Here are some great tips to help plan your retreat.
#1 HAVE A CLEAR PURPOSE FOR YOUR RETREAT
We have worked with many retreats and conference groups over the years and it was evident which ones had a clear purpose in mind. Budget, group size and fancy equipment are less important than “WHY” you are having your retreat in the first place. Your purpose determines your desired outcomes and your desired outcomes should determine your activities. Know your purpose first and the other pieces will fall into place.
#2 BE MINDFUL OF THE CALENDAR
“WHEN” could be the next most important thing to consider when it comes to your retreat. Retreats are happening all year – you may be thinking of a fall leadership meeting, or a family-oriented summer conference, or possibly a spring men’s retreat – but it’s important to remember each season has it’s own idiosyncrasies, opportunities and restrictions. Give yourself plenty of time to plan and register your guests. Start your search for retreat centers a year in advance as most prime calendar spots will be snatched up quickly. This also is true for the guests attending the retreat since they will need extra time to plan around their own schedules too. Retreat are powerful. Start your planning early and give yourself the right amount of time to confirm your reservation and begin pre-event planning.
#3 BASE YOUR GROUP NUMBER ON PAST RETREATS
Most, if not all, retreat and conference facilities require a minimum of guaranteed guests. Set realistic expectations for your group size when agreeing to a minimum. If you goal is 250 attendees but you have historically only had 30 attend in prior years, set yourself up for success by setting attainable growth goals. This will help you reach organizational goals while not exposing your group to unnecessary expense.
#4 PUT IN THE TIME AND RESEARCH
It is important that you do not just rely on what you see on a conference center’s website. Seeking recommendations for a retreat center from someone you trust is always a good starting point, but physically going and seeing the facility for yourself will give you peace of mind in the final decision process. Things to consider that will give you wisdom to make the best choice for your group:
- Schedule your visit at least a week in advance. Walk-ins are discouraged because our staff or facilities might no be available.
- Try to schedule your tour appointment during the week. Our staff is usually extremely busy during the weekend and might not be available or unable to give you the proper attention you deserve.
- If you are going to visit multiple sites, make sure that you allow for enough traveling time between facilities. If you end up staying longer at another site, be courteous and call the next site to let them know if you are running late.
- Try to limit those attending the tour to 2-4 key leaders.
- Come up with a list of questions ahead of time, such as “Are there added costs? Do you provide AV equipments? Etc.”
- Bring a camera or your iPhone to help remember the various sites. Take pictures of housing options, meeting rooms, the dining hall and recreation options.
- Try to interact with as many staff as you can. This will help you get a feel for how they will respond to your needs if you were to book with them.
- After your visit, do a quick review of each site as you drive home (strengths and weaknesses). This will help solidify the experience in your mind and help organize your thoughts for when you debrief with other leaders later.