With a staff of 10 people, communication and collaboration are part of day-to-day life at the Augusta Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB).

“Out of those 10 people, five are on the leadership team and the other five are managers supervised by the leadership team,” said Bennish Brown, president and CEO. “That is a unique staff composition, and we felt like now was the time to really have an organization-wide conversation about where we are and where we’re headed.”

To facilitate the effort, Brown reached out to the J.W. Fanning Institute for Leadership Development, a unit of UGA Public Service and Outreach, and public service faculty member Sayge Medlin.

“Sayge really understood what our needs were and moved us in the direction of a day-long staff retreat that would help us get all of our ideas on the table,” said Brown.

Medlin facilitated the staff retreat for the Augusta CVB in Feb. 2021.

“A retreat offers an opportunity for everybody in the organization to express what they are experiencing and feeling,” said Medlin. “We really just set out to create a space that encourages open and productive conversation.”

The Augusta CVB staff retreat prioritized bringing together individual goals with those of the organization and the community at large, Brown said.

“Every activity Sayge led us through built upon the one before it and helped engage everyone in the conversation,” he explained. “Even at the end of the day, when issues arose that had not yet come out, Sayge guided us through that additional conversation that made sure everyone’s voice was heard.”

Brown said the retreat allowed staff to look at the things that are working well and those that could use improvement as well as revisit the organization’s values.

“These are things we don’t always think about and Sayge helped us put all of those things in perspective,” he said. “The retreat showed us how well our staff operates when we’re all working in the same direction. Furthermore, she followed with a report and next steps that we’re already implementing to keep the ball rolling.”

Those include quarterly check-ins where staff sit down to discuss what activities are working and should continue, what is not working that they should stop and what new activities they should start. Another takeaway from the retreat were tools that staff are using to continue improving internal communication.

“I’m so glad we made the decision to work with Fanning,” Brown said. “Sayge did an amazing job bringing us together and helping to make us stronger as a staff.”

Organizations should have regular discussions about their direction and about how they fit into the community’s overall goals, said Matt Bishop, director of the Fanning Institute.

“Like any successful organization, convention and visitors bureaus need to take time to look at how they can improve internally to better serve their communities,” said Bishop. “By taking time to examine issues, practices and processes, a CVB can remain on track to achieve its goals as well as the community’s expectations.”

For more information on planning a retreat for your CVB or nonprofit organization, contact Sayge Medlin.

Writer: Charlie Bauder; charlie.bauder@fanning.uga.edu; 706-542-7039
Contact: Sayge Medlin;
sayge.medlin@fanning.uga.edu; 706-542-4550