Team Building and Executive Retreats: 5 Compelling Reasons to Avoid Last-Minute Planning


Scenario: It’s Tuesday morning and we are still waiting for a decision about facilitating a series of meetings during a corporate retreat that starts in a week. References were only requested yesterday.

Scenario: For one series of workshops in Kuala Lumpur, the funds to purchase the airline tickets were wired to a travel agency at the other end of town in Toronto on the day of departure. Our facilitator had to drive to the agency, wait for the funds to hit the travel agency’s account, drop the car off at home, and head straight to the airport. The route was convoluted as the best routes were sold out.

hourglassWhile lead times of a few weeks have become common, for the purpose of this discussion, we will define last-minute planning as anything with less than a 2-month lead time. (The reasons will become apparent as the discussion evolves.)

Corporate executives would do well to take a leaf out of the book of association event planners and use an annualized approach to the planning cycle.

Here’s why to avoid last-minute event planning.

  1. It may be challenging to find dates when all key players are available. 

    Calendars get filled up really quickly. Plan early.

    Best Practice: With a long-term approach to planning, save the date notices can be sent out early and you can avoid the scramble to sync agendas.

  2. You’ll explode your travel budget.

    Even with a 2 month lead time, the most affordable categories in economy and premium economy classes are sold out on many airlines. You’ll get stuck with expensive airfares.

    Best Practice: Aim for at least a 3-month lead time when booking airfares.

  3. It will take a lot more time and work to find venues.

    Recently my company encountered the following scenarios when sourcing venues for clients.

    • Jamaican Resorts: Due to hurricanes throughout the Caribbean and severe damage to infrastructure, there is heighetened demand for space in Jamaica.
    • Venues for Christmas Events: In January one Toronto hotel already had all Fridays and Saturdays in November and December fully booked. Their regular clients re-booked right after their last event.
    • Cooking Team Building Venues: In January, a Toronto cooking event venue had extremely limited availability until May. That’s a 4-month lead time.
    • Desert Resorts in Oman: With a 2-month lead time, one desert resort had no availability for a 3-night stay until August. Others had only 1 set of dates available.
    • Hotels in Popular Convention Cities: In February, preferred dates for a client in October and November were already sold out at some properties.

    Best Practice: Definitely aim to plan business meetings, executive retreats, and team building retreats in popular destinations and at popular venues with a minimum 3 – 4 month lead time. 6 – 8 months is better. For popular seasons like Christmas, a 1-year lead time is required to secure the most popular venues. The same applies for popular conference and convention destinations.

  4. 11thhourLast-minute scrambling to complete logistics will increase the likelihood of errors. 

    Best Practice: Be strategic about meetings and events. Stephen Covey’s principle “put the rocks in first” applies just as much to organizations as families.

    Value-added initiatives like conferences, team building and corporate events need to be worked into the plan early when the strategic plan is being formulated. They should never be an afterthought.

  5. Attendees, speakers and facilitators will be exhausted upon arrival due to convoluted travel arrangements.

    Only the longest and most convoluted routes may be available to some destinations. To avoid a negative impact on performance, more rest days will have to be allocated.

    Best Practice: Aim for at least a 3 month lead time when booking airfares.

A change in mindset is never easy, but it will make a huge difference in the quality of executive retreats and team building. Initiate a dialogue by tweeting and sharing this blog post with clients and colleagues. Let’s make long-term planning the new gold standard for team building.

If, despite your best efforts, you find yourself planning on short notice, we’ll share some tips in Team Building: Last-Minute Planning Tips.

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