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Think Big – A Customized Staff Retreat [Event Summary]

By September 26, 2018February 17th, 2019No Comments
staff retreat professional development, facilitation of four big ideas centered around think big - group photo of audience

A days ago, Victoria, the HR Director, contacted me to do a customized fun, hands-on program for their staff retreat.

We met for lunch to discuss the program for a fast-growing real estate firm. Victoria knew her stuff, knew what the partners wanted, and knew what the staff needed.

She set up a meeting with all of the partners and we spent an intense hour identifying the key points for me to include. I would also open the retreat event with what I call, “Smart Icebreakers” and “Smart Exercises.” These are icebreakers with a business purpose (see below).


I spent the next few days developing an outline and then adding content. Here’s an overview of my process:

  1. Write an outline with each of the four key ideas the partners and I identified, all centered around the theme of “Think Big”
  2. Develop a detailed break-down for each of the four big ideas
  3. Draft talking points
  4. Match interactions to the talking points. Interactions are activities I would be doing with the participants such as the Smart Icebreakers, insightful Smart Exercises, videos to show, and questions I would ask to the audience
  5. Practice and refine


The four ideas were:

  • Think Big
  • Build Relationships
  • Take Ownership
  • Be Open-Minded


An excellent example of a Smart Exercise is my “Treat Everyone Like a CEO™” exercise. You can watch a clip of it on my YouTube Channel or here on the website. This exercise was designed specifically to change people’s perspective. Through the use of playing cards, participants gain invaluable insights into how they treat others. It is very fun, especially when there is a larger crowd (I recently did this exercise for the Department of Energy Conference with about 1,000 attendees). The learning is eye-opening for some and a nice, gentle reminder for most. The 80-something participants had a blast. The audience comments during the debrief were hysterical.

Over the years, I have developed more than 50 Smart Icebreakers and Smart Exercises for the workplace. For this retreat, I started with Yes And. It is the foundation of open-mindedness I learned from my years of performing improvisational comedy with ComedySportz (national website and San Jose Team/Washington, DC teams where I performed). Yes And teaches you to be open-minded, to be a great listener, and to be accepting of your colleague’s ideas. I then followed with Non-Stop Noun and Verb Machine to warm up their minds and bodies. Mirror-Mirror was a big hit. Here, you pair up and mirror your partner’s body movements and facial expressions. I amped up the fun by having them mirror words spoken as well.

I concluded the Smart Icebreakers with Picture Time. I guided the participants in a variety of scenarios and fun poses the company could use in their company internal newsletter. The laughter was so loud, I needed ear plugs. I literally had to go to the back of the room to talk to Victoria without shouting.


The staff retreat was designed as a way to build camaraderie, receive some professional development (that’s me), and hear from the partners about the company’s direction and culture.

A big thank you (cause it’s all about Think Big) to everyone.

Photography Source: © Copyright 2018, The Chief Storyteller®, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Ira Koretsky

Ira Koretsky has built The Chief Storyteller® into one of the most recognized names in communication, especially business storytelling. He has delivered over 500 keynote presentations and workshops in nearly a dozen countries, in more than one hundred cities, across 30 plus industries. His specialties are simplifying the complex and communicating when the stakes are high. He is also an adjunct professor in public speaking and storytelling at the University of Maryland's Business School. With over 25 years of experience, he is a sought-after storytelling coach, global speaker, trainer, consultant, communication coach, and public speaking coach.