Are you an activity leader, facilitator, coach, teacher or retreat leader? …. thinking of running retreats or group trips away?  If so, here are 5 tips to avoid some basic retreat planning mistakes.

1)  Allow enough planning time

Give yourself enough time before your retreat to plan, promote, obtain clients and receive payment.  6 months is good or 12 months for an international trip.  If you’re rushing,  there’s a danger of it being badly organised or not receiving enough guests.

2)  Clear retreat design

Be clear on who your guests are, what they’ll gain and how your offer differs from other options.  Potential guests need to easily establish a reason to choose you against all the competition – is this aimed at them and what is special about YOUR retreat?  You need a clear promise.  If it’s a retreat, guests will expect some transformation, differentiating it from a holiday.

If by description, it is quite similar to alternatives, you could add one very special experience to make it distinct.  Match everything to your potential guest:  dates, location, venue, accommodation, activities, meals, group number etc so the whole package is coherent.

 3)  Balanced timetable

Unless it’s a boot camp, your guests need to feel relaxed.  It’s easy to forget to allow time for things that are not key activities:  toilet breaks, time to change clothes, pick up things from bedrooms, drinking a glass of water, getting between activities, chatting, asking questions, packing, unpacking. Each may only take 5 minutes but if you don’t allow for these 5 minutes here and there, your guests will be stressed trying to meet your schedule.

On the other side, you must ensure you do cover what guests anticipate; if you don’t dedicate enough time to expected activities, they will end up feeling dissatisfied.  Ensure your timetable is accurately described in your promotion so expectations are met.

Finally, how does the timetable suit you (and other facilitators):  If you don’t allow enough personal time for yourself in the timetable, you won’t be able to give your best and by the end, you’ll be on your knees!

4)  Good promotional plan 

Make a detailed plan at the start.  Begin marketing 4-6 months ahead and more if it’s international. Create an appealing name for your retreat – there are so many options these days that ‘Relaxing Yoga Retreat’ will just blend in. Carefully design a plan that uses the most appropriate strategies for your particular market.  This may involve social media and blogging, your email list, personal invites, asking for referrals, networking, leafleting.

Create a sales page that clearly lays out what you are offering (who, what, where, when, why)  If it’s not clear, people are unlikely to gamble their money and time.  Identify solutions in advance to any potential blocks to booking.  For instance, if the location is remote, list travel options or if the rooms are shared, give a single-use supplement option.

5)  Correct costing and pricing  

Last but not least is finances – covering your costs and hopefully making a profit, if that’s your aim.  You need to carefully cost all items especially your time (before, during and after the retreat) which leaders often get poorly recuperated for!  And don’t forget marketing like website promotion or printing leaflets.

To set your price, in addition to taking account of these costs, consider what profit you’d like to make and balance it against what you think your guest will pay and what your competition charges.

If you’ve run a retreat or group break before, what tips would you like to add?

And if you’re looking for a retreat venue in Cornwall, have a look at Orchard Air, run by the writer of this blog.

Orchard Air