by By Tom Isler | August 01, 2009
Campfire illustration

Summer camps in the off-season are inexpensive venues for retreats and small meetings. Peg Elmer, associate director of the Land Use Institute at the Vermont Law School in South Royalton, Vt., shares her advice for rustic retreats, having organized a winning meeting at Ohana Camp in Fairlee, Vt. (

Assign bunkmates. As registration climb­ed, Elmer realized some people would have to share bathrooms and sleeping quarters in cabins. She advises pairing up staff and easygoing attendees first, and asking people to indicate their willingness to share when they register.

Fun first. Elmer's group was so excited by the recreational activities and breathtaking scenery that she allowed attendees to play for the first half of the 24-hour stay. After everyone bonded, the group could focus on business.

Unplug. Warn attendees that they'll likely be without cell service or high-speed Internet -- often part of the appeal of such a venue. Planners, too, should prepare to go low-tech: Don't expect an on-site IT department or much A/V gear.

Add niceties. Elmer says little touches in each cabin -- a vase of wildflowers, offerings of cocoa, tea and coffee -- helped make the place feel more welcoming.