By Beth Buehler
It typically depends on the organization hosting the meeting and the purpose of the gathering. For a team retreat, it’s not okay to bring a spouse as this is meant to be a gathering of a team and likely involves team-building and very specific topics and purposes. In other situations, it adds a lot to include spouses in the itinerary. Here are five questions to ponder.
Are spouses invited?
This is the most important question. Last summer, I connected with a college friend in Aspen while her husband’s employer was hosting a leadership meeting there. Spouses were very much part of the itinerary and included in the activities and functions. For a team retreat, it’s doubtful that a spouse showing up would be welcome.
Are there activities that a spouse can attend?
At the Colorado Governor’s Tourism Conference, which moves around the state each fall, I’ve noticed that spouses will attend pre-conference activities like the hikes and clean-up projects that were available in Vail last year. Spouses also occasionally attend the awards dinner and opening reception, but often just do their own thing when the conference is in a cool destination and don’t attend any other conference activities.
Why allow spouses to attend?
For meetings and events, attendees who spend a lot of the year on the road or have jobs that keep them in the office a fair amount, it can be a welcome treat to bring a spouse or significant other along. My mom always joined my dad at Colorado Bankers Association conferences at The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs years ago, as there were always spouse activities while meetings were underway and activities for all in the evenings. She also enjoyed the speakers and entertainment. Together, they always enjoyed these getaways and the friendships made in the banking industry in Colorado and Nebraska over the years. During free time, it is nice to get out for a ski, bike ride, meal or a museum visit.
Will spouses add or detract to the business at hand?
It truly depends on the purpose of the meeting. A strategic planning session? It’s typically not the place for a spouse. An incentive trip? In many cases, it’s a great chance to include a spouse and reward that person as well as the employee for a job well done. Support systems are vital to workplace happiness in many cases.
What is the destination like and would it be attractive for spouses and families?
Destination meetings are usually all about going to fun locations while also taking care of the business at hand. Many of the legal and medical conferences that meet in Colorado’s mountain towns are set up so that spouses can and want to attend, and several also include families. Sometimes this can be a big boost to attendance numbers. Make sure to make it clear if families are welcome so there are no misunderstandings.
You get the idea. Whether planning or attending a meeting, use your best judgment when including spouses (and families) in the mix. Also remember that not everyone has a spouse so consider including a significant other!
Beth Buehler is editor of Colorado Meetings + Events and Mountain Meetings magazines, has planned numerous meetings and events and enjoys exploring Colorado in all seasons.