Retreat Planning 101: How to Host Your Own Retreat

How to Plan and Host a Retreat by Christine KaneIf you’re passionate about the work you do, you’ve probably considered offering a getaway retreat so your clients can spend some intense high-focus time with you and other like-minded souls.

Sounds amazing, doesn’t it?

It is!

For 9 years, I hosted my own retreats, several times each year, that almost always sold out.  Not only was it a gratifying experience each and every time, but it also was a great income generator.  (The combination of passion and profits is a game-changer!)

My list has now grown so much that I no longer offer these more intimate retreats. (My events now attract 200+ people.)  Now, I meet many coaches, consultants, trainers and healers who want to host their own retreats.

If this sounds like you, here are some tips — straight from my personal “been-there-done-that” files — for how to plan and host your own retreats

1 – Build a List of Ideal Clients

It’s one thing to have a great idea for a retreat. But it’s a whole other thing to find people to come!

The great news about retreats is that your list doesn’t have to be huge in order to fill the spaces.  Many retreat centers offer options for 10-person retreats.

Still, you need to have a list – whether it’s your client database, or your eZine list – in order to market your retreat.

2 – Name your Retreat

Give your retreat a name.   This grounds your idea with a vision and purpose.

At first, I just called my retreat: “Women’s Retreat.”  (Not particularly exciting, huh?)

When I finally created the name, “The Unstoppable Power of Intention Retreat,” I was much more excited at the prospect of my retreats – and many more women expressed interest!

3 – Decide How Many People You Want at Your Retreat

My retreats had anywhere from 22 – 35 people in them.  Many of my clients have offered retreats for as few as 6 people. The choice is yours. What is ideal for you?

4 – Choose a Time-span for your Retreat

Retreats can range anywhere from 1 – 9 days. Or longer!  If you’re just getting started, I recommend a 3-day format.   This makes it easy for your participants to plan, to arrange travel, and doesn’t require too many days off from work.   Of course, this is also dependent upon the content you want to deliver.

5 – Choose a Location for Your Retreat

Where do you want to host your retreat?

First, let’s start with region.

I recommend that, at first, you keep your retreat close to home.   It’s great to have familiar surroundings and not have to travel far.  If you want to consider a more exotic location, it will obviously take a lot more planning on your part.

Next, let’s talk about choosing a retreat center.

If you do a Google search in your area, you may discover that there are a few small retreat centers that provide amazing options.  Many of these places are not luxurious – but they do allow for an affordable retreat experience for you as a host – and for your clients!

I recommend that you choose a space that offers lodging and meals.  Something special happens to a group of people when they dine and sleep on site – without the distractions of the outer world.

Take time to shop around and explore your options, review your pricing and weigh the pros and cons of each location.

6 – Price your Retreat

Putting a price tag on your retreat can bring up lots of stuff.

But you must challenge yourself NOT to play small.  Low prices can position your retreat as low-value.

Also, do not price your retreat just above the per-person price you’re paying the retreat center.    If you have cancellations or any unforeseen costs arise, you’ll be screwed.

I encourage you to stretch yourself.  Crunch the numbers and make sure you are making a profit!

Note: If the money and pricing is a little tricky for you – then you need to get my free DVD pronto!  It’ll give you the strategies you need to get over this hurdle. Click here immediately to grab your copy.

7 – Outline the Content of Your Retreat

Create a structure or framework that will guide the flow of each day.  There’s probably a natural beginning, middle and end you will follow.  In each element, map out the activities and teaching that will be included.

The key thing about content is this:

Don’t “over teach.”

Retreats (and events, too!) are meant to get participants to actually experience the work they never get to do at home. This means you have to give them the space to learn and take part in activities.

8 –  Commit to a Date for Your Retreat.

Many people play the “Ready Aim” game. They never actually fire. In other words, they never commit.

Yes, it can be scary to offer your first retreat – but commitment and decision are half the battle. Choose a date. And start marketing.

Bonus Tip #1:  Keep it simple

If you’re just getting started, don’t try to plan a retreat on that Greek island you’ve always wanted to visit.  Retreats are about learning and experience. Though adventure can be a component, many times retreat hosts make it harder on themselves by being too aggressive with their early retreat goals.

(HINT: This is often because they fear that they themselves are not “enough” – so they try to superficially make the retreat seem more exciting. Don’t do this.)

Bonus Tip #2:  Allow space

Many years ago, I went to a personal growth retreat that literally exhausted me. The hosts were obviously so frightened of not giving enough content that they dragged the participants around from one activity to the next.

The best thing about this retreat? It taught me what NOT to do when I was hosting my own retreats!

My retreats had lots of space built into them.  Yes, it can be scary to allow space because it feels like you’re not working!   But the gift of holding space for your participants IS working. And it provides a great value.  Be strong enough to allow for this.

——–

In the comments below, let me know: have you ever considered hosting or leading a retreat? What stops you?

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Comments

  1. says

    Thank you, Christine, for laying out the process step-by-step. This idea has been percolating in the back of my mind for a while…now I have ideas I can put into action and a checklist to follow to see if this makes sense for my business. Thank you!

  2. says

    I’ve dreamed of doing retreats for a long time. I have the content and outline, I’m just scared to pull the trigger! Thank you for this article… My biggest fear is that no one will sign/show up.

  3. says

    Thank you so much for this information. My partner and I have run our 30 day self care online course three times now and the next step is a live retreat. We are aiming for February 2014 and are about to start thr location research part of the journey. So many variables at play that is scary, but we both ave big visions and want to step up and make them reality.

  4. says

    Hi Christine, this was very helpful information. I have been considering hosting a retreat for the past several years but never did anything about it. I have since evolved and have loads of retreat topics that I can start from. This article added spark to my fire and I just might have my first writing conference in 2014. In the meantime, I’ll start conducting local workshops to get my mojo going.

  5. says

    Hi Christine,
    Thanks to you, I’m hosting my first-ever “Dream It, Do It Women’s Writing Retreat” Aug 23-25 at Bend of Ivy Lodge. All of my participants are extra excited and can’t wait for the creative fun to begin. I’m taking your advice of not filling up the time too much–I went on a writing retreat last year that did this and I was exhausted. And Walker says “hi”!
    Blessings,
    Alice:)

      • says

        Hi Christine,
        My very first women’s writing retreat at Bend of Ivy totally rocked! I took your advice and let the participants “be” and did NOT overschedule. This was the biggest and riskiest event I’ve ever done in my 7 years of business and so glad I did it. Dava Melton of Blessed 2 Cook nourished with her fabulous food and the Lodge was the perfect place for writing and renewal. Thank you again for your advice and recommendation!

        cheers,
        Alice

  6. Marian says

    Hi Christine. Thank you for this article! Yes, I have considered hosting a retreat (often) but have not moved upon it. I was inspired to look at it again from your post. I will keep in touch to learn more.

  7. says

    Ooh, so excited that you’re posting about this today! I haven’t yet gotten to the retreat-planning stage, but I’m just now planning my first workshop. It’s scary, but I know it’s going to be so much fun. Thank you for the encouragement, AND for the reminder that holding space is so much better than over-teaching.

  8. says

    Thank you for breaking this down into simple guidelines. I’ve been thinking about hosting a retreat for years, and this makes it sound so much more possible.

  9. Wendy says

    Wow! This is so timely. I’m considering offering meditation/hypnotherapy intensive retreats, as well as writer/journaling/crafting retreats. I’ve been wondering how to price these events. I’m ordering the DVD. THANKS! :)

    • says

      Wendy – My rule for pricing is “stretch, but don’t splatter.” Price it to stretch you a bit (also so you really strive to create the most value possible), but not so high that you totally freak out.

      Also when you price it too low, I think you create a bit of mistrust in people. They wonder what’s wrong with you that you’re offering such a great thing at such a low price.

      The best process is to sit down quietly and map it out for yourself. Also – you have to go look at your retreat center and find out your cost per participant in advance!

  10. says

    Thank you so much for these wonderful guidelines. I’m just starting out with my business, but I know that retreats are in my future. I especially love Bonus Tip #2…allow space. I know that won’t be easy, but I’ll remember your wise words…”don’t over teach.”

  11. says

    I loved this… Am working on some workshops (also have retreats in my future) – and found that my fatal error for my first “offering” was that I hadn’t built my list properly… So thanks for the tips… starting at #1 again… back to the drawing board – and off to work on building up my clientele!!!

  12. says

    Thanks Christine! I want to host a retreat and l live in the perfect setting for it: on an island called Kumlinge (part of the Åland Islands, Finland) with 250 other people. Sea, breathtaking nature, peace and quiet, a beautiful space that l get to hire very affordably and many helpful people around the island for practical stuff. So now with your how-to-steps, what’s there stopping me? Nothing! I will sit down right now and map out my “Make Relevant Use Of Your Intuition Retreat” YEY :-)

  13. says

    Christine thank you for this. As a person who partners with facilitators to co-create awesome retreats and journeys – it is amazing how many coaches do not think about this wonderful venue for their peeps. If you are going to do a group workshop – why not do it in a beautiful and inspiring location? I don’t think most folks want to spend a whole weekend inside anymore and by utilizing a retreat center – you create multiple opportunities for bringing your work outside through different group activities and more.
    Part of what I do is help facilitators by creating their legal forms, negotiating contracts, helping them properly price their events, co-marketing their event, and more. I would be honored to chat with anyone who would like more information on what my travel company offers. Blessings, Sheri :)

  14. says

    Christine,
    Thanks so much for making the point about allowing space. I do agree, that the tendency to cram too much in in an “oh my gosh, hope I am delivering enough value so that they are having a good time and learning and will give positive feedback” kind of way, makes you feel like you are earning your keep or something. But I feel like some people have to come to a retreat to have any kind of space for themselves even to consider one small thing! I need to remember that holding the space for those in attendance of my workshops need that same thing and that I don’t need to overwhelm them with awesomeness and just need to relax into what I have to offer in a simple and beautiful way.

    Thanks, again!

    -Court McCracken, Art Nurture

  15. says

    Thank you Christine for this. Your comment about too much content being overwhelming for participants really struck me. Having been on the receiving end I know it’s true. Being on the delivering end we struggle with wanting to give our participants the most for their money, super-size their experience. But, if we give them no space to take in what we’re offering, we have not given much value.

  16. says

    Christine, your article is so timely, and I am so grateful for all your wonderful advice. I am currently putting a plan together to organise my first retreat; I am drawn to facilitating others to explore their hopes, dreams and visions through vision boards, positive affirmations and gratitude and wealth journaling. This is an exciting project for me that I want to nurture and grow; helping others to open their hearts and minds to the possibilities and opportunities feels so right and purposeful. Sharing is such a innate and large part of me and feels so much ‘bigger’ than being a novice! Wish me luck…

  17. Rita Davis says

    My artist friend and I have talked about designing a retreat for women for quite a while. We are in a position to move forward now: she is a professional artist and we both made the leap to resign our jobs as teachers). We had a five hour “planning pow wow” last week-before I read this article!- and did map out many of the items you describe. Place and price are the current works in process. We determined several weeks ago in our first planning chat that time for silence, reflection, and contemplation were essential. We also plan to have simple, “clean” nutritious meals. We want to have follow-up availability via email and phone.

  18. Paul says

    Thank you, Christine! I’m in the process of opening a retreat centre in Barcelona, Spain, and your advice was perfect! I found it not only useful from the perspective of planning my own retreats, but also for when I’m offering the centre to others who want to run the retreats.

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