You Need a Reason
I was on the phone today with my personal hype guru/marketing genius and she asked me the question that I am MOST frequently asked.
What's the first thing you need to do when planning a retreat?
You're going to say "Find a place to hold the dang thing, right?"
Nope. Sorry. Though, that is step #2.
The first thing you need to do: find your reason.
As a wedding and corporate event planner for the last 10 years, I approach workshop planning the same as I do wedding planning (stay with me...staaaayyyy witthhhh meeeeee...)
You wouldn't book a venue without figuring out how many guests you want to invite, right? You wouldn't book the Taj Mahal if you just wanted an intimate dinner for 30, riiiiighhhttt?
You wouldn't plan a destination wedding in Italy if you really wanted an all-out party with all your college besties there (because not everyone is going to fly to Italy for your wedding unless you're these two).
Thus, you need to figure out the WHY behind your in-person workshop/retreat.
Is it because you crave connection with your people in a whole new way?
Is it because your burnt out on one-on-one sessions and connecting with a larger group of students in person can maintain the intimacy of a one-on-one session?
Is it because you want to test out where in the physical world your people are located?
Is it because the thought of teaching online seems so damn...impersonal?
Is it because you want to whisk your clients away for a super-personal, super-intimate experience?
Is it because you want to add the word "speaker" to your Twitter bio (me too, girl. Meeeeeee too.)
Is it because you just want to have a whole helluvalotta fun?
I bet by now you're asking "Why are you asking me all these damn questions, Lauren?" (followed immediately by 'Stop asking me all these damn questions, Lauren.')
Because until you have a REASON behind your workshop, you can't pick a venue, decide on what food to bring, lay out your Day-Of Timeline (DOT), create your sales page, or decide what font you want to use on the cute, personalized stickers you're creating for your attendees.
Why not? Well, let's do some case studies.
Reason: You want ultimate-connection, and you want to market yourself in a fresh way.
Event: Choosing a sweet, intimate bungalow-like space (like this space in Portland, or this space in San Fran) will make it easy to get to know your peeps. You'll have food and beverages brought in so you can spend as much time unplugged, getting to know your students, and TEACHING as much as you possibly can. Tiny branded journals with your logo, or a packet of worksheets to peruse during your day together is the ultimate swag.
Reason: You want to host a three-day playdate with your most favorite clients, offering them some one-on-one time, but also encouraging them to get out AND PLAY!
Event: A packed-full-o' fun weekend getaway to a further flung locale or a private seeming urban oasis. You may not be doing much "business talk" this weekend, but you'll be doing a lot of bonding, a lot of relaxing, and not a lot of stressing over "deliverables", "ROI", or "bottom lines" (unless the bottom line is how many hours a night you'll sleep). Food will be provided if you feel it, but feel free to let your peeps roam around on their own and trying local treats.
Reason: You want to add "Speaker" to your Twitter bio and you want to open up your workshop to as many people as will listen.
Event: Think hotel space or ballroom. Generally, these spaces are a bit pricier, so packing a crowd into a big ballroom or conference space will help drive down the per person cost (read: you'll make more money). People likely won't be showing up in sweats and getting comfy, cozy in their ballroom-style Chivari chair, so don't be surprised if the business cards show up and the trendy outfits come out (unless you make an explicit rule against it).
Once you've decided on your reason? You can start laying out pretty much everything else, including your Day of Timeline (DOT), searching for a venue, deciding if you want to offer food/beverages to your guests, etc.