Rock It: Design Tips for Multi-Day Sessions

In a time pressured world, offsite courses and retreats are rarely longer than two or three days. When you are fortunate enough to have this time, it takes extra skill as a designer and facilitator to maintain participants’ interest, energy and learning. Here are a few of my favorite design tips for these occasions:

1. Create a “sub-plot” of secondary activities that complement the objectives of the program, provide variety and create an opportunity for participants to see each other in action.


  • At the beginning of the first day, assign each participant to one of the following teams:
    • News, Weather and Sports Team which is responsible for opening day two and three with a “talk show” format of things to inform and entertain the participants.
    • Energy Team which is responsible for planning and leading activities at scheduled points during the day to raise the energy and fun level in the room.
    • Recognition Team which is responsible for observing and recognizing participants for helpful behaviors at the end of each day.
  • As prework, identify Harvard Business Review articles that are relevant to the objectives of the program. Have each participant select an article and prepare a 5-minute presentation on the key ideas. Schedule the presentations throughout the session.

2. Design in variety.


  • Ensure the agenda appeals to all learning styles (visual, auditory and kinesthetic).
  • Build in a mix of solo, pair, small group and large group activities.
  • Change the seating arrangements each day or half-day.
  • Bring in guest speakers, customers, organizational leaders, etc. for cameo appearances.
  • Add an outdoor experiential activity, artistic venture, or volunteer activity for the community.

3. Use a visual roadmap.


  • Line a wall with paper. Use graphic facilitation to depict the key activities and learnings each day. Start and end each day with a review of the journey so far.
  • Post and review the session objectives, shading the ones that have been completed.

Multi-day sessions are a huge investment in time and cost. Design well to maximize the return.

    Copyright ©2005-2017 Diane MacDonald & Associates Inc. All rights reserved.     Privacy
Phone 403-803-2415