How to run a successful event or retreat
A couple of weekends ago I had the pleasure of working with my good friend Jo from Happy Yoga Newcastle to run a weekend yoga retreat at the stunning Slaley Hall. It was a brilliant weekend with 11 women attending who were able to enjoy yoga, peace and quiet, good food and the spa as well as a workshop from me.
As much as a love working online, nothing quite matches the experience of working with people face to face. There’s a magic that’s created when women get together all with the aim to improve their wellbeing and retreats are the perfect way to create an environment that not only allows them to retreat from their everyday lives but let’s them focus on themselves. As a coach I’ve realised my role, as cheesy as it sounds, is to just hold space for that.
I’ve run 3 retreats now and one event, so I’m definitely no expert, but I have learned some useful lessons about making them work:
Decide if you’ll be going solo or teaming up
All my retreats have been run in partnership with someone else (the fabulous Kezia for my first two!) and honestly I don’t think I would have ever done one on my own. In my experience partnering up with someone not only divides the organisational workload but gives you two audiences to sell to and just allows you to have someone else to lean on throughout the whole process. Plus it’s always worth partnering up with someone who has different skills and knowledge to your own so you can add more value to the participants. The obvious downside is that any profit will be split between two parties but that’s always been well worth it in my opinion. Saying that, my friend Paula runs the most wonderful hiking retreats and while she does have a team, she’s the main focus and does a tremendous job. The choice is yours!
Pick the right venue
Our first retreat was held in a self catering cottage so all the meals had to be provided by us. Luckily we were able to have an assistant help us with that, however it does add an additional layer of work to the running of the retreat. The second and third retreats I’ve ran we decided to book a spa hotel which would eliminate the requirement to manage the food side of things. This worked really well but the spa, which we wanted to be a main selling point, was totally heaving and not at all relaxing! Location also played into the venue choice, more on that in sec…
Know where your audience is
So, the interesting thing with retreats, especially for any business who is mostly online based is that you might have a problem filling a physical retreat depending on the location. My audience is literally global which is awesome, but when it comes to trying to fill a locally based retreat or event it can prove tricky. The lovely thing is if you’ve built a strong authentic brand (i.e. people know, like and trust you) you’ll find that some people will travel to attend, however it really depends if enough people will do that. We did some market research before booking our venues and although some people said they’d be interested in a certain location and venue when we opened for bookings we struggled to fill it. If you’d like part of your business model to include retreats you might want to make sure you’re marketing to ideal clients in the vicinity of the place you’d like to run your retreats or events so that you have people ready, waiting and willing to join them.
Ok so crunch time, running a retreat, especially as a partnership with someone else might not be that profitable – although of course this entirely depends on how much you charge and your expenses etc. Personally speaking I don’t expect to run retreats for much profit, rather I see them as a great opportunity to connect with people and create an amazing experience for them – this is always good for your business as a whole. Make sure you run your numbers and include things like goody bags which make a nice experience into a really special and memorable one and any extra drinks, catering etc.
Don’t pack out the schedule
When we ran our first retreat I can remember feeling like we needed to jam the entire weekend with workshops and things to do to make sure participants felt like they were getting good value. What we discovered is that people really don’t want this on a retreat! Finding a balance between some activities and workshops and plenty of free time makes a retreat a retreat for your participants.
Manage your own energy levels
I love running retreats, however, I’m not on a retreat when I’m running them! I actually find running retreats extremely enjoyable but massively draining because I have to be ‘on’ for quite an extended period of time. That group of peoples experience is your responsibility from the moment they arrive to when they leave, and that can be intense for whoever is running it. Of course this depends on your levels of introversion / extraversion – as an ambivert I enjoy the outward energy side of it but I’m wrecked at the end of the weekend and need at least a full day off afterwards so bear that in mind!
Think about numbers
Finally, think about your ideal numbers for a retreat or event. Smaller numbers create a more intimate experience and larger groups less so. Generally speaking you could expect to charge more for fewer numbers and so on, but again this entirely depends on your expenses and audience. The retreats I’ve ran have been between 9 and 11 women and this has always worked well especially as there’s been two of us running it.
Decide on the main outcome
Knowing what the main outcome you’d like to create for your participants is really helpful when it comes to planning the content and marketing it. That outcome might just be to take some time out for themselves and relax!
I hope that’s given you some ideas and things to think about if you’ve ever considered running and event or retreat. I could go into more detail but we’d be here for a while, however a full training is going to be available as part of the Wholehearted Business Mastermind if this kind of thing has been useful!
Have you ever been on a retreat or ran one? What would be your tips?
Laura Agar Wilson is a wellbeing coach and business mentor who helps overwhelmed women live a life of more intention via planning, routines and seasonal living.
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