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Taking the Guess Work Out of Board Retreats

by OSAE Member Lauren Levy, professional meeting planner

Benjamin Franklin once said that “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail."

Associations constantly strive to disseminate their message and brand to their members. They spend months planning their annual meeting let alone courting members to attend. BUT do associations allocate the necessary time and energy on cultivating their boards, ensuring those that are at the helm are on the same page, providing their members with a concise brand?

Now that the weather is starting to change and the holidays are approaching many organizations may be (should be?) contemplating what they’re intentions are for their winter board retreats. Planning board retreats, whether local or out of town, do not need to be a difficult task. There are so many ways to create engaging, budget-friendly retreats that your team will find effective and also enjoyable. So how can I help you?

When I help others plan their events the very first thing we discuss is budget. Once a budget is in place and we’re planning a retreat I follow up with these questions:

  • How many board members / guests do you anticipate will attend?
  • What do you envision the event will look like - a formal event in a hotel or something in a more
    relaxed, informal setting?
  • How long is the retreat, is it a one day program or does it require overnight accommodations?
  • If it’s a couple of days in length, do you want to include programs that are “outside” of the
    board room?

Answers to the above questions help us create a framework to move forward. If someone tells me they
want to use a location that is centrally located in Columbus we might consider properties that provide free parking, especially if individuals are driving themselves to the event. This is an easy way to save a few dollars and to provide one access to their car easily, should they need to depart early.

Incorporating items like free parking will add up and positively impact your overall budget. One facility that comes to mind is a property I have used for a large event that has multiple rooms and is in the heart of downtown with free parking. This facility is also within walking distance of many restaurants and shops whereby you can plan to break and walk to lunch, giving your team a chance to get outside and stretch their legs.

Personally, I prefer properties that offer an indoor/outdoor setting that properties like this one have.
However, it would require you to think outside of the box. This property is one of many that you may not consider and is one of many that are throughout our city. 

Another option is to host your board retreat at a hotel. The benefit of using a hotel is that they can plan
everything you need from A to Z. Including all of your food and beverage needs. Board retreats at hotels can be fairly simple to plan because you will likely work with one of their employees who will do the organizing for you.

Sometimes organizations are looking for something outside of the city and not in a hotel. Sometimes organizations are looking for something a little bit different with few outside distractions. Sometimes planning a destination board retreat, whether just for a day or perhaps a couple of days, can be very advantageous and yes, also affordable. Destination board retreats that allow for individuals to focus, distraction-free, on their board’s issues can be very effective. In central Ohio, we are fortunate to have multiple options for destination retreats that are both among the outskirts of our city and also within a couple of hours drive.

Whether it is a site central to our state’s city center, within a hotel, or perhaps in the middle of the Hocking Hills, your board retreat can be an engaging success for all in attendance. And events like these can be affordable. Your opportunities in Ohio are as plentiful as they are endless. And as always, with planning any event, good luck and have fun!! Meeting planning, no matter the event, can be made easy!

OSAE Member Lauren Levy, MBA is a meeting planner based in central Ohio. Her company, Meeting Planning Made Easy, plans events for groups of all sizes. To brainstorm ideas Lauren can be reached at

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