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#SummerCamp: Rethinking Your Summertime Planning Retreat

Growing up I went to summer camp each summer. It was the one week of out the year where I could bunk with my best friends in cabins in the mountains and spend days doing classic summer camp activities. You know what I’m talking about – horseback riding, hiking, arts and crafts, challenge courses, archery, lake activities, songs and stories around the campfire. We did it all.

It was special because it was dedicated time out of my ordinary routine to bond with friends in nature, be away from the parental units, and s’mores were involved.

Four years ago I knew I wanted to host some sort of summer planning retreat for my #CSUSocial crew. Naturally, this time would be spent assessing the outcomes of our social media initiatives from the previous year and then tackling strategic planning for the upcoming year.

This started to sound like summer planning retreat sessions I had been in before. Spending hours in a conference room thinking about what we should do next year and playing cheesy team building games. While many good ideas came from those retreats, rarely were they ever implemented.

I was convinced that I didn’t want to host the same old summer retreat for my team. I knew that I wanted to cover a lot of content but wanted to balance that time with team building and bonding activities. There was no way I was going to get meaningfully conversation, creative brainstorming and strategic planning by cramming an entire year of planning into one day.

Enter the idea of #SummerCamp

#SummerCamp is a month-long series (one day a week for four weeks during the summer) for #CSUSocial to grow as a team, evaluate efforts from the previous year, strategize for the coming year, and it’s a good excuse to have fun together.

Since 2015, Jen and I have developed annual #SummerCamp content and programming for our team. This year, Chase and Ashley facilitated a day of #SummerCamp and it was very cool not only because it was Big Brother-themed (we are huge BB fans), but that they took ownership of guiding the team through one of our key strategic focuses — optimizing our team and the work we do together.

People smiling outside

#CSUSocial team including Anne Manning, the honorary fifth member of our team, at #SummerCamp 2018. If you’re Big Brother fans, note the golden power of veto.

Typical Day

Strategy Session

The morning session is always focused on strategy, analysis and optimization opportunities. This is where we get the “meat” of our planning accomplished. We purposefully host these sessions outside of the office. We’ll camp out at a local coffee shop or we’ll use spaces on campus that we don’t regularly have meetings. There’s something about meeting in a new environment that sparks imagination and gets the brain juices flowing.

Strategy session topics typically include:

– Team mission, purpose, values, principles and individual strengths

– Brainstorm for signature events (Ram Welcome, rivalry football game, Commencement, Homecoming)

– Deep dive into setting overall strategy, channel goals and optimization opportunities; assessing outcomes from previous year

– Aligning social media strategies supporting student success initiatives, research/discovery, colleges and athletics

– Discussing/exploring the “next big thing”

Lunch

After a full morning of strategic planning, I recommend going out to eat lunch as a team. This is a good time to decompress and fuel up for the afternoon activity.

Team Bonding

Each afternoon we embark upon some activity as a team… and fun is ALWAYS involved. This time is intentionally spent team relaxing and enjoying one another’s company.

We’ve done all sorts of team bonding activities over the years including escape rooms (we are obsessed with them), painting class, mini golf, baseball game, scavenger hunt, boating and more. Interestingly, coming up with the bonding activity always seems the hardest thing to nail down when planning for #SummerCamp.

People posing at escape room

People holding paintings

People holding mini golf balls

Results

It is my hope that CSU is a meaningful place for every #CSUSocial staff member to contribute each day. After #SummerCamp wraps up, as a team we have a fully developed strategy for the coming year, we know what goals we are chasing down, campaign ideas for major events, and we learned more about one another and what makes each of us tick and then click as a team. We are rowing in the same direction and doing great things for Colorado State.