Watch the video:
Last week I didn't get a blog post to you or a video blog post because I was busy holding a retreat for my high level leader business partners on my doTERRA team. I attempted to bring six women together, four got there, but I was asking them to travel from really far away. I brought them to my hometown, put them up at our local boutique hotel, and we had the most amazing day and a half together. I'm here to share my tips from this from organizing my first retreat.
I've been wanting to do something like this for over two years and I finally just said I'm doing it. I'm doing it in a way that feels really good to me, and so I'm going to share what I learned about this.
Before I forget, I've created a special checklist for holding your own in-person retreat, whether it's for your business team or for your customers. I also am giving you a link to a Trello board that you can just click and duplicate, just like a Google document. If you're as obsessed as I am with Trello, because it's amazing, you can download this Retreat Checklist for free so just click on the link below to get it.
While I'm an introvert and I don't love big, large scale events, I love connecting with people in a more intimate environment. So why would you even want to hold an in-person retreat? Whether it's for some customers or clients of yours (let's say you're a nutritionist and you want to hold a weight loss retreat, a stress free retreat, or a yoga retreat), or, if you're like me and you have a network marketing team, and there are several people that are helping you build this business, you might want to bring them together for more of a business retreat.
Even if you don't have a network marketing team, let's say you have a team of people who help you, like assistants or copywriters or whatever, wouldn't it be lovely to bring them together to envision the next six months or a year of your business so that everyone is on the same page together.
That is why you might hold an in-person retreat, because there is nothing better than true connection.
Here are my top 10 tips for holding an in-person retreat:
#1 Set your intention
This is, by far, the most important part of the entire process. It is at the very beginning where you pick and create a vision of how you want your participants to feel during and after your retreat is done.
You cannot skip this step.
I had a very clear vision of helping my leaders to feel loved, to feel taken care of, to feel almost like this retreat was a respite for them. I have a lot of really high achieving women that work with me and my business. They do a lot of stuff. They have a lot going on. I just wanted them to feel like they had a safe place to come and rest for even a day and a half.
Funnily enough, the essential oil blend that I had going was called "Deep Renewal".
So this vibe will bring in ideas for perhaps a special essential oil blend that is going to be the signature for the retreat, maybe a retreat playlist that you can share with them that will help anchor that memory and that feeling in their mind. So that's what I did, was I picked a specific essential oil blend (keep on reading to find out what it was!).
#2 The right location
Personally, when I thought of doing my retreat, I always had a specific place in mind. There's a boutique hotel locally where my husband and I had our wedding reception, we've stayed there several times, and we eat there often.
I love it, it has such a unique vibe. It is one of the top 10 boutique hotels in Ontario, and it is an amazing place.
And I wanted my girls, if they were going to spend the money and the time to travel (because I asked them all to come to me), to feel like it was really worth it. I said "once you get here, everything else is on me. The suite is covered, your food is covered, everything is covered, you just need to get yourself here". We even had some people coming in from out of province. I wanted to make it really special.
If you have the option of having an all-in-one location where they can offer the food, the lodgings, the experience, and maybe there's even some different opportunities for a spa or a space where to do yoga, then take advantage of that
There are lots of places where you can go to do a long distance, out of country retreat. Places like Costa Rica and Bali are very, very popular for doing in-person retreats like this, but you can also just do it in your hometown.
So pick a place that is going to, for you, be the least stressful for you to organize all the stops.
You also want to think about arrangement of transportation to and from your venue to hubs like the train station, airport if possible, or even the closest subway stop. The less your participants have to think about all those logistics, the less stressed they'll be, and the more transformative your retreat will be.
#3 Welcome gift
Upon arrival, I provided my participants with a gift. I had this vision of them showing up in their room, opening the hotel room door and, either on the bed or on a table close to the entrance, there's a little gift to them as an energetic signifier from me to them that this was going to be a really special event. And that's exactly what I did.
It's funny because about six months ago I purchased what I gave my girls before I had even booked the retreat. I gave them a bottle of Manuka essential oil, which is from New Zealand and Australia market for doTERRA, you can't even purchase it in North America. I just had a feeling I wanted to give my girls something really special that they might not have had the opportunity to purchase themselves.
And interestingly enough, my intention for my retreat, like I said, was deep rest, a respite, and relaxation. I wanted them to feel loved and taken care of, and Manuka, you know it's funny, there's an emotional attachment to every essential oil, and Manuka is the oil of being upheld.
I have this Emotions and Essential Oils book on my phone, on my Kindle app on my phone, so I can access it at any time, and you can look up the emotional significance of each oil. So Manuka is a powerful plant given as a gift to the earth to heal and bless humanity. If any of you have used manuka honey, it has super high healing and antioxidant properties, and the essential oil is no different. Manuka offers a powerful healing energy to bind up wounds, soothe troubled hearts, and nurture souls back into a state of centeredness.
It carries a unique energy signature that raises the vibration of those who are blessed to come into contact with it. It offers energetic safety and shielding from the intense problems all around that individuals feel powerless to change. Manuka encourages tapping into an infinite universe of creativity and love. It invites all to access higher rounds of learning, growing, serving, loving, and existing. It was literally the perfect oil for this retreat.
My Deep Renewal blend that I diffused was two drops of Manuka, three drops of Litsea, which is another one of those oils only available in the Australia and New Zealand market from doTERRA, and is the oil of manifestation, and three drops of Frankincense, which is the oil of truth. That's what diffused in the room that we were in the entire time, I wanted my girls to feel that way. So that upon arrival, I provided a little gift.
I also gave them a post card deck from laracasey.com. Lara Casey is the founder of Making Things Happen, she holds large scale conferences around the US, but she has these beautiful postcards. So on the back there's a space where you can write a little message and leave a stamp, but they have the most colorful, beautiful messages on them, like, "I just wanted to tell you that I think you're amazing". I'm planning on getting a few of these framed and having them in my office, and I thought they could either frame them themselves, they could give them to their leaders, and they can spread the love around that way.
You can also share things like a playlist, that's free for you to make on Spotify and share the link with them so you can set the tone for the day.
It does not have to be expensive. I put in a handwritten note to each of my girls expressing my gratitude to them, of how I love having them on my team and I love the energy that they bring, and I'm so happy that they took the time and energy to travel for this retreat. A handwritten note is free and goes a long way.
#4 Create an open schedule
I'm notoriously a doer. I pack my schedule with projects, and when I was thinking about what I wanted to cover during this retreat as the facilitator, I purposely and intentionally left the schedule very open, which was not comfortable for me to do.
Take whatever you think you can get done in whatever time you have, and literally cut 50 percent of the things from the list.
You need to create an environment where people have the space to transform, and that doesn't happen when they're doing a million different activities.
So when you're creating your schedule, whether that might include yoga, cooking classes, spa treatments, discussions, group discussions, paired discussions, always make sure to leave room for the magic to happen.
You have to leave room for those really important connections and have people feel relaxed so that they can be open enough to have those important discussions.
Pick one main focus for the morning and one for the afternoon, and I recommend that you finish by 4 pm so that there is quiet time for people to relax and renew before dinner time. They'll be tired from all the mental work and they'll need a chance to rest.
You want to keep it light. As I was typing notes for this, I put:
So keep it light, keep it healthy. If you're reading this, you more than likely are a health practitioner, and this will probably be something you're into anyways, but I just wanted to remind you.
Keep some food in the room and available at all times: healthy snacks, plus coffee, tea, kombucha. There's nothing worse than low blood sugar when you're trying to facilitate a transformation, it just doesn't work.
Be aware of different diets. I have a couple of girls on my team that are more into the Paleo/Keto/high fat movement. I didn't have any vegans attending, but personally I have some dietary limitations (I'm gluten free, egg free, and mostly dairy free), and when I go to large events, it's hard for me to feel loved with the food (and that's one of my love languages, I love spoiling people with food) and feeling like I can be part of that community when I can't eat anything.
After someone has purchased a spot, send a questionnaire to see what their dietary requirements are, because nothing makes me feel more loved and included than being able to have even one snack at an event, that can totally make a difference for me. I was very aware of that and wanting my girls to feel included when they came to the retreat.
#6 Keep it light
Don't try to make everything too formal. You need people to be in a space where they can open up.
So sit on the floor, tell them to wear super comfy clothes like yoga pants, there's no need to dress up. Bring yoga mats. Whatever will help them feel most at ease so that the magic can happen.
Keep it really light, don't worry about how formal or how professional you might look, because a lot of this work will be very emotional and people need the space and time for that to happen.
#7 Hire a photographer or videographer
Use this retreat as a marketing tool. Hire someone to take pictures, and they can capture the magic without you worrying about getting photos for social media. Have someone just take very casual pictures.
I had a photographer come in, he's a new launched photographer, so I was able to get him for quite affordable even though he was there with us for half a day.
If you have a limited budget, try using someone who is just starting out who might have major skills, but they're more affordable because they haven't been in business for long. Ask your friends and family for referrals.
I wanted our photographer to be like a silent ghost, going around and taking pictures of us when we were having our moments of connectivity and magic happening, because I couldn't do that at the same time as facilitating it. Having someone else there to capture that is amazing. and I'm so excited to see the pictures!
A videographer is hands down the best for this sort of storytelling, but videographers can be expensive. I'm lucky enough that my husband's a professional videographer, and he's creating videos for each one of my girls for them to market their doTERRA business.
He interviewed them individually, and he'll put together a 30 second to one minute video for each of them ... but that's just icing on the cake.
Minimum I'd get a photographer, even if it's a family friend or someone who's just specifically there for taking pictures (even if it's on your iPhone), you want to capture these memories for either your sales page, or putting together for a video in the future when you hold another retreat.
#8 Plan some body movement
Sometimes you just get stuck in a rut during the event. Maybe there's no ideas flowing, or maybe the room just feels a little bit off, but that's your opportunity to get everyone up.
Move your body, whether it's put on a fun playlist and have a little short dance party, have someone teach a short yoga flow, maybe go for a walk outside if the weather is good. There's a reason why Steve Jobs had all of his meetings as walking meetings. Get that blood flowing to the brain and get the stiffness out.
It's hard for the mind to have a transformation when the body is stiff. We need to feel the flow in order for that magic to flow and for it to happen. So plan for some regular body breaks, Hal Johnson and Joanne McLeod would be proud ;).
#9 True luxury
I debated having some luxury time with my girls, but it was one of the things that got nixed from the schedule.
If you're going for a super high-end, luxury retreat and have the extra time, why not bring in a massage therapist who will travel to you, a manicurist, or a make up artist, especially if you are having a videographer, just to do some touchups on everyone.
You know, some of those little things that maybe people don't treat themselves to all the time but that would totally spoil your participants. How memorable would that be for them?!
#10 Event reminders
This is very specific advice from my retreat, but sending out reminders of what your participants need to bring would be uber useful. I had a few girls who were in hotel rooms, the most beautiful hotel rooms that had a large flagpole outside of the window, and it was just happened to be super windy that night.
With how windy it was, the flag got wrapped around the pole and was clinking, a loud, annoying, metal clinking sound, all night. One of my girls only slept about two hours before our major day of brainstorming, and I just felt so badly for her because there's nothing worse than knowing that you have created the space and time for this kind of event to happen, and it might get ruined by something like 2 hours of sleep that we couldn't control.
Reminding your participants to bring whatever they need to control as many parts of their environment as possible will go a long way. Whether they need to bring a sound machine or download a sound app, have them be prepared ahead of time. There's lots of free white noise apps they can download on their phone or their iPad.
Inviting them to bring their own diffusers and have them going in their room.
If their rooms are going to have a bath tub, remind them to bring some Epsom salts so that they can have a bath that night before or the night after you have all your discussions, which can help to physically detox, but hopefully help them to mentally move through some of the stuff that they're working through. That could also make another thoughtful (and affordable) gift, especially if there are bathtubs in each room.
You're not going to be able to control everything, but I felt badly that some of them didn't sleep well. A lot of us that came to the retreat were moms to younger children, and I was really wanting to give us all a night away of not having to worry about our kids and to get a full night's sleep.
So a week before your retreat, I'd send an email, like "hey, here's a few things that you might want to bring". Things like thermoses for coffee or tea to keep it hot throughout the day.
That's what I learned after two years of envisioning and knowing that I wanted to hold a retreat, and finally doing it. It was everything that I wanted it to be. The feedback was amazing.
This could almost be bonus tip number 11: send out a feedback questionnaire after. I have another blog post on my website with pre-done questionnaires for you that would also create amazing testimonials for a sales page. So bonus tip #11!
So, in-person retreats? Nothing can replace them. They are amazing, but they're going to be way less successful if you are intentional and have some organization going on before hand.
It's kind of like planning a wedding. You're like the bride, who is supposed to be organizing it, but you're also supposed to be enjoying the day. The more you can plan before and be prepared, the smoother the day is going to go, and the better that you can be a facilitator of this amazing transformation in all of your participants.
If you're interested in holding your own in-person retreat and want to make sure you don't miss anything, click below to get your free retreat checklist (with a bonus Trello board that you can duplicate!) which includes:
- how to pick the best location
- what to feed all your peeps!
- magical gifts to make your retreat memorable
- my entire retreat schedule