences that incorporate both an in-person and at-home audience, Hannah recommends avoiding activities made for large groups. “Break large groups into smaller groups made up of both in-person and virtual participants, and use video conference tools to connect,” she advises, suggesting that one person from the in-person team can be charged with holding an iPad or laptop so remote team members can be included. “When doing hybrid activities, connection is key.”

Above all, be strategic with any games or team-building activities you choose. “You’ll want to create events where every person feels equally included, so anything that requires physical activity to participate won’t work,” notes James Green, co-owner of Build a Head, which creates life-size cardboard cutouts for events. “Instead, stick to things like games and breakout groups where everyone can participate.”

6. Be strategic with your schedule.
A major benefit of a hybrid retreat is that all staff members can participate, regardless of their location—but that means you’ll need to carefully consider time zones and other scheduling issues. 

“One of the main purposes for retreats is the in-person team building that occurs throughout the entire time there, so you won’t be able to completely replicate that for virtual attendees,” says Green. “The best way to make sure that everyone feels equally involved is to plan out specific and time-sensitive events. At-home employees won’t want to sit at their screen the entire day, but they will be more inclined to tune into events that are scheduled to take a designated amount of time.”

And for those preplanned hybrid events, adds Hannah, “Allow time for in-person attendees to get settled before the video conference starts so virtual guests do not get confused by chatter/movement or feel out left out of the conversation. Similarly, make it clear when the event has ended so people do not wonder when it is time to leave.” 

Ready to get planning? Read on for a look at 13 luxury properties throughout North America that have standout features for both in-person and virtual retreat attendees.

 

Lakeway Resort & Spa in Lakeway, Texas

"Lakeway Resort & Spa, the only hotel located on the banks of Lake Travis just 25 miles from Austin, is set amongst the natural landscape of Texas Hill Country. In addition to a boutique spa with lake views and a series of pools, the property is in close proximity to championship golf courses, wine tours, and outdoor recreation and water tours for group outings. On-site, there’s 24,000 square feet of meeting and event space, including three ballrooms and seven breakout rooms. Certified service managers are available to assist with meeting and event planning, and the property works with audiovisual company JSAV, which offers a variety of different virtual meeting packages ranging from simple setups on Zoom, WebEx or Microsoft teams to a complete, 3D virtual gathering with a custom lobby, registration pages, networking options and more."
Lakeway Resort & Spa, the only hotel located on the banks of Lake Travis just 25 miles from Austin, is set amongst the natural landscape of Texas Hill Country. In addition to a boutique spa with lake views and a series of pools, the property is in close proximity to championship golf courses, wine tours, and outdoor recreation and water tours for group outings. On-site, there’s 24,000 square feet of meeting and event space, including three ballrooms and seven breakout rooms. Certified service managers are available to assist with meeting and event planning, and the property works with audiovisual company JSAV, which offers a variety of different virtual meeting packages ranging from simple setups on Zoom, WebEx or Microsoft teams to a complete, 3D virtual gathering with a custom lobby, registration pages, networking options and more.

Photo: Courtesy of Lakeway Resort & Spa

 

Hyatt Regency Tamaya Resort & Spa in Santa Ana Pueblo, N.M.

"Also known as the filming location for the most recent season of The Bachelorette, the Hyatt Regency Tamaya Resort & Spa near Albuquerque, N.M., is offering safe “bubble” experiences for meetings and corporate retreats this year. The spacious hotel, separated from the rest of the area by a private 2-mile access road, can give meeting planners full reign over the entire 550-acre property and its on-site activities like biking trails along the Rio Grande River, horseback riding and more. There's 25,000 square feet of outdoor event space and 29,000 square feet of indoor space. Venues include a pavilion with floor-to-ceiling windows, a 7,500-square-foot event lawn, an outdoor amphitheater and a 12,000-square-foot ballroom. An on-site planning staff can accommodate audiovisual needs for hybrid events. Photo: Courtesy of Hyatt Regency Tamaya Resort & Spa"
Also known as the filming location for the most recent season of The Bachelorette, the Hyatt Regency Tamaya Resort & Spa near Albuquerque, N.M., is offering safe “bubble” experiences for meetings and corporate retreats this year. The spacious hotel, separated from the rest of the area by a private 2-mile access road, can give meeting planners full reign over the entire 550-acre property and its on-site activities like biking trails along the Rio Grande River, horseback riding and more. There's 25,000 square feet of outdoor event space and 29,000 square feet of indoor space. Venues include a pavilion with floor-to-ceiling windows, a 7,500-square-foot event lawn, an outdoor amphitheater and a 12,000-square-foot ballroom. An on-site planning staff can accommodate audiovisual needs for hybrid events.

Photo: Courtesy of Hyatt Regency Tamaya Resort & Spa

 

Hotel Roanoke & Conference Center in Roanoke, Va. 

"After a $480,000 renovation, Virginia’s Hotel Roanoke & Conference Center now offers hybrid and virtual meeting capabilities, including built-in audiovisual equipment and connectivity throughout the venue’s 63,000 square feet of meeting space. The property’s wireless HSIA network can now handle connections of more than 2,000 unique devices, and virtual broadcast via Zoom, Microsoft Teams or Webex is fully supported with a simple HDMI connection. The space also provides an on-site meeting concierge and a team of technology professionals to guide clients through hybrid event planning, and advanced video conferencing capabilities include built-in audiovisual equipment, multicamera recording options, mobile video conferencing resources and more. The historic, Tudor-style hotel, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, features 329 guest rooms and a variety of group activity options. Photo: Courtesy of Hotel Roanoke & Conference Center"
After a $480,000 renovation, Virginia’s Hotel Roanoke & Conference Center now offers hybrid and virtual meeting capabilities, including built-in audiovisual equipment and connectivity throughout the venue’s 63,000 square feet of meeting space. The property’s wireless HSIA network can now handle connections of more than 2,000 unique devices, and virtual broadcast via Zoom, Microsoft Teams or Webex is fully supported with a simple HDMI connection. The space also provides an on-site meeting concierge and a team of technology professionals to guide clients through hybrid event planning, and advanced video conferencing capabilities include built-in audiovisual equipment, multicamera recording options, mobile video conferencing resources and more. The historic, Tudor-style hotel, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, features 329 guest rooms and a variety of group activity options.

Photo: Courtesy of Hotel Roanoke & Conference Center

 

Streamsong Resort in Bowling Green, Fla.

"Situated amongst 16,000 secluded acres in Central Florida, Streamsong Resort is an ultra-modern, lodge-style property with 228 guest rooms. The property is an ideal spot for golf-lovers: It’s home to Florida’s highest-rated golf course collection and is the only destination in the world to have three courses designed by the architecture firms of Coore/Crenshaw, Doak and Hanse/Wagner. (For the non-golfers in the group, the property also offers guided bass fishing, a sporting clay challenge course, archery lessons and an on-site spa.) Streamsong Resort has an in-house audiovisual partner, AV Media Inc., to assist with hybrid meetings; all event spaces are wired for sound with in-ceiling speakers and either flat screens or projection screens. Additional technology can be brought in as needed. Photo: Courtesy of Streamsong Resor"
Situated amongst 16,000 secluded acres in Central Florida, Streamsong Resort is an ultra-modern, lodge-style property with 228 guest rooms. The property is an ideal spot for golf-lovers: It’s home to Florida’s highest-rated golf course collection and is the only destination in the world to have three courses designed by the architecture firms of Coore/Crenshaw, Doak and Hanse/Wagner. (For the non-golfers in the group, the property also offers guided bass fishing, a sporting clay challenge course, archery lessons and an on-site spa.) Streamsong Resort has an in-house audiovisual partner, AV Media Inc., to assist with hybrid meetings; all event spaces are wired for sound with in-ceiling speakers and either flat screens or projection screens. Additional technology can be brought in as needed.

Photo: Courtesy of Streamsong Resort

 

Waikiki Beach Marriott Resort & Spa in Honolulu, Hawaii 

"In August, Hawaii’s 1,310-room Waikiki Beach Marriott Resort & Spa completed a multimillion-dollar renovation of its 5.2-acre resort, which overlooks the world-famous Waikiki Beach. The property offers more than 30,000 square feet of reimagined indoor and outdoor event space, including a new pool and deck area that holds 750 people. There’s also 19 event rooms, 16 breakout rooms and other event spaces throughout the picturesque property. For groups, the hotel offers a variety of activities like hula and lei-making classes, private surf lessons, canoe trips and more. To bring in a virtual audience, high-speed Wi-Fi and specialty lighting is available in all event spaces; other audiovisual highlights include a 35 mm projector, an LCD panel, video cameras, videoconferencing services and more. Photo: Courtesy of Waikiki Beach Marriott Resort & Spa"
In August, Hawaii’s 1,310-room Waikiki Beach Marriott Resort & Spa completed a multimillion-dollar renovation of its 5.2-acre resort, which overlooks the world-famous Waikiki Beach. The property offers more than 30,000 square feet of reimagined indoor and outdoor event space, including a new pool and deck area that holds 750 people. There’s also 19 event rooms, 16 breakout rooms and other event spaces throughout the picturesque property. For groups, the hotel offers a variety of activities like hula and lei-making classes, private surf lessons, canoe trips and more. To bring in a virtual audience, high-speed Wi-Fi and specialty lighting is available in all event spaces; other audiovisual highlights include a 35 mm projector, an LCD panel, video cameras, videoconferencing services and more.

Photo: Courtesy of Waikiki Beach Marriott Resort & Spa

 

The Cloudveil in Jackson, Wyo. 

"The Cloudveil, an Autograph Collection property that’s the first hotel on Jackson, Wyo.’s historic Town Square, opened in May. The 100-room hotel draws inspiration from the town’s Western style and features a European bistro-style restaurant and bar, an expansive rooftop terrace overlooking Jackson’s Town Square and Snow King Mountain, an outdoor pool and garden, a fitness center, and 7,500 square feet of indoor-outdoor meeting and event space. For corporate retreats, the hotel offers curated itineraries and tours through EcoTour Adventures as well as its own on-site concierge team. To bring in virtual groups, the Cloudveil’s meeting room features built-in TV screens and full audiovisual capabilities. Photo: Courtesy of The Cloudveil"
The Cloudveil, an Autograph Collection property that’s the first hotel on Jackson, Wyo.’s historic Town Square, opened in May. The 100-room hotel draws inspiration from the town’s Western style and features a European bistro-style restaurant and bar, an expansive rooftop terrace overlooking Jackson’s Town Square and Snow King Mountain, an outdoor pool and garden, a fitness center, and 7,500 square feet of indoor-outdoor meeting and event space. For corporate retreats, the hotel offers curated itineraries and tours through EcoTour Adventures as well as its own on-site concierge team. To bring in virtual groups, the Cloudveil’s meeting room features built-in TV screens and full audiovisual capabilities.

Photo: Courtesy of The Cloudveil

 

Conrad Punta de Mita in Riviera Nayarit, Mexico 

"In Mexico’s Riviera Nayarit, the Conrad Punta de Mita opened in September 2020 on a 2-mile-long stretch of the Pacific Ocean. The property includes 324 rooms and “Casas," for those traveling in groups, with spacious patios, plunge pools and outdoor showers. The hotel’s amenities include three pools, a 10,000-square-foot indoor-outdoor spa and a fitness center, plus four restaurants and three bars that offer menus highlighting flavors and dishes of the region. For events, there’s 54,000 square feet of event space including nine meeting rooms and massive outdoor space. A dedicated on-site event team can coordinate hybrid events in the hotel’s state-of-the-art convention center, which includes a full suite of audiovisual equipment. Photo: Courtesy of Conrad Punta Mita"
In Mexico’s Riviera Nayarit, the Conrad Punta de Mita opened in September 2020 on a 2-mile-long stretch of the Pacific Ocean. The property includes 324 rooms and “Casas," for those traveling in groups, with spacious patios, plunge pools and outdoor showers. The hotel’s amenities include three pools, a 10,000-square-foot indoor-outdoor spa and a fitness center, plus four restaurants and three bars that offer menus highlighting flavors and dishes of the region. For events, there’s 54,000 square feet of event space including nine meeting rooms and massive outdoor space. A dedicated on-site event team can coordinate hybrid events in the hotel’s state-of-the-art convention center, which includes a full suite of audiovisual equipment.

Photo: Courtesy of Conrad Punta Mita

 

Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge in Jasper, Alberta

"The Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge, a lakeside located in Canada's Jasper National Park, can host in-person meetings in a variety of unique spaces, including next to the hotel’s golf course, in a private cabin, overlooking a mountain lake or in a historic ballroom. For hybrid groups, the property has partnered with Encore to create a tech-forward experience, and offers state-of-the-art technology including Wi-Fi and an Ethernet network throughout all meeting rooms. Groups also get access to Fairmont and Encore’s Event Technology Concierge Service, which assists with event tech through every stage of the process. The property has 442 rooms and is made up of log cabins connected by picturesque paths along Lac Beauvert. All guests are required to provide proof of COVID-19 vaccination or a negative test. Photo: Courtesy of Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge"
The Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge, a lakeside located in Canada's Jasper National Park, can host in-person meetings in a variety of unique spaces, including next to the hotel’s golf course, in a private cabin, overlooking a mountain lake or in a historic ballroom. For hybrid groups, the property has partnered with Encore to create a tech-forward experience, and offers state-of-the-art technology including Wi-Fi and an Ethernet network throughout all meeting rooms. Groups also get access to Fairmont and Encore’s Event Technology Concierge Service, which assists with event tech through every stage of the process. The property has 442 rooms and is made up of log cabins connected by picturesque paths along Lac Beauvert. All guests are required to provide proof of COVID-19 vaccination or a negative test.

Photo: Courtesy of Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge

 

Inns of Aurora in Aurora, N.Y.

"Luxury lakeside boutique resort Inns of Aurora plans to debut its new Taylor House Conference Center in October. The Greek Revival-inspired home, initially built in 1838, features original architecture and enhanced interiors designed to get creative juices flowing. The 1,500-square-foot top floor offers seven 65-inch TV screens, magnetic walls and airwalls to create up to three separate spaces, while the first floor features three parlors with original fireplaces, a dining room with barrel-vaulted ceilings and original 1871 woodwork. There’s also an outdoor patio with a fire pit that accommodates up to 50 guests. The entire resort is made up of five inns on the shores of Cayuga Lake in New York’s wine region, and it offers group activities like complimentary bicycles, nature trails, yoga classes and wine tours. Photo: Courtesy of Inns of Aurora"
Luxury lakeside boutique resort Inns of Aurora plans to debut its new Taylor House Conference Center in October. The Greek Revival-inspired home, initially built in 1838, features original architecture and enhanced interiors designed to get creative juices flowing. The 1,500-square-foot top floor offers seven 65-inch TV screens, magnetic walls and airwalls to create up to three separate spaces, while the first floor features three parlors with original fireplaces, a dining room with barrel-vaulted ceilings and original 1871 woodwork. There’s also an outdoor patio with a fire pit that accommodates up to 50 guests. The entire resort is made up of five inns on the shores of Cayuga Lake in New York’s wine region, and it offers group activities like complimentary bicycles, nature trails, yoga classes and wine tours.

Photo: Courtesy of Inns of Aurora

 

San Diego Mission Bay Resort in San Diego, Calif.

"The San Diego Mission Bay Resort feels like a luxury getaway within the heart of California city, with retreat-friendly features like waterfront dining, outdoor activities, spa treatments and more. After a recent $32 million renovation, the property offers 15 indoor meeting rooms and five outdoor spaces including an 8,670-square-foot garden. A destination services team can help plan immersive activities and team-building experiences, while an on-site audiovisual company is able to incorporate virtual audiences into meetings via Zoom or other streaming services. The property has secure, high-speed wireless internet service throughout. Photo: Courtesy of San Diego Mission Bay Resort"
The San Diego Mission Bay Resort feels like a luxury getaway within the heart of California city, with retreat-friendly features like waterfront dining, outdoor activities, spa treatments and more. After a recent $32 million renovation, the property offers 15 indoor meeting rooms and five outdoor spaces including an 8,670-square-foot garden. A destination services team can help plan immersive activities and team-building experiences, while an on-site audiovisual company is able to incorporate virtual audiences into meetings via Zoom or other streaming services. The property has secure, high-speed wireless internet service throughout.

Photo: Courtesy of San Diego Mission Bay Resort

 

Fairmont Banff Springs in Banff, Alberta

"Nestled in the mountains of Banff National Park, the Fairmont Banff Springs is a picturesque destination known as Canada’s “Castle in the Rockies." The historic space features 757 guest rooms and more than 76,000 square feet of event space, along with a spa and championship golf course. In addition to an on-site event team, the hotel has partnered with PSAV to offer full technology and audiovisual services for virtual events. All hotel guests are required to provide proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test. Photo: Courtesy of Fairmont Banff Springs"
Nestled in the mountains of Banff National Park, the Fairmont Banff Springs is a picturesque destination known as Canada’s “Castle in the Rockies." The historic space features 757 guest rooms and more than 76,000 square feet of event space, along with a spa and championship golf course. In addition to an on-site event team, the hotel has partnered with PSAV to offer full technology and audiovisual services for virtual events. All hotel guests are required to provide proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test.

Photo: Courtesy of Fairmont Banff Springs

 

HarbourView Inn in Charleston, S.C. 

"HarbourView Inn, an intimate 52-room waterfront hotel in downtown Charleston, S.C., recently unveiled a $1 million interior refresh of its meeting rooms, communal spaces, guestrooms and rooftop terrace. The property’s 546-square-foot meeting room now offers freshly painted interiors, contemporary audiovisual equipment and a state-of-the-art Smart TV; there’s also complimentary Wi-Fi throughout the property. Discounted rates are available to groups booking five or more rooms, and full buyouts of the inn are also an option. Located in Charleston’s Historic District, the property is a short walk to attractions like the Historic City Market, Rainbow Row and The Battery. Photo: Courtesy of HarbourView Inn"
HarbourView Inn, an intimate 52-room waterfront hotel in downtown Charleston, S.C., recently unveiled a $1 million interior refresh of its meeting rooms, communal spaces, guestrooms and rooftop terrace. The property’s 546-square-foot meeting room now offers freshly painted interiors, contemporary audiovisual equipment and a state-of-the-art Smart TV; there’s also complimentary Wi-Fi throughout the property. Discounted rates are available to groups booking five or more rooms, and full buyouts of the inn are also an option. Located in Charleston’s Historic District, the property is a short walk to attractions like the Historic City Market, Rainbow Row and The Battery.

Photo: Courtesy of HarbourView Inn

 

L'Auberge Del Mar in Del Mar, Calif. 

"Located in a beach city just 20 minutes north of San Diego, the 121-room L’Auberge Del Mar recently underwent a $10 million renovation to its lobby, 121 guest rooms and dining experiences. Six meeting spaces are available, and the property can arrange group experiences like team cocktail competitions, surfing or paddle board lessons, hiking, hot air ballooning and more. For hybrid retreats, groups can get access to a dedicated on-site audiovisual company, which has recently arranged everything from Zoom happy hours to meetings with indoor and outdoor audio capabilities. Photo: Courtesy of L'Auberge Del Mar"
Located in a beach city just 20 minutes north of San Diego, the 121-room L’Auberge Del Mar recently underwent a $10 million renovation to its lobby, 121 guest rooms and dining experiences. Six meeting spaces are available, and the property can arrange group experiences like team cocktail competitions, surfing or paddle board lessons, hiking, hot air ballooning and more. For hybrid retreats, groups can get access to a dedicated on-site audiovisual company, which has recently arranged everything from Zoom happy hours to meetings with indoor and outdoor audio capabilities.

Photo: Courtesy of L'Auberge Del Mar