Get disconnected. We hear the saying all the time, but how can it really be accomplished in 2016 and why? Separating staff and clients from screen time and into nature and face time with people can reaffirm the age-old saying that a breath of fresh air and conversation does the body good. We asked around for the best ways to make unplugging worthwhile
“You need to build that component in with today’s pressures of getting 30 hours of work done in 10 hours. Groups go from dawn to dusk—move, move, move—with meetings, lunch, meetings, cocktails; they need to allow individuals the time to take in what they are actually doing at the event or conference, and a mindful disconnect is the perfect opportunity,” explains Barb Taylor Carpender, CMM, CHSC, chief alliance officer of Taylored Alliances and recipient of Colorado Meetings + Events’ Lifetime Achievement Award in 2013. Her company focuses on advisory board development, management and facilitation; strategic board retreat facilitation; strategic planning programs; and focus groups.
Carpender points out that taking a break for a walk and giving attendees a topic to “noodle” while out in nature provides time to absorb information and reflect on what is “my takeaway.” The number of articles coming out about mindfulness in meetings and using these strategies is astounding, she says, benefitting both the company and employees and far surpassing any traditional board meeting.
TAPPING OUT OF TECHNOLOGY
Dean Savoca, who has worked in the meetings and events and performance improvement industries for nearly 24 years, understands the pressures on a typical employee. “People are overwhelmed with the pace of the world, and digital connection raises the expectations to always be available to connect,” he observes. “Companies are made up of these people and overwhelmed, and stressed people don’t deliver the best business results. Often technology that has a purpose to make us more productive is having the opposite effect.”
Savoca, owner of Denver-based Savoca Performance Group, specializes in helping individuals, teams and organizations achieve meaningful results. “My business partner and I provide programs that give boards and teams the opportunity to get into an environment without digital connection to free up their mind to reflect and think, be present and just be—what a concept!”
The company’s research shows that during this “white space,” often the best ideas, strategies and problem solving take place and better business outcomes are achieved. He suggests reflection time in the Colorado Rockies while hiking, watching a sunrise or sitting around a campfire.
“Constantly being connected is a horrible thing. People lose their ability to interact like normal human beings,” observes Hugo Hellberg, CMM, CMP, director of events and business services for the Colorado Association of REALTORS. “What I’ve seen work is to incorporate a physical activity, such as a fun walk/run, cooking classes, games, yoga. It all depends on who the target audience is and what is outside their comfort zone. Then do it without the security of their cell phones. By the end, the dynamic greatly changes. People are engaged with one another and not their hands on a screen.”
Removing the need to be distracted by a text or email adds involvement and personalization to any activity. If the technology is simply removed, it becomes a nonissue. When fly fishing on a meandering summer stream, you don’t really care who calls you; a fish is the only thing on your mind that deserves attention. When hiking up a steep incline in a forest blanketed with new summer growth and the intense and warming Colorado sun, does that text message seem as important? Within only a few moments of technology subtraction, new senses and relationships become more plentiful.
WHERE TO DISCONNECT?
The Broadmoor Fishing Camp’s first-ever corporate retreat was attended by the sheet metal and air conditioning contractors of SMACNAWW who brought in 45 people to Park County from the main resort 75 minutes away. There is no cell phone coverage at Fishing Camp, no television and no laptops, just the roar of conversation over the last big brown or rainbow trout snagged from the Tarryall River.
The majority of the group suited up for the river, never having done so in the past, while others enjoyed a watercolor demonstration and activity in the community cabin. The attendees were enthralled with their task— whether that was setting up an easel and canvas in the gardens near the water or trying to launch a fly into a Colorado trout’s mouth— and the conversation was fueled with sheer excitement and enjoyment.
It’s quite easy to get away from technology at Waunita Hot Springs Ranch east of Gunnison with a main lodge, secondary lodge for additional lodging, barn with second-story meeting space and acres of open space. “We do have Wi-Fi, but once everyone gets here and they start trying to use their phones, the Wi-Fi gets eaten up. In the winter, we have various kinds of groups all the way from church retreats and snowmobilers to yoga retreats and anything in between,” explains Tammy Pringle, co-owner of the ranch.
Many groups seem to simply enjoy the solitude and silence of the outdoors, enjoying immediate access to great places for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. Pringle notes, “Many will play games, work puzzles, sit by the fire and read, and, of course, a lot of soaking in the hot springs.”
Tim Resch’s cabin, located 25 minutes outside of downtown Estes Park and the final two miles being a 4WD road, might not seem more than a big-game hunt cabin, but the disconnect is the connection. Forget television, cell phone coverage or the habit of even checking technology (even though cell reception, Wi-Fi and Direct TV are available if absolutely needed) while staying with this Estes Park Outfitters property.
Jill Livingston, owner and creator of Denver-based Eclectic Hive, chose Estes Park as the destination for her company’s annual retreat and really wanted to have an off-site component to break up the meeting. After a little research on excursions, she came across Estes Park Outfitters.
“I discovered that they also rent out a cabin (also the overnight cabin) that is nestled in a remote area of the forest, which changed the course of my meeting completely,” Livingston says. “Resch was incredibly accommodating and allowed me to put together a custom package that included a half-hour morning snowcat tour with coffee and pastries, a fullday meeting at the private cabin with lunch, and a sunset ride back with wine and appetizers along the way.”
Unplug, disconnect and just breathe. It’s okay to put technology and constant busyness aside to truly experience each other, recharge and settle into terrific Colorado activities and venues.
Aerial yoga is an option at the Westin Riverfront Resort & Spa
» Rafting Nothing says put your phone down like a body of rushing water. Rafting provides the perfect opportunity for team-building and no technology. Let the rapids and sun be your clocks for the day and hit the water with groups of any size. Based in Cañon City, Echo Canyon River Expeditions can take your group on luxury float trips to ravishing rapids and through the Royal Gorge.
» Hike & SUP Aspen has always been a destination for beauty and ambiance alongside its reputation for 24/7 fun. Take a morning out of the meeting room to stand-up paddle board on the Roaring Fork or Colorado rivers with Aspen Kayak Academy and SUP pioneer Charlie McArthur. Get out on the board, and technology will be left riverside. Or, meander by foot along Castle Creek with an Aspen Center for Environmental Studies (ACES) guide to learn about the landscape. Meet at the ghost town of Ashcroft and hike along the creek to Pinecreek Cookhouse, as remote as most restaurants come for a meeting! The stunning lodge design and patio are ideal for gatherings and a meal using locally sourced ingredients.
» Meditation Located on more than 600 acres of gorgeous Colorado forest 50 miles northwest of Fort Collins in the Red Feather Lakes area, Shambala Mountain Center is a haven for mindfulness and mediation. The center offers in excess of 100 programs a year that groups can attend or a specialized itinerary can be arranged. Meeting spaces are plentiful on the campus with seating for up to 450 people or more intimate spaces such as the Great Eastern Sun that fits 30 mediation cushions or 15 yoga mats.
» Aerial Yoga Turn your group upside down, literally. Spa Anjali at The Westin Riverfront Resort & Spa at Beaver Creek Mountain is now offering AIReal Yoga, Colorado’s first and only form of aerial yoga accredited by the Yoga Alliance. Launched this spring, private classes can be booked for groups of up to 14 people at a time. Perfect for everyone from yoga novices to advanced practitioners, an AIReal Yoga class typically lasts 60 minutes and uses a hammock as a prop for yoga asanas and postures for all styles of yoga, from gentle therapeutic to Vinyasa flow.