Incentive Travel, Small Business Marketing

6 steps to planning a retreat

You have decided to plan your first retreat and you want it to be so super fantastic that you stand out from the crowd and you deliver the most awesome retreat ever. You have loads of ideas but you are not sure where to start.

As a long time event organiser we have a few tips as to how to approach this so here is our six-step plan to planning a retreat.

1) Retreat objectives:

So first up is what do you want to achieve with the Retreat? Is it to generate new business from existing clients? Is it to further add value to your tribe? Is it to develop your positioning as an expert? Spend some time, as this needs to be very clear so that you can determine step 2.

2) What is the format and the desired outcomes for the participants:

Is there going to be one on one sessions with any or all of the participants, is there group sessions, how much time do participants need to spend time working on actions – is this individually or in groups. What are participants going to want to go away with at the end of the retreat?

This format and outcomes is key to sourcing the venue, as you need to ensure that you have the right amount of space available for your event and the different sessions that you want to run. You might need private areas for more in-depth or personal discussion, you need to ensure that there are areas for group discussions. Perhaps you need an area for just relaxing and chatting.

This format and outcomes is key to the retreat development.

Finally is the retreat a completely residential retreat (i.e. all in a villa/chalet with the participants staying in the same location as the retreat) or is the residential and day program in separation locations and if do how will participants get between the 2 locations?

3) Venue:

Now you have the objectives and the format you know how much Location and venue super important. Do you want a private villa, or do you want to be part of the small discreet luxury hotel? How much travel time do you want, how much transfer from the airport or train station. Most importantly does the venue style fit with your brand and your values? E.g. there is no point selecting the uber fancy boutique hotel in London if your values are more relaxation outdoorsy.

The venue and location needs to resonate with your values and with your tribe. All the elements are linked – and you should not overlook this.

4) Set expectations at the outset:

Expectation setting relates to both the outcomes and the cost of the retreat including what is included and what is not included. Be clear about how much time the participants will have with you and how much time they will have on their own or in groups. From experience when I have run events the most complaints have come when the participants don’t feel like they get enough time with the leaders, so be super clear about this and sell the value of the overall experience and networking with all participants rather than just time with you.

5) Help and support:

It’s important to ensure that you have support in running the retreat. You may be a one-person business but you need someone alongside you to take care of the logistics. If you are running the retreat itself and you have lots of client and participant contact time planned (I’m pretty certain that is why they are coming) then you need someone there to take care of all the logistics, ensuring any catering arrives on time, that the event runs to schedule, any emergencies etc) it may seems like an added expense but trust me when I tell you that this is an important aspect too often overlooked. You don’t want to have to break a session short with someone because you have to go and deal with an issue. You cannot be all things to all people and you need your energy for leading the retreat

6) All things money:

Ok so you have all the other elements planned – now you have to cost the retreat and work out your break even, how much (if any) money you want to make and therefore what the cost to participants will be. What can you afford to include, what added extras are there – is there gifts, are you including lunch only or also dinner? Keeping control of your budget and cash flow is key.

Also think about timing – when do you need to put down deposit and final payment for the event (and when will you sell tickets?)

What if you have to cancel? And don’t forget – cancellation and event insurance! I don’t want to be thinking the worst but do not overlook this for any reason.

All of the above elements are key to planning your first retreat and we hope that you find them useful. If you are in need of some inspiration for planning your first retreat then download our venue finders checklist.


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Picture of Caroline Sumners

Caroline Sumners