How To Run Your First Wellness Retreat

This week on the blog, we've got a very special guest whom I look up to immensely when it comes to building community and creating events that matter - Lauren Caselli of Lauren Caselli Events, y'all! She dives into the in's and out's of hosting your first wellness retreat, and how to do it right the first time. Thanks for sharing your knowledge with TWR community, Lauren!

So you set your goals for 2018, and you can’t help but notice that 75% of your photos show you in an exotic location, eating locally sourced meals, and doing yoga every morning with a group of your favorite people.

But it seems really challenging to get out there and host your own retreat. For starters:

How do I make sure people come?

How do I make sure I don’t blow the budget? 

Would people really want to go on a retreat with me?

how to run your first wellness retreat

If hosting a wellness is on your 2018 Bucket List, then I’ve got you covered. Below are 5 tips to get you started when you’re thinking about hosting your first wellness retreat (and if you’re ready to dive in, grab my planning cheat sheet here to make serious progress).

Tip #1: Decide WHO this retreat is for

Before you get started with planning, you’ll need to make sure you have an idea of the people who you want to attend, so that you can make sure you’re planning something they’d be interested in.

For example, are you targeting mom’s losing baby weight? Try not to do a retreat internationally, as mom’s generally have a hard time leaving kids for that long.

Hosting a retreat for paleo athletes? Make sure you’re in a location that has access to good hiking and outdoor trails, and a variety of local foods.

Pro Tip: The best way to get people to come is to directly invite them via email. If you can’t think of at least 2-3 clients or friends that you’ve worked with that might come on a retreat with you, I’d focus on building your network FIRST before launching this retreat.

Tip #2: Choose your location based on your budget and where your audience resides

If everyone lives in the United States, don’t plan something in the South of France. Some people will come from long distances, but for your first one, try to stay more local to your area (West Coast, East Coast, South, etc.). It will make the planning process WAY easier for you (especially if you want to do a site visit to the retreat location in advance), and you may have an easier time finding activities and vendors to support you if you’re familiar with the location in which you’re planning your retreat.

For budgeting purposes, make sure your venue doesn’t eat up more than 20% of your total costs (and also make sure that your cost per person is 50% - 60% of your ticket price!). That way, you’re definitely not losing money, since you’ve put in at least a bit of a buffer between cost per person and ticket cost.

Pro Tip: If you’re hosting more than 20 people at a hotel, you can DEFINITELY negotiate for “comps” with the hotel (which means freebies for you). Hotels increase their viability based on their average nightly rate and average nights booked, so if you’re booking 20 people for 3 nights you’re increasing their score in one fell swoop! If you’re planning on even more than 10 rooms at a hotel, ask for things like a free room, discounts on food or audio visual, or spa discounts.

how to run your first wellness retreat

Tip #3: Engage sponsors for swag only or if you have a large social media following

If you’ve thought about engaging sponsors for an in-person event, I wouldn’t recommend pitching them to cover real costs, since small retreats have less reach for sponsors than, say, a large conference.

However, if you’re audience is extremely targeted, you can definitely reach out to sponsors for in-kind, swag or product placements (particularly because most companies already have a product budget built in for marketing purposes each year). Additionally, sweeten the deal by asking for their higher level products (read: more expensive), and offering them placement in goodie bags, as well as some shoutouts on social media (one before, one during, and one after the event is plenty). Also, if you have a really large social following, create a higher level of sponsorship to do an individual product shoutout, instead of a group shoutout with other items from the goodie bags.

Tip #4: Plan your agenda carefully

I say this because retreats should be fun, AND you should encourage people to meet each other in creative ways.

Plan for each day to have about 30% of the day as teaching content or activities (examples include a cooking demo, a beach running workshop, or even a goal-setting workshop). Even if you think having structured content is unnecessary for your group, I HIGHLY recommend adding a few hours of it, as there will always be people in the group who want to learn new things (and there are definitely people who like to stay scheduled, even on vacation).

Roughly, 50% of the day revolves around meals and social/bonding activities (this can be evenings around the campfire or a lunch that has table topics at each seat to encourage new conversation), and leave 20% of the day as unstructured whitespace (include “unplugged time” as some people will need a reminder to turn off their phone).

how to run your first wellness retreat

Tip #5: In order to keep running retreats as a part of your business model, build in an offer at the end

95% of the time, my clients who host workshops and retreats will see the EVENT as the main profit-maker for their business. However, if you plan to create an AMAZING retreat experience, and then have an offer at the end about how attendees can work with you even further (whether 1:1 wellness coaching, an online group nutrition program, or something else that you offer), you’ll be surprised at how many people take you up on it.

It may seem “salesy” to set up your retreat this way, but if you reframe it and think that if people had an AWESOME experience with you, and they want to continue working with you, then you need to give them a way to work with you.

Ready to go deeper? Click here to get your very own FREE Retreat Cheat Sheet, and get started with your big dreams before 2018 flies by!

how to plan your first wellness retreat with lauren caselli

Meet Lauren

Lauren Caselli works with small business and entrepreneurs to create life-changing events that convert prospects into clients. She currently runs a course to teach small businesses (even as small as 1) how to strategize and execute their own events without hiring a dedicated event professional called Events That Convert. In her spare time, she loves skiing fresh snow when it's above 20 degrees, and watching Netflix when it's not.

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Photos by Orange Photographie, Tori Pintar Photography and Brooke Peterson Photography