Meet You at the Q

A corporate retreat to remember in St. Charles, Illinois

By Michelle Willoughby

As we turned into the Q Center, I checked my phone: 4:58 p.m. We were right on schedule. The Q Center’s driveway weaved through lush greenery and sprawling hills on the way to the main conference center. I hadn’t seen this picturesque side of Illinois before. My experience of Illinois is either towering skyscrapers in Chicago or flat cornfields downstate. Our car pulled in next to an open pavilion overlooking a small lake. The team leader at the Q Center, was waiting for us.

I stepped out of the car with my briefcase in-hand, and took in the surroundings. The bright sun intensified the colors of the trees and flowers around us.

Our host gave us a warm welcome and held the door for my team. Once inside, I introduced her to my colleagues, and she led us through the prepared setup for the retreat. We peeked inside the Fox River Ballroom, a large and impressive room, and then reviewed the plan for the buffet on Day 1 as well as the “Nourishment Hubs” set up throughout the meeting spaces.

“Wow, everything looks perfect,” I said, impressed by how smoothly things were going already. “You’ve made our job easy!”

She smiled, “Well, I have a great team! We all wear these nametags, so if you have any questions you can ask any of us.”

“Thank you! I think we’re ready to check into our rooms so we can prepare for an early start tomorrow.”

We were led back outside where I stopped to admire the tree-lined Fox River. She noticed me staring. “If I were you, I wouldn’t miss kayaking while you’re here. It’s serene but exciting at the same time,” she smiled.

I nodded. I had never been kayaking before but was definitely interested.

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Choosing the Q

My room was comfortable and clean, with a spacious workstation. Soon my desk was covered in last-minute notes and meeting papers. I was nervous; this was my first event for John, a business-owner. He had a long list of requirements for a corporate retreat: technical capabilities, room specs, onsite accommodations, excellent food and multiple options for offsite activities. He also mentioned several times that he’d like to find a resort-like setting that allowed for long, scenic walks.

Several planners I consulted with about this retreat had suggested St. Charles, Illinois. I learned that St. Charles is a historic and rapidly growing town with high-quality dining options. One planner told me about the Mega Center at Pheasant Run Resort. I made a note to check them out for a future event. Another planner gave rave reviews of the Prairie Events Center at Kane County Fairgrounds. It was an awesome option, but John had insisted that everyone stay onsite. I was thinking about booking them for a tradeshow I was planning next June.

The Q Center was absolutely perfect for this company’s retreat. They fulfilled every requirement that John had given, and beyond that offered a peaceful beauty that went above and beyond the average meeting space. I didn’t need to be nervous.

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A successful retreat

Day 1 was a smashing success. John’s opening statements in the Fox River Ballroom were met with rowdy applause. I attribute some of the excitement to the dazzling room and the gallons of hot coffee ready for the group. That evening’s buffet went far beyond typical “conference chicken,” so I congratulated the Q Center team on a job well done.

Day 2 began with several meetings, but after lunch, the attendees were given a list of activities and attractions off site. One group went to a local brewery, Two Brothers Roundhouse. Others chose Acquaviva winery a short drive from the Q Center. Another group went to the nearby malls, and spent several hours shopping at high-end outlet stores. I joined a large group that walked to downtown St. Charles, admiring the river, stopping at fun stores, and choosing which gourmet dining experience looked the most tempting.

Day 3 followed the same format, beginning with meetings and ending with various activities, this time on site. John was eager for the group to bond. Biking, jogging, basketball, soccer, disc golf, volleyball and kayaking were just a few of the options presented. I followed the suggestion of kayaking.

The afternoon was warm and sunny, so the cool river water was refreshing. Kayaking wasn’t too difficult to learn, and I admired the wildlife and occasional passing boat as I alternately floated and paddled along the clear waters. The group I was with ended in high spirits, splashing and racing back to the Q Center with tired arms and large appetites.

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Rave reviews

The next morning, all the employees were well fed, full of new information and refreshed for new projects back home. I watched them chattering excitedly about the retreat, suitcases in tow. John found me before leaving for his flight.

“Excellent job. Exceeded my expectations,” he said, shaking my hand. “I look forward to having you plan our next retreat. Please pass on my thanks to the Q Center team.”

I hurried off to thank the team lead and gush over our experience. “Really, everything was so stress-free. I was able to actually enjoy my time here.”

She smiled, “But the real question is, did you go kayaking?”

“Yes! I am a kayaker for life now,” I laughed.

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