23 Elements for a Successful Retreat
At first I was afraid… I was petrified. Kept thinking I could never create a retreat without luck on my side. But then I spent so many nights thinking how I awesome it would be and said ‘Ah, what the hell… let’s give it a burl”...
You know that niggling little feeling? The one that won’t let you alone. The one you just know is going to materialise and be amazing, just as soon as you dedicate some love and attention to it. That’s how my retreats started.
The Batch It Crazy Retreat was Born
It was just before my birthday, in mid-August 2017, and the little niggly idea was making more and more sense every day. I started researching venues - the lynchpin to make this all come together was having the perfect location with the best energy for creative business focus (and of course, to ensure it was profitable)... Almost immediately, I found it! An incredible house in Brisbane’s inner suburbs, with a tropical paradise feel and 5 lofty bedrooms, quiet surrounds and tranquil outdoor areas, close to the river and oodles of space! I contacted the owners and they very kindly agreed to hold it for me until I’d reached minimum numbers to make it doable.
Done! Great! I’ve got almost 4 months to design it, market it, sell it, and do it!
Then I got an email from the owners. ‘So sorry, but we’ve decided to sell the house. The latest weekend it’ll be available is in 8 weeks’ time’. Oh. Oh shit.
Find another place or cram the hell out of promoting this and hope for the best?
The choice was clear. I had 8 weeks until my first retreat (which didn’t even have a name yet, let alone a format, structure, branding, marketing plan - or any plan for that matter). I set to work.
The Critical Elements to Designing a Successful Business Retreat
There are many moving parts that need to come together cohesively - for you and your attendees - to make for a successful retreat. The options are endless, and understanding how it works with your business and what your desired outcomes are for retreat is super important!
1. Retreat Strategy & The Why
It goes without saying that your retreat needs to serve a purpose and make sense in one way or another for your business and/or lifestyle.
Some considerations include:
Timing - this goes for the time it takes to plan, build, market and sell the retreat as well as the time it’s going to take you out of your business to run it and execute any follow up
Sales Funnel - what needs to occur in your business before, during and after to ensure you hit your income goals and are in a comfortable space financially?
Business Continuity - how does your business carry on while you’re building, marketing and delivering your retreat?
#WiiFM (What’s In It For Me?) - how does this fit with the rest of your business? How are you going to make money from it? Does it have other, non-dollar benefits, such as raising your profile, exposing you to the right people or other long-term game strategies?
#WiiFU (What’s In It For U… i.e. them?) - what do your attendees get from it and why would they come to yours?
Launch Plan - believe me when I say, there’s a fair bit that goes into making this happen and making it a fantastic experience for you and your attendees… you need to have a plan… whether it’s a mud map with an ‘X’ marking the spot or a full-on launch plan with all the bells and whistles, there will be times you’re left deflated, exhausted and wondering why the hell you started this thing in the first place. For those time, especially, you’re gonna want something to help keep you motivated, on-track and on your own team!
Name / title - something catchy that rolls off the tongue and is clear from the outset what sort of retreat it is… simple, right? Nope. You have a lot to play with though - the title, tagline, and other branding elements can connect your audience with your retreat
Style - whether you borrow from your existing brand or create a whole new one for retreat is entirely up to you. Do people recognise you and your brand and is that likely to impact on your ability to fill spots? Match the style with the feel and delivery… whether it’s super-sophisticated and high-tech or mega-chill and grounded, your content, images, copy and promo needs to reflect that!
Copy - der. From blogs to sales page copy. From welcome emails to sexy automated sequences. From promo posts for Facebook to deliverable collateral, this stuff is important.
Social Media - get clear on your strategy for Social Media. Which platforms will you use and how? What media will you use (copy, links, images, FB live, videos etc.)? What frequency? Groups, pages, bots? Will you use paid ads?
Email Marketing - no matter the size of your list, keeping your warm audience in-the-loop and giving them first dibs usually goes down the best. Whether you’re sending direct and promotional emails, including details in your regular newsletters, or designing and sending highly-sophisticated and techy automated sequences, email marketing will almost definitely be a main feature in your marketing toolbox
Direct Approach - start with your nearest and dearest. Got some biz besties? Touch base with them first - they may be interested in coming along, and will surely be able to point you in the right direction, give you honest feedback about the plans and marketing and possibly even make a few referrals to you of the right kinda people. If you’re holding your retreat in a specific location, you may also reach out to people you know who are geographically close
FOMO PROMO - have a plan to do marketing for your next event while on this one (I’m talking social media, selfies, FB lives etc.)
Venue - this is a biggie. You want a place that matches the mood, the style of delivery and your brand. There are loads of things to consider regarding venue, including decor, support, AV options, accessibility, parking and public transport options and a host of other things. Check these places out in person if you can, or get a reliable contact to do so for you.
Accommodation & Catering - it’s a big undertaking, being responsible for other people’s safety, comfort and appetite, so, if accommodation and food is included, you need to find somewhere that suits your style and budget. Ask around - people hold retreats of all styles at all sorts of places - someone knows something that will help! Be sure to collect specific food and health requirements before you finalise catering - you don’t want to leave attendees hungry or unwell.
Support - Consider having at least one person to ‘crew’ for you. Before, during and after, your number 1 focus should be on delivering an incredible experience for your retreaters, and not on liaising with the venue about the air-conditioning. Have a list of support functions someone would ideally be able to do for you - give them delegation to deal with certain things using their discretion and have ample opportunities to touch base throughout each day for more involved trouble-shooting. These people can also help you with social media #FOMOPROMO, taking photos and videos throughout the retreat to use later too.
Length - how long does the retreat go for? Is there any adjustment period before and after retreat for people who might be travelling to the location? Is there enough down time? Are there any other major events happening at the same time which might clash (think school holidays, major sporting events, other retreats or conferences your ideal audience might be planning to attend etc.)
Agenda - planning the run of the retreat can be quite nerve-wracking and it’s super important to deliver what you’ve promised. Leave loads of room for questions, personalised feedback, and interaction between members. Many personality types will need some down-time between events to stay engaged and productive, so don’t try to pack too much in. Set the expectation well before the first day around timeframes for arrival, departure and punctuality.
Delivery Style - how will you do the retreat? Workshop? Seminar? Is it just you or do you have other presenters? Is there time for integrating what they’ve learnt? Exploring time? Sharing time? Networking time?
Presentations - if you’re presenting or speaking, will you need slides? How will you show them?
Handouts - often, we give sooooo much information during retreat, it’s great to be have some prepared notes for retreaters to take away with them afterwards. This could be copies of the slides for them to take notes on as you go, or just some high-level takeaways. It may even include some templates or tools that tie in with your retreat!
Goodie Bags - it’s nice to be able to give retreaters a little bonus or two. Consider preparing something to give out at the start or end of retreat to say ‘thank you’. It could be as simple as a notebook, or something more with lots of elements.
Now all the hard stuff’s been done, all you need to do is rock up and be your fabulous self, give oodles of value to your retreaters, revel in all the gorgeous a-ha moments they’re having, provide an incredible experience to your tribe and, no doubt, learn some valuable lessons for yourself and your business along the way!