When I was overweight (by more than 100 pounds) I made it a goal to go a full year walking at least 10,000 steps every day. Started in August, so with the heat in Florida I had to wake up early before sunrise. Previous according to my phone, I walked anywhere between 300 steps (!!!!) to 2000 in a typical day (I work from home, from a desk and still do).
That goal was recently met and I wanted to document it. Also what I had to do: 98% of the time I walked outside… so I walked in rain (only once did I walk in a mall during a tropical storm), cold near-frozen mornings, horrible exercise rooms at hotels while attending conferences out of town, at corporate retreats… and never missed a day. Sometimes I had to walk circles in hotel rooms to get that last few hundred steps before midnight. 🌗
Fast forward a year, I can do 10,000 steps in a morning (instead of the whole day) without too much effort. I typically get up at around 4:30am every morning (whether I wanted too or not, and which meant i was falling asleep at networking parties and meetups around 9pm).
I want to thank my wife and children for dealing with a dad that didn’t stay up most nights, woke up making noise early in the morning, and acting a little crazy when the days was almost over and i didn’t get 10k steps in yet. My wife especially was extremely supportive.
I will continue to keep walking at least 10k steps, probably aim for 12k every day outside of special days. Switching to bike riding might also allow burning more calories in less time. Stats according to my iPhone (so technically I walked more than this, but this is my official numbers):
August 18, 2018 – August 18, 2019
Miles Walked: 2,397.4 Flights Climbed: 2,599 Steps: 5,217,566 Average steps: 14,200 Per Day
Note: Walking a lot more… say 20,000 steps a day… didn’t do anything noticeable in terms of weight loss so after a while I didn’t stress it. Takes a little over an hour for me to walk 10k steps so I couldn’t afford the time for 20k with very little or no returns. This post isn’t about weight loss, exercise, diet or anything like that. For me personally it’s about setting a goal. For the record during the time I did lose over 100 pounds (but the walking was only a small part of that). I wanted to document one of the longest most proud personal goals of my life – and i encourage my daughters and others that it’s doable.
You’ve heard about corporate retreats or maybe even been on one. They are popular especially with companies that have a majority of remote workers – where the general idea is that every so often (say once a year) everyone gets together physically for various reasons.
Often when you tend to hear about these retreats, you usually hear about the places they go, how large they companies have gotten, or perhaps about something outrageous. Very commonly it seems like the “big” companies are the ones talking about (and if it’s a small group, it’s an “exclusive” group). Can a smaller company have an effective retreat or is it really just only effective and a good return for investment for larger WordPress companies?
I’ve been to several retreats of various sizes. I recently attended one for Envira Gallery and I can say it was one of the best I’ve had. In a nutshell this retreat was:
– Five People (including myself)
– Located in Denver, Colorado (nice city, but nothing exotic)
– Six days (two of those mostly travel)
Here are some tips I would pass along to smaller companies (say, maybe a team of half a dozen that might include developers, support, managers, and CEOs) thinking about how to get the most out of a “small” retreat:
1. It’s Still Business
As much as some might think it’s a vacation, don’t let the casual clothing and “i can sleep in a little” fool you – this is still business time. Small companies usually can’t afford more than a business week, so it’s important to set a GOAL for the retreat. This is NOT an agenda – that comes AFTER a goal. For example, are you planning to build a new product? Preparing to launch a product? What are some clear and tangible goals you hope to achieve when the retreat is over? Hopefully you are timing the retreat to coninside with a need for having employees physically in the same room with each other.
Next comes an agenda, planned weeks before the actual retreat. Daily agendas help setup expectations for a particular day and help set the tone for
2. Plan Unstructured Time and Team Building
As much as it’s important to be productive with the rate opportunity to have people in the same room, it’s also a unique opportunity to take time to strengthen the team. Yes, although “team building” activities is a bit of a meme it’s important to have some measure of time devoted to having team members interacting with
Also it’s important to plan unstructured time for people to decide what they want to do with themselves – some people are NOT social creatures and the retreat (a forced event to interact as far as they are concerned) is draining. Give people the chance to chill out in a private place (like their hotel room or bedroom at the AirBnB), or the freedom to explore the area (with safety concerns in place).
3. Pick A Retreat Location With As Less Distractions As Possible
As much as it’s tempting to pick an exotic location or tourist city to be home base for the retreat, consider a different approach – to minimize distractions and stress trying to do the “cool things to see” in the location… perhaps pick a more “out of the way” spot.
Got only a few people? Don’t book a mansion but an affordable straightforward AirBnb. Order food in instead of trying to find and decide on a fancy or unique restaurant nearby.
You don’t have to pick a cabin out in the woods (unless that’s your thing) but a small city with sufficient restaurants, delivery services (DoorDash even) and things to do (like escape rooms, nature trails, and movie/theaters) can do just fine. Pick a particular day out of the retreat to do something with the team and make sure that’s in the agenda. Structured time for team activities helps make sure things go off without a hitch.
Pick a place with good wifi though. That’s one distraction you don’t need. Have a plan B in case wifi doesn’t perform (like bring a hotspot or find an alt. location nearby).
4. Code of Conduct
Finally, it’s important that just like a conference or place of work – a clear code of conduct should be written, shared, and signed (agreed upon) by all those involved. That includes the president of the company down to every employee. If there is a problem with conduct, make sure there is a clear system of reporting that fair and approachable to anyone that might be involved. Depending on the size of the retreat, assign multiple people as possible people to follow up instantly on a reported violation. Have different methods of reporting a violation as well, so someone is as comfortable as possible reporting it.
Many retreats often have their employees and those attending sign a waver (liability) and a physical signature for acknowledging a read Code of Conduct isn’t a bad idea either.
5. What makes a good retreat? A great experience.
At the end of the retreat, what is best is if your team walks away feeling REFRESHED and ENERGIZED and not just simply checking off boxes in Asana or Basecamp. A good experience means changing the agenda to fit last minute input from the team or making sure you are providing a fun yet safe environment for your employees. Being productive and taking advantage of people physically in the same space is great, but you want to end the retreat on a positive note that will carry your employees when they head back to their homes and resume their remote schedules.
Every company and every retreat is different, so providing the best retreat to fit your team might take a little time. I’m willing to bet though the team doesn’t have big needs so when in doubt keep things simple. Keep the entertainment, team building (board games are about as simple as team building can get), agendas, and end goals simple and straight forward. Don’t overdue on fancy houses, hotels, catering, and distractions.
In the end, the last retreat I was on was memorable because it was the first time I got to see real snow and I also got to see baby birds hatch from eggs at our house (I admit the first item was planned, the second was just a happy consequence). This plus just hanging out with employees, setting a great work agenda for the rest of 2019, and enjoying some good food – really proves that you don’t have to all BIG to have a retreat that has a big impact.
Update: Apparently this exploded briefly on Hacker News. Feel free to head over there for some commentary and poking fun at my $5 DigitalOcean hosting server crashing under the load of traffic.
You’ve spent weeks (or likely months) preparing for your conference talk. It took late nights and time sacrificed to get those slides or code examples JUST right. You want to make a good impression. You want to wow the crowd. You want to stand out – or at the very least be on par – with other talks (as the talks that came prior to yours or are happening at the same time at the multi-track conference).
A few minutes before you are about to speak, you get a little nervous and run through a mental checklist of things to do. But you can’t help but make an observation as you are being introduced…
…only a few seats were filled in a room that could have held a lot more. In fact, you think you could have given the talk in a large broom closet to not waste space.
If you give talks at conferences and meetups often enough, you’ll find that you won’t always fill up a room. You might have never come close to filling up a room. For some people this can way on them and add to (among other things) imposter syndrome.
Don’t let it. As a speaker, there are certain things within your control and things not in your control. Never let either category get you down, as I have attended talks from VERY experienced and VERY “pro level” speakers that have been (and find themselves experiencing again) the same boat.
Here’s a few things that might go through your mind:
Your time slot: Regardless of what some may say, I can tell you the day and time you speak often can have some impact on your audience. Typically if someone comments on a small turnout I bet they were either the last speaking on a particular day or the talk that follows lunch (depending on the conference). 80% I am right. While conference organizers should try to give enough time for attendances to return to sessions after lunch or social breaks, attendees ultimately control their own destinies. For WordCamps, unless you are a keynote speaker these time slots might yield fewer attendees on average.
But in the end SOMEONE needs to fill that slot – and speaker organizers felt the best person might be you! You were likely thought to be a positive, high energy speaker that can put an end-cap to a great conference day.
Regardless realize that not all speakers get equal share of attendees especially at certain times of the day (those attending at WordCamps in my experience tend to peak mid-morning through mid-afternoon with a dip after lunch).
Your subject material: The easiest conclusion to draw is that “my talk wasn’t interesting enough” or that you picked the wrong topic. This isn’t positive or accurate thinking. If that was actually the case you (all things being equal) wouldn’t be giving the talk at all. Have confidence in the fact that you have a passion about speaking about a subject and conference organizers felt that you and your message deserved to be heard.
Other things happening: Not just other speakers, but sometimes I’ve given talks when there happens to be giveaways from sponsors happening and that draws some people away. Again, nothing against you and not in your control.
And here are three things to keep in mind:
“Think in terms of who you can impact….The biggest positive impacts to the WordPress community I’ve found start at the smallest of scales.”
Quality And Not Quantity: Don’t think in terms of how many people see your talk, but how much impact you bring to those who did decide to show up. What would you rather have – a room full of 100 people that are physically there but mentally but wasn’t emotionally inspired or invested in what you said OR 20 people that had their professional or personal lives blown away but the material you presented (and maybe another few that will realize in a few months how much your talk effected their new way of doing or thinking about something)?
Think in terms of who you can impact.
The biggest positive impacts to the WordPress community I’ve found start at the smallest of scales.
You Got Your Message Out: If you are truly passionate about your message, take comfort that your subject was heard. Also realize that many WordCamps and conferences record talks and those are usually available to the public web, where many others can discover and view them. You’ll be able to use this as a stepping stone to further discussing the subject online and even for future conferences.
Better Discussions Happen In Smaller Groups: I’ve found the best questions and discussions during the Q&A time happen when the audience is smaller than average. The fewer number of people means the more potential for a more intimate setting for those in the audience to ask questions normally they wouldn’t feel comfortable asking (especially for talks related to personal and emotional subjects).
To be frank, don’t let this be about just you. Instead think of the potential to reach out and connect to your audience.
But sure… positive thinking and logic can be great…
…but it’s hard to come to grips with the time, energy, and cost it took to present. What can you do moving forward?
Post-Talk Feedback: Wait a few days to get organic feedback from social media or others, and then ping the organizers to get any insight on WHY they picked your talk. This can positively reinforce why you were there in the first place. See if you can determine who came to your talk and ask them (1) why they came (2) what they found most interesting about your talk and (3) have they seen anyone else cover the material differently, perhaps additional ways for you to potentially cover the same material in the future?
Pre-Talk Checklist: Be aware of your target audience (remember most WordCamps are primarily based on the needs of the LOCAL community – so don’t assume a talk that worked and connected with many in Miami will be the same for Atlanta). Approach organizers far enough ahead in time to get their take so you can customize your talk and market yourself (see next point).
Market yourself: Use feedback and past experiences from previous talks to try to build up some momentum for your next talk. Tease your talk in public whenever you are given the all clear from the organizers. Organizers should be doing their part to make the potential audience know about your talk sure, but you are the best promotor of yourself.
I won’t lie, often times we tend to judge ourselves as speakers based on how many ears are in the room just like how many judge a blog post by how many page views it gets. “Standing room only” and “sold out” are phrases we want to hear about our talks. Not that there’s anything wrong with this, but realize that:
Certain things are not in our control.
Realize the opportunities you have – about getting a message out and connecting with people.
Use this as an opportunity for yourself for the future.
Above all – don’t let this add a single brick to thinking poorly of yourself. Imposter syndrome doesn’t suit you.
I’m David Bisset, and if you ever want to talk about your talk with me… i’m all 👂🏻.