I wanted to talk to you about retreats- hosting one, planning for one, surviving one…
Retreats are my thing.
With previous experience hosting retreats, I know how to host them, but specifically I enjoy hosting them. It’s my favorite thing ever to bring people together in a beautiful space to change their business automations for the better.
I’m going to give you a few tips and pointers on how to run a live event like a retreat.
First things first, secure your transportation. My sweet “chauffeur” (husband), Derek, picks our attendees up from the SLC airport Thursday night and drives them to Park City. If you are doing a hotel retreat be sure to give people travel time if you aren’t providing airport pick up or if they need to check into a hotel.
Tip #1 Meet & Greet & Food
Always start with food. Don’t jump into IT right away. There are a lot of extraverts in the world, but the majority people in our business are somewhat introverted and can be isolated. Give people time to settle in and invite them back down for food. It’s a great way to start people socializing. Giving people time transition into their new environment ensures that they can be ready to work once you get to the nitty gritty.
Tip #2 Assigning Rooms and Gift Bags
If you are doing an AirBnB retreat, assign rooms for your attendees so there is no confusion, stress or struggle. If you are hosting in a hotel, give your guests time to check into their rooms and be ready to help with directions if they need guidance.
Also, something to remember if you are having a retreat where both men and women will be attending, make sure to try and keep them on separate floors. I don’t mean to be sexist here, it’s just solely to make your attendees feel comfortable in a place they don’t know with people they probably have never met before. Small comforts like this will help improve their retreat experience.
In our retreats we have the gift bags already in the rooms, awaiting the attendees. I included fun little local things as well as things attendees may need. Always include posty notes! Attendees love their posty notes. Trust me. Include posty notes. Local things I included last fall were things like BeeHive Lotion Bars, Redmond Sea Salt, Organic local Chocolate Granola, Jars of Honey, and Hand Warmers. Gift bags help people get excited to be where they are visiting for the next few days.
It also helps them learn something different about the area, ie- Redmond Sea Salt is actually mined in the mountains of Utah, yup…sea salt. Eons ago the whole area of SLC was covered in ocean, as it receded the salt deposited into the mountains where it is mined today. Our guests didn’t know that and loved the quick story behind it. Keep it fun and local as much as possible. I understand that in a hotel setting you won’t have access to their rooms before hand so have a table set up to hand out gift bags.
Tip #3 Start Time and Food
Yes, really, food again. Food is like the common denominator in all people. It helps them have a moment to catch their breath or maybe talk with someone on personal things. Catch up with a friend or even formulate their goals or questions for the next session. Have food available. Also have water bottles on the tables during the break out sessions, or in the room if you are in a banquet hall– that way attendees don’t have to leave the trainings for a drink. Or they can grab a drink as the move to a different table, room, or place.
If you are doing a retreat over a course of a few days, start a little later. Let people sleep in a little. In our retreat in October, we provided breakfast and started breakfast at 8:30am instead of 8am. That gave our attendees time to start their day a little more relaxed. Even if you get up and get going early just move your start time to a little later so your attendees can get some rest. They are in a strange bed, with a new routine, give them time to adapt to the changes.
Tip #4 Breaks and WalkAbouts
Breaks are needed. Give more than you think you need. They need time to use the bathroom. Especially in an AirBnB retreat where the house will have limited restrooms. But even in hotels people like to return to their rooms for things they forgot or need. Breaks also help them focus during the retreat sessions,because they can grab snacks, check their emails, worry about other business thing on a break…not trying to juggle all that and focus on the training.
Walkabouts are needed too. Get your attendees outside, see the sites, talk about gratitude. Being outside helps people stretch their brains in a calming, loving way, so they can absorb the training inside. We enjoyed being outside and seeing the sites. But, even in a hotel setting you can get outside. After dinner one night, we walked around historic down Park City and visited and laughed. It was an enjoyable evening that made a difference the next day in training. Know where you are and what is available and plan it into your retreat schedule.
Tip #5 Time with the Experts & Pitch
Always have a sign up for your attendees to have a one on one (1:1) with your experts, if you can have staff there to chat with your guests. During this 1:1 time, your attendees can get help with what they are struggling with or they can go through what they are working on. This gives them the individual training they were hoping to get and it helps them feel seen and heard. Also, plan on some open time with your attendees, where you can come back to the house and the guests can stay up and visit with you or go to their rooms. There is no set outline on what to discuss. We just listen and bond. Validation even just by listening is a huge retreat experience.
So, here’s the thing I have said over and over again. You won’t make money on a retreat. But here’s a secret, you have a captive audience. You have people who have spent some personal time with you. You have inspired them. Having something to “pitch” to them is a way to do that. But, please do it in a loving way with sincerity without sales pressure. Choose something that can help improve their business not just help you make money. It should always have a deadline. Always. Make it available on day 2 of your retreat and they let them know they only have a 24 hour window to purchase. This will help your attendees have something to look forward too, and will help incorporate whatever training they received or need.
Tip #6 Dietary Restrictions for Food
Yes, food is this important. Make sure you know any and all dietary restrictions for your attendees to be able to accomodate to the best of your ability. In October, we went out to dinner at my favorite place in Park City. I called ahead and made sure they had a gluten free option for an attendee who had those restrictions. When planning a place for eating out, always try and find a place that can serve large parties, has an informal dress code and will cost $30 or less for each person to pay. I have learned from past experiences any higher than that and you will lose out on some for this fun personal bonding time.
Tip #7 Recognition & Awards
At the end of our retreat, we hand out little notebooks with hand written thank you cards. I thanked them for attending and spending time with me. We told them what we were excited for them to try in their business and what growth we saw over the past few days. It helps empower your attendees. This time helped me wrap up emotionally from hosting a retreat. And it helps your guests get emotionally ready for the retreat to close. It helps them feel positive and focused on the future and that helps them transition into going home.
Tip #8 Run of Show
Always have a run of show worksheet for your retreat staff and photographer. What it is is a break down of everything you need to have happen at a retreat, from start to finish. Who is in charge of what, what needs to go where, what still needs to be prepped, and what time frame is this event happening. It helps my girls and attendees understand what I want to happen at a retreat. This helps me from not being asked a gazillion questions as well as it helps people know where they need to be to capture or observe a moment. This is a must for everyone to do.
Retreats are great way to keep your business personal and accessible to your clients. Hopefully these tips will help you plan your next retreat! I am so looking forward to all of the people coming in March where I can’t wait to see the mountains at the start of spring, deliver some fun training and just get to know fantastic people!
P.S. Next month in Automation Insider our amazing bundle is about retreats. If you want to know my secrets and my processes (including random things like a run of show, menus, venues, etc) – then join us inside of Automation Insider. Check it out here: http://automationfoundations.com/insider