Ready to Host Your First Live Retreat? Here Are 7 Things To Expect - Christine Kane

One of my most popular blog posts of all time is all about how to host your own retreats.

Why so popular?

I mean, hey, you can just do all your stuff online these days, right? It’s expensive to do a live event! And now that video is so simple, you can easily upload some videos and teach without ever having to risk a half-empty room!

So, then, why are so many people hungry to offer live workshops and retreats?

Three reasons:

1 – Students move faster when they’re in a room without the usual distractions.

2 – The energy of group-think causes more insights. It’s pure leverage.

3 – Knee-jerk doubts and obstacles are more likely to be cleared when they’re dealt with on-the-spot.

Host your first live workshop or retreat

Here’s just one of the many emails we get from retreat participants who are blown away at the breakthroughs in the room…

All of this equals better results, more happiness for you as a leader and also more opportunities to post great live energetic shots on social media and in your newsletter.

With that said, hosting live retreats or workshops isn’t easy. Stuff happens. (Have you noticed?)

And if you’re not prepared, you may see some of these very normal things as signs you shouldn’t be doing live retreats. You’d be wrong. You simply need to be aware and then get prepared. Here are some things to expect (and be ready to deal with) when you host live workshops and retreats…

1 – Expect bigger breakthroughs

As the leader of a live workshop, you have the unique opportunity to provide a safe space for people to focus deeply while unhooking from their usual daily patterns of avoidance. (Namely Facebook and texting.)

People in the room at a live event are forced to face their obstacles, deal with their doubts, and actually do the work. This means bigger breakthroughs come with the territory.  It’s quite amazing.

How to Prepare:

Yes, have a strong agenda. But also be prepared to make space for these breakthroughs. This means that you will want to be flexible enough to drop your agenda if your audience is really working deeply on something.

For instance, if you give them 10 minutes to work on something, and they are so engrossed that the 10 minutes flies by – then extend the time. Use that time to then adapt what you were going to teach next to allow for the change. The wisdom to do this with ease is something that gets stronger the more you host live events.

2 – Expect emotions in the room

If you offer a workshop called “Tactical Management and Human Resource Compliance,” maybe you won’t have to worry about highly charged emotions.

However, you’d be surprised at what can come up for people in a room!   One of my colleagues – a business strategist – desperately called me for some coaching after one of her retreats. She had been at my event and loved the guided meditations I did each morning. She decided to begin her retreat with a guided meditation.

Well, one of her participants got triggered by the depth of that experience. This one person’s emotional upheaval took some time to deal with that morning.

She wasn’t prepared to hold the space for someone having a fearful experience or emotions arise.

It happens. And it’s normal.

How to Prepare:

Firstly, you must own the leadership role. That doesn’t mean being bossy or inflexible.

It means being relentlessly aware of the energy in the room. You don’t have to manipulate that energy. You simply need to lead it. This means that sometimes you allow for tension and challenges. And sometimes you have to steer people out of their muck quickly. Get comfortable with normal human emotions – and especially get out of your head and learn to breathe and be present.

3 – Expect to burn through your material

Sometimes the nervous energy of being on stage or being in front of people makes us fly through our material. You may try to cram way too much in, talk way too fast, and throw way too much information at your participants. This will overwhelm them. But don’t worry, we all do it from time to time!

How to prepare:

Of course, you always want to step on stage with more material than you actually need to teach.

But remember that, in the end, less is more.

People need more space to learn than you might think. If you do go too fast and you find yourself with three hours left in a day or in a session, then open up a Q&A or dive deeper into an earlier worksheet. And then, next time, allow more space.

4 – Expect no-shows

No matter how high or low your ticket-price, you will still have no-shows. It sucks, but it happens.

Some people just do not honor their contract with you or care about being respectful of you when you’re hosting an event.

Most people don’t even know all that’s involved in putting on a live event. So they blow them off without even thinking.

Let it go. It’s the cost of doing business.

How to prepare:

First, require payment for a live event. For example, even if I offer a free ticket with a program I’m teaching, I will always require a deposit to claim that ticket. The money is refunded upon registration at the event. It is not refunded if a participant doesn’t show.

Secondly, stay in touch with registrants to keep them anchored to the event as it nears. Don’t just send “reminders.” Send content and get them excited! This will do wonders for keeping them enrolled!

5 – Expect high-energy output on your part

I am ridiculously sensitive to energy. When I was a performer, I’d return from tours and melt onto my acupuncturist’s table. I learned the hard way how to honor my energy – from diet, to healing work, to personal practices so that I didn’t end up so depleted.

Now, when I do events, I’m not floored like I used to be. That’s because I understand how much energy it requires to hold a room for two or three full days.  I have a set of core habits that are non-negotiable when I run events.

How to prepare:

First off, be aware that your energy is the reason you make money. Do not take that fact lightly.

It doesn’t mean you have to run around being a crazy diva.

But it does mean that you be careful about alcohol and sugar intake prior to and during the event.

It means that you set up a fine-tuned sleep environment so that you are getting 8 hours of sleep at night before and during your event.

It means that you drink tons of water when you’re on stage, and plan healthy meals in advance.

Also, plan your outfits in advance so you aren’t wasting energy on clothing choices on the morning before you step on stage.

Host your first live workshop or retreat

Notice how Melinda is wise enough to give herself time to rest up after her first retreat – great idea!

6 – Expect to ask yourself, what made me think I could do this?

For sure, you will love being on stage. But you will have a few WTF moments when you doubt or question yourself, perhaps when something goes wrong (which it will) or someone looks at you with hostility (which will most likely be your own projection) or you say something profoundly stupid (see #8). Standing in front of people in a live setting is as real as it gets in a business.

How to Prepare:

Keep being bold and living your life – and read this article on overcoming the fear of being seen.

7 – Expect that you are not (and will never be) perfect no matter how hard you try.

You will always want some more perfect version of yourself to show up at an event. Please let this go. She never arrives. Be yourself. Be not perfect. Your people will love you for modeling something they so need to understand as well.

I love this text I got from my client Sue Ludwig days before her event…

Host your first live workshop or retreat

A sense of humor about your perfectionism = a better event.

How to Prepare:

No way to prep for this one. You already are your perfectly imperfect self. Go for it.


Your turn!   Did I forget anything?  What would you add to this list? Tell us in the comments…



  • Magda

    That is a great and honest article! I’ve run a couple of women circles recently and everything you mention has happened : no no shows, emotions, unexpected situations, my imperfections…

  • Thea

    Wow, this is just what I need. In august we have our second event for a small group. And this helps to be clear on the how.

    • Christine Kane

      Hey Thea! Go take a look at the other article too. It might be a little too basic – but there’s some more information on the content and lay-out of putting on a workshop or retreat as well. And good luck!

  • Michael

    I have been to lots of workshops and events and hands down the structure, setup, lighting, content etc.. was amazing but what really impressed me was your abilty to hold an authentic space for people and even call them on there “stuff” in such a powerful way. Your ability to sense and manage not only where the energy of the room was headed but how you would quickly breath and group yourself and so effectively manage your own energy in a way that served us all.

    I guess another point for an event would be ensure yoy don’t put to many deep and inner work exercises back to back and allow for people to energetically process and regroup. Also bring up the energy when needed and make it fun. All of which I felt you naturally do even though you didn’t list it.

    • Christine Kane

      Very cool addition Michael! Thanks! And thanks for the kind words. Some of it comes intuitively, some of it comes from experience – and some comes from strategy. I do try to make sure that the exercises, the work and the interactions lend themselves to keeping the energy in the room pretty high, steady and deep. (But that’s not going to be the goal for everyone – this is where you have to know your clients really well!)

  • Kimberly

    Shared your link and post to Facebook Christine. Appreciate so much your authentic sharing and wisdom from a space of actually having put yourself out there and sharing what can and does happen; then most importantly, outlining the stratagies for navigating the waters to successfully surf the waves of a live event.

  • Donalee

    Great info. As an attendee and a presenter both I whole hearted embrace this article and the info shared. Personally, I truly enjoy delivering and receiving the live experience. I am a people person and love to connect with others. Here’s to your LIVE Retreat. UPLevel Your Business 2016. 👩‍❤️‍👩

  • Nancy Moran

    Hey CK – I’ve experienced the power of retreats from both sides…as a presenter AND as an attendee. And these are definitely ALL true! Fett and I have been thinking more about live events lately. I personally think that people are craving human interaction more and more these days. Thanks! Hope to see you at a live event sometime soon. Miss you and the Uplevel gang TONS! 🙂