Hosting your Own Retreats - Christine Kane

My first retreat was a total game-changer for me and my journey as a Soul-Sourced™ entrepreneur, and I’ll reveal the humble beginnings of how my music career naturally led me here. I even share an “out there” exercise I taught during this retreat that I still use today :) 

These smaller in-person gatherings are an amazing way to serve people and build the connections that lead to a loyal following and clients. Plus, they can serve as a foundation for your larger event once you’re back in the big room. 

You’ll hear my top 10 list of things I’ve learned in my years of hosting my own retreats and masterminds that you can use as a how-to guide for everything from finding participants and selecting the location to creating content and planning the agenda. 

Spoiler: These aren’t the usual how-to tips you hear about hosting retreats… this is all stuff that I either (unconsciously) did well in planning and hosting my retreats or lessons I picked up along the way.

Episode Transcript

There is a correlation between someone really investing their money and also investing their energy.

Welcome to the Soul-Sourced™ Podcast, unconventional business advice for the highly creative, secretly sensitive and wildly ambitious entrepreneur. I’m your host. Christine Kane. Let’s do this.

Well, greetings my friends and welcome to, good Lord, I should remember my episode numbers. This is episode number 56. See it came, it arrived. And before we dive into this episode, I just want to say thank you to you guys for listening and for leaving some really powerful and very kind comments on my podcast page. So, Sally, thank you. She wrote, this is what we need more of, celebrating every win, small or big, it’s what’s missing in the small business person’s life. In a space where you often are your only ear and cheerleader, being reminded to celebrate your awesomeness is just the boost you need to keep you going. It can be a lonely life being an entrepreneur, but with Christine to listen to, read from, and have as a guide, this life is now so much more rewarding. I love that. Thank you. I’m so, so grateful to you, Sally, for saying that.

And Christina PBJ, Christina peanut butter and jelly? I’m not sure what PBJ is, but she wrote a just, wow. I’ve been listening to Christine’s podcasts since finishing her book, the Soul-Sourced™ Entrepreneur and the amount of insight and thought provoking content she packs into 30 minutes or less is incredible. I love how she gets to the point and communicates actionable items clearly, or is honest about those without finite answers. Episode 14, The Breakdown Before the Breakthrough, especially resonated for me and should be required listening for all business owners. Thank you. Thank you for the time, energy and thoughtfulness you put into your messages to serve entrepreneurs at all levels. Well, thank you right back, Christina, and thank you to everyone for listening and for being here week after week with me. And I hope today proves to be a powerful episode for you because it is pretty powerful content, especially now that we’re looking at a time where doing small events is probably going to be a good thing right now, as opposed to big events. We were all ready to start charging back into big rooms and big things, and we don’t know what’s going on.

But what we do know is that you can do smaller events and it is a great time to consider hosting retreats. And one of the biggest questions I get from people across the board is around doing retreats and workshops. And I got a little well known for, for talking about this just from my Vision Board Pro program. And I don’t know if that’s available, but you can go check out, and get on the waiting list for that. But that was where I taught people how to host vision board workshops, but we’re going to go a little bit deeper on this one. And we’re going to talk about retreats. And I got started with this part of my business world with retreats, meaning I was a songwriter and after working with a coach for several years and watching my own songwriting career start to grow just by virtue of the fact that I was working with him, both on mindset and on music business and on marketing and on the things I call, you know, managing your energy, managing your power.

It just was a game changer for me. And when people started asking me backstage after shows, when I was signing CDs, how can I do what you do? And they weren’t musicians. They were people who had their own businesses or wanted to follow their dreams or were in dead end jobs. They started asking me this. And when that happened, I just didn’t didn’t realize I was kind of starting coaching then, but I was, I would say, hold on, let me finish my signing here and let’s go backstage and while I pack up, I will listen to you and guide you the best I can. And that was kind of how it began. And then I just decided I wanted to do something completely different because I’m a 10 quick start on the Colbys. And that’s what we do. And I started hosting these retreats. I just, I put one out there.

The first one I did was at a place out in, um, Maggie valley. It was John Denver’s old farm. He owned the property. It was a beautiful spot in the mountains, turned into a retreat center. And I put the word out there on my mailing list. And I had my first retreat. I did not know what the hell I was doing. And I did the best I could. And people liked it so much. And I taught vision boards at that. And it was before vision boards were a thing. And I remember people were very cynical and they were looking at me like really? Poster and paste and magazines? This is what you want us to do? And I remember coming out, um, at one point into the main room at like three in the morning and people were all still there doing their vision boards and it was very cool. And then retreat was a big success and it was three days long and that led to another one and it led to another one and it turned into something where, gosh, the last five or six years of my music career, I was hosting five of these a year. And that’s kind of what evolved into me doing a, an online program and getting clients. And it built a lot of trust with my clients.

And so today I wanted to give you Guys 10 tips. I believe it’s 10 tips. Knowing me, It could turn into more, um, um, around hosting a, your own retreat and the kinds of things to look out for and the kind of things I have learned. But I do think that in spite of the fact that everybody is doing Zoom and we’re all socially distance and nobody sees each other anymore and people are hesitant to do events. I still think the retreats are an amazing way to not only serve people, but also to build trust with people and build the connections and relationships with people that lead to a loyal following and possibly getting clients. And I will say, this is sort of what started it all for me. And retreats are a really big deal when people get into a sacred space with other people and they can show their hearts and souls and be authentic and feel connected. It’s a game changer for a lot of people.

And so I had, let’s see, I hosted the retreats when I was a musician that turned into doing mastermind retreats, client retreats, big events, and it gave me the foundation to be able to move into bigger events. So I’m going to start, and I’m going to start with some of my tips, and this is kind of the, in the trenches files kind of, uh, episode. It’s not like, uh, just your usual stuff that you hear. This is stuff that I, I either did unconsciously doing well, or I learned along the way.

So the first piece about having any kind of retreat, I think what tends to happen is that we listened to internet marketers and they all get us hyped up and they love, they love to help us create those programs and retreats and get all these ideas. But the real truth of the matter is, is that you need people to market, to you need a list. And that list doesn’t have to be a big formal list all done in your great CRM program or anything like that. But you do have to have a list of people. And so the first tip is that you want to build a list of ideal clients. So like I said, it’s one thing to have a great idea for this retreat, but it’s a whole other thing to find people to come. That’s the same thing with anything you create. The creating of it, the idea of it is the fun part. The marketing, that’s where things get a little hard. So you want to make sure you have a database. You want to have a list. It could be a list of people that you write down the way I teach writing warm letters and getting your first clients is really using your own contact list of people that you already know and like, and trust, and they know, and like, and trust you.

But you want to know, key thing is who is this retreat serving? Exactly who? And just one little hint there, please, please, please, don’t say women in transition because everybody says women in transition and I’m a marketer and I am a female. And I have no idea what the hell that means. Like if you asked me every one of us woman, man, dog, cat, we are all in transition because that’s the nature of life. So please try to get a little bit more specific than that. If they’re in transition, are they getting divorced? Are they leaving their, you know, or kids leaving home? Are they leaving a job? What are they doing? And be really clear about that because that’s going to inform how you talk about the content of your retreat and why it matters to them.

Tip number two is that I think every retreat should have a name. A lot of times people will just put, you know, I’m doing a retreat, I’m hosting a retreat. I think it’s helpful for that ideal client to know that the retreat has a focus and there is a concept with it. And the first time I did one, I will, I will admit it was called Women’s Retreat, which was very exciting for everybody. But then I got a little more creative and I, I changed it because I was a songwriter. I changed it to the Great Big Dreams retreat because my song Right Outta Nowhere has the line, She’s got a great big dream and a history of playing small. And I just anchored to the song lyric. And then after that, it became the Unstoppable Power of Intention Retreat, because I was really focusing on vision boards and about creating your life. And that’s where it landed. And people really liked that name, but there is a, you know, there is a art to naming things and it can be really fun to name things. And I know I did a podcast on writing a book title. It’s not the same as naming things, naming a retreat is a really different thing. It might not be the same name that you would give a book, but I would take some time to really consider what is the name of this thing?

Tip number three is to really consider how many people you want at your retreat. So this is a big thing because I’ve done retreats. You know, when I was doing my women’s retreats, women’s retreat, I had, I had, my first one was 34 people, which sounds like a small retreat, but it was a lot for my first retreat. And I, then they went anywhere from 22 to 34, I think was the, was kind of my range. And I found a real comfort zone in the 25 area. And, uh, I think every now and then they might’ve gone lower, but I think they were right around 20 to 30 people. And I’ve also had a lot of my clients do retreats for six people or for 10 people or for eight people or 12, but get an idea of how many is right for you. And that is a number that I really recommend, not like looking up and reaching to the sky and thinking about it. I would consider mining for that number, really feel into what feels like a good number for you. And obviously you want to do a little bit of due diligence in terms of making sure you’re not going to lose money on this retreat. And we’ll get to that in a second, about choosing locations and what they charge and all that kind of stuff.

But the next tip I want to give you is to choose a time span for your retreat. So my time span when I first did them, I don’t know why I came up with this, but I did that whole thing that I just described where I really mind myself, like, what do I want this to be? And the way I started it was that it was, it was a three-day retreat, but it started on the afternoon of day one. I didn’t start really early morning. I started at around noon, somewhere around noon or right after lunch. And then it went all the way through to the next day and then, uh, to the right after lunch on day three. And so what that meant was two nights and three days. So obviously you can go anywhere from a full day, all the way up to 10 days. Like people have all different ranges for retreats, but if you’re just getting started, I do recommend the three-day format that I just talked about because it makes it makes it easy for your participants to plan. They can arrange travel that morning. It doesn’t require an extra night. You’re still getting that third day in and it doesn’t require too many days off of work. And it also lets you do it on a weekend. Mine were always on weekends. They were always starting on a Friday and they went through Saturday and Sunday. We ended on Sunday right at lunch. So it really depends on you, but that’s an easy place to begin.

And the next tip is choosing a location for your retreat. Now we want to make it easy on you. So I’m going to recommend that you choose a location in your area. Now, if you’re a big traveler and you don’t get daunted by making plans far away, then have at it, go to the beach, go somewhere, you know, overseas, wherever. I mean, of course, right now travel could be hard for some of your peeps, but I am all about your first few times just being easy on you. A lot of times we try to make these things so complex and our idea brains start rolling and we’re like, oh, you know what would be even better than doing it close to me? Doing it in Greece, that’s what would be better. And then we were off and, and then before, you know, it you’re exhausted because you’re booking flights to Greece and you don’t even know where you’re going to go in Greece, you know, just Chill out, like just chill and make it really easy on yourself. So also if you’re going to do site visits and things like that, it is so much easier. If you have a relationship with the promoter of the retreat space or the owner or whatever it might be, and you might also be able to not be wedded to the number of rooms you book and have to pay a fee If you don’t book all those rooms and that kind of thing.

Um, the best way to discover this is to do a Google search in your area for retreat centers, uh, in, you probably will discover that there are a few small retreat places that provide a lot of options in terms of, you know, shared rooms, bunks, uh, single rooms and that kind of thing. And I will say that most retreat centers are not luxurious. And one of the challenges, and this is about back to that tip number one, who’s your ideal client, If you are serving, you know, multiple seven figure business owners, you are probably going to be staying at a nicer hotel with nicer options. When I first did my retreats, I was a musician and some of the rooms were shared rooms. Some of them did have bunk beds, but it was also in the mountains on a gorgeous 64 acre plot of land, Bend of Ivy Lodge. It’s amazing. And people loved it so much. And I set it up with massage therapists. I made it really beautiful spot and we had yoga and it was just, it was great. And I loved it. And for the most part, my people loved it. I’m sure some people didn’t like sharing room or they didn’t come because they realized that would have to be an option. But in the meantime, Google places near you keep it simple.

I recommend places that offer both lodging and meal options because, there really is something undeniably special that happens to a group of people when they dine and sleep on that site and they are free from the distractions of the external world that tends to plague them and stress them out. And that is indeed what happened for our retreats is that there was a real circle that was created and it was pretty sacred. And my people who have come to those retreats still stay close. I see them talking on Facebook. It’s very cool from just having spent three days together. So take, take time, look around, explore your options and review the pricing. I am going to recommend wholeheartedly the kinds of places that have meals and overnight options as well.

Now our next tip is the pricing of the retreat. And I often joke about my first retreats being so ridiculously low priced that I think I, you know, covered the expenses and that’s about it. And that’s kind of all I wanted at first, but I had a coach work with me and she said, you know what? I wouldn’t even go to this retreat because it’s too cheap. And it makes me feel like you don’t value yourself. And so she challenged me to raise my prices. And I will say that when I did raise my prices, I stopped getting people who, I had every now and then I would get people who would come. It would be like three women would come together and they would leave the retreat to go shoe shopping in downtown Asheville, like at some point. So it would kind of break the vibe. And when I raised the prices that stopped happening, because there is a relation between someone really investing their money and also investing their energy, and being there at a retreat, It’s very easy when you’re first getting started to make it not that big of a deal and not really feel like you need people to be committed because you don’t want to really be a bitch or whatever. And there is a whole kind of whatever, like I’m not going to give my full self to this just in case, I don’t want to piss anyone off.

I think it is so important for you to know how much you are committed to doing this and to really hold that energy there so that other people are committed. Not that you do it in the schoolmarm fashion of now, you’re here, you have to turn off your phone and you have to, you don’t need that when you’re energy is truly committed. And so putting a price tag on that retreat, can, it not only shows your commitment, but it also brings you face to face with how much am I worth? And, oh my God, what if I’m not worth this much? You know, you know, that stuff is worth moving through so that your or soul and your strategy tracks of your business are aligned and you are modeling something that people want to be around, but if you kind of hedge and you’re not really sure, and you’re not really committed and don’t really value yourself, that energy should really be worked through.

As you’re doing this every time I do an event, every time I do anything, I use all of the little stuff that comes up and I look at it as, oh, this is here to be burned away. This is here to be moved through. This is not proving that I’m an idiot or that I shouldn’t be doing this. It’s actually coming up to be healed. And that, it’s why pricing yourself is so important because when you start to learn how to price yourself, you’re also stepping into the relationship with you and money, the relationship with you and your value, your self-worth issues. And it’s actually makes you a stronger leader in the long run. So I’m going to encourage you to stretch yourself. I’m going to encourage you to crunch the numbers for the retreat center that you find and make sure that you’re making a profit, maybe on your first one or first two, you can get a little lower profit, but you don’t want to be losing money and you don’t want to be stressed out. And that’s why I don’t have an exact number for how much it should be. But for most people, the first number you come up with, I think you should at least double, maybe triple, that’s going to be my guideline, but I don’t know you and I’m not sitting and talking with you and I don’t know the nature of your retreat, but typically most people I work with need to price themselves a little bit higher.

With that said, that brings us to our next tip. And that is to really take some time to outline the content of the retreat itself. And this one I remember was very stressful for me at first, especially. And then when I started doing events, it was the same thing. Like, oh my God, there’s so much to teach and where do I start? And I, I had to sit there and really lay out what was going to be the flow of each day. Why would I start with this? And I always started with intention and I used a lot of what I learned in coaching. So day one was always around intention. Day two was always around elimination. And I started teaching the Enneagram yes, way back, way back in, uh, early two thousands. When I was doing these, I started teaching Enneagram and that was a part of, um, something I called eliminating old patterns and, and doing that through being aware of yourself. And then on the last day, we focused on, um, attention in that if you’ve done my Uplevel Your Life Program, you know, that’s the first three steps of Uplevel Your Life, and that is how I built that. I started with the retreat format and then continued my trainings in mindset and life coaching areas to add on the other steps that became Uplevel your life.

But the key thing about any content that you teach about any retreat or event that you do is do not over teach. And a lot of you have heard me say, do not fire hose people. It is probably something that is over said and overdone a bit, but less is more. And I remember at one point when I was a musician, some of my fans had me come and do a little session. They were so excited by my retreats that they had their own retreat. And they had me come teach a session at that retreat, but they wanted me to take part in that retreat. And I swear to you, it was like three days of being dragged by a speedboat, and just trying to not take in too much water, because we were doing meditations. We were doing labyrinth, we were doing vision boards. It was like, like you had this activities planner with a whistle and we were running around. And I remember at one point doing the labyrinth like, I don’t think I’m supposed to be panting while I’m doing the labyrinth.

So this means you need a lot of pausing and a lot of space, because one of the great things about retreats is that it’s not all on you. A lot of the growth that happens in any retreat, in an any group situation is because of the conversation. It is because of the connection and in every mastermind I’ve been in and in every mastermind I have led, it is just as much about the conversations among the people there as it is about the teaching that I deliver. And a lot of us, especially if we’re scared to charge money for the first time, we think we have to teach and teach and teach and teach and teach and teach and teach and teach. And no one cares after a while. Like you are so busy trying to prop up your ego and prove that you’re okay and you want everyone to know you’re okay that you end up fire hosing people. And so I’m going to encourage you to provide space.

And I’m going to tell you one very daring way that I did that. And I learned is that when we on day one of my retreats, I did this for myself as much as everybody else, I made everybody put their phones away. And this was before phones were such a huge addiction. I didn’t make them, I encouraged them. Let’s put it that way. And then before we even introduced ourselves, before we even formed a circle, I said, we are going to, everyone’s going to go off and we’re going to spend, I think I did 90 minutes of silence.

And I, I gave context for it. I didn’t just, you know, act like some kind of, you know, military leader and send them out into the woods. I gave them the option of going back to bed and taking a nap. I gave them the option of walking through the woods. There were pads all over the retreat space, but I will tell you that as somebody who has gone through the, that, you know, need to firehose people with all the content I could deliver, that was a real service to me because it made my little ego shut the hell up. And it made me be silent while people were arriving at my retreat and it gave them a chance to access something deeper and also them to face the fear of themselves at like their own fear of being silent. And it was a big deal for a lot of people. I didn’t realize what a big deal I would be, but giving them that space, made them come back to the circle when we started. And they were just a little bit more raw. And that’s a good thing when you’re leading a retreat. And so that’s, that’s how I started it. But I ended up putting quite a bit of space and conversation time and walking time and silence in the retreats, amidst the teaching that I did as well. And the work like we did a lot of different tools and that kind of thing, something I’ve continued to do, but yeah, that’s, it’s a, it’s a big thing. And I think resisting the urge to over teach is a big one.

The next tip, which I think we were at number eight, this is it. And this is a big one because I always say, I don’t say it. This, this is something I’ve heard other people say, and a lot of people say it, what is the very best invention ever? And that answer would be the deadline because without the deadline, there would be no other inventions, especially if we Quick Starts have our way. So all of this is to say that tip number eight is to commit to a date for your retreat. And this is the most important step because once you have a date, you’re all in, you know, it’s happening, you’re going to go for it. And I know, I remember, I hated committing to dates because then all the little voices come up. Like what if no one comes, oh my God. And I used to wait to the very last minute. And, uh, I had a wonderful woman named Nelda who was my helper. She volunteered to help me because she loved coming to the retreats. And there was one point where Nelda said to me, I was all worried because I was like, no, one’s signing up. And she said, well, Christine, have you ever tried thinking about like, maybe offering the retreat more than a month out. I was such a quick start that I’d be like, we’re doing it in January. And it would be December. And so I started to book them three months in advance and I had to grow up. You know, I had to get out of my little, my way of doing things, but I would say commit to a date and I would give, give yourself like five months ahead of time. If you want to really just light a fire under your ass and go for it, then do it three months ahead of time. Asheville has grown to the extent that I couldn’t do what I did in the early two thousands. Now, I, I, there was just so many more spaces and options available cause it wasn’t the crowded destination town that it is now. And so I, I had a lot of luxury in that I could call up my friends at Bend of Ivey and say, Hey, I’m thinking to do a retreat in three months. And they had the dates, you know, it wasn’t booked out like it is now. So I get it. It’s scary to put a date on it, but that commitment is sort of the no turning back. And you’re telling people here’s when it is. And you put it out there.

I think the next tip I would say is just reiterating the whole idea of keeping everything simple for yourself. So a lot of times, um, people here or they’ve come to my events, which now I’ve been doing them for what, 20 years now? Cause I think my first retreat was in 2001 or 2002. And I, you know, I’ve grown this, I’ve, I’ve learned and I’ve grown and I did, you know, it was up to five retreats a year. And then I started doing events. So you want to keep it very, very simple. And that’s more for your own energy because above all else, if you’re leading a retreat, your energy is more important than anything else because you are holding space for other people to come and learn and grow. And if you spend that time and you’re up in your head and you’re obsessed with what they of you and you’re obsessed with your content and you’re flipping through all kinds of pages, then you’re not really bringing your presence to the people who have paid you money to come be with you. I would rather you not be fully prepared with all of your content and have you be 100% present because that is ultimately the highest level of service we can bring to any group of people, especially at a time when everybody is distracted. And I think it’s really worth you at one, like some point, let’s say a week before, three days before the retreat letting go and knowing you’re as prepared as you’re ever going to be. Because the last tip I’m going to share with you is that everything changes when people are in the room. You may have the very best content.

You may have tools out the yang. You may have the lineup of lineups and everything perfect. And then everyone gets in the room and your intuition looks at that whole room and says, oh shit, this is totally different. And you have to follow that intuition. You follow the energy of the room, which is why it’s so important for your energy to be in tune and intact. And sometimes if something needs to go out the door, then it needs to go out the door and you can revisit it at your next retreat. But that’s the key thing is really understanding that there is something deeper. There is an X factor that once people get in the room and it is better to prepare for that by being present and relaxed and setting a clear intention for the retreat than it is to say, I’ve got to have slides and content and tools and everything, and we’re going to run around and that’s, that’s the big thing. And that’s where space comes in. That’s where stillness comes in. And I know the big question is, is, oh my God, if I give them stillness, are they going to think I’m shirking my duties as a host and not doing enough? And I promise you, they will not, especially if you are fully, fully present to that retreat.

So those are my tips for hosting a retreat. I’ve had so many people request that I do like a program about retreats, but that is going to get you started. I do not have a program about retreats. I simply have the Vision Board Pro, which has, teaches you how to host vision board workshops, which is, uh, probably one of the best programs I’ve ever created. I love it. And it’s helped so many people with their workshops and their retreats as well, but it it’s, uh, I think there’s only a waiting list for it right now, but in the meantime, all I want to do right now is thank you for listening. And if you do listen to this podcast regularly, I would love, love it If you would go leave a five star review at apple and leave a blurb, leave your thoughts, anything that gets other people into our community here of Soul-Sourced™ Businesses and Soul-Sourced™ Entrepreneurs. And Hey, you guys, I will see you next week. Thanks for listening.