Planning a retreat is much like planning a vacation, except your family will be more forgiving if something goes wrong. If you’re marketing your retreat to premium clients, they expect all the bells and whistles and expect things to go off without a hitch, especially if they’re paying top dollar to attend.
If you’re thinking of planning a private retreat for your best clients, here’s some advice:
1. Plan your budget carefully. You are still in business to make money so create a realistic budget and set a price high enough so you still make a profit. You’ll need a venue, catering services, guest speakers, and entertainment. When it comes to guest speakers, you’ll need money to pay not only their speaking fee but their transportation expenses, lodging, and food. Entertainment can include excursion fees and/or performance fees along with travel expenses for the performers.
2. Leave yourself enough time to plan. Think of planning a private retreat similar to planning a wedding. Can you do it in three months’ time? Sure you can; but will it be as luxurious and special as if you gave yourself a full year to plan? Most likely not. Allowing enough time to plan widens your options when it comes to the venue, catering, and guest speaker options. Instead of having to settle for whoever is still available, you now have the option of booking the best of the best early on, which will impress and entice all your premium clients.
3. Allow free time for relaxing or networking. Do your clients want time to network with others or do they want to have every second of their days scheduled? Overscheduling is a common mistake with first-time retreat planners; it’s their fear that they aren’t offering enough to satisfy their attendees and to justify the expense. But overscheduling their days will lead to exhausted guests who feel like they’ll need a vacation from the retreat, which inevitably leads to bad reviews.
4. Prepare for emergencies. Ask your venue if they have a technology person on staff. You don’t want to be unprepared if you have an issue with the mics or the video minutes before your keynote speaker takes the stage. You’ll want someone on site who knows how to rectify those problems quickly. The same is true if a guest speaker gets sick or if an outside excursion gets canceled. The ability to act quickly in these situations will reflect well on your professionalism and organization.
5. Check references and reviews before paying deposits. Very often deposits are non-refundable so do your due diligence prior to paying any money. This includes reading reviews about the venue, caterers, speakers, entertainment, excursions, photographers, etc. Anyone you need to hire should be thoroughly vetted and should be quick to communicate with you. Read all contracts fully before signing and, if necessary, run them by your attorney for extra security.