Want to know what goes into hosting your own live event or retreat?
This is a pretty meaty post so grab a cup of tea and get cozy as I break it down for you …
Part 1: Venue, Dates + Agenda
Creating my first-ever live event, the Retreat for Goddesses, back in 2010 created a HUGE GROWTH SPURT in my business. Up until that point, I was a classic life and career coach who was stuck in a one-to-one model simply trading hours for dollars.
While I loved my work and my clients, I had hit a wall. I couldn’t grow anymore and knew that with the birth of my second child in 2011, things would have to change. I wasn’t willing to just scrape by and only touch a handful of people with my message and teachings.
Enter the Retreat for Goddesses. It literally came to me in a dream when I moved from New York City to the Berkshires of Western Massachusetts. The name of the event just dropped into my body. I went with it even though I’m not sure why I was selected as the teacher of all things Goddesses.
Hosting that event allowed me to step into the next level of my growth as a business owner and human being. During the retreat, I launched my first 9-month coaching, training and mastermind program. I stopped trading hours for dollars. I attracted more committed clients who were willing to invest in themselves.
All because I created, hosted and led a juicy live event experience.
In 2014, I hosted a live retreat for the 4th year in a row in my business.
ALCHEMY Live was the name of this event. It was magical.
Do you want to lead an event or retreat for your tribe? It’s certainly an art and a science with many lessons to learn. But in my experience (and I used to produce large conferences in my corporate job), there is no other type of experience that goes quite as deep as a live event.
Let’s dive in to what you need to know:
Choose a venue that will be appealing to your ideal client and tribe. Consider geographic location, venue vibe, sleeping room arrangements, food, view, activities onsite.
You’ll also want to consider what you’ll be responsible for in the contract and price your tickets accordingly. The first two years, our venues required an all-inclusive price where my company was required to take all room reservations and roommate requests and then pay the venue a lump sum based on the numbers of women we attracted to sign up.
I realized I had no desire to become a travel agency, which is what we were the first two years handling roommate requests and pairing people up and dealing with cancellations and changes. Not my cup of tea! But you must do what feels right to you and your biz.
Contract for a number of people you are confident you can attract, but that also scares you a bit because you know you’ll have to stretch.
Understand what is included in the price and market these details to your peeps (how many meals are included? what activities are included? what are the accommodations like?).
Also consider if you’re booking a classic retreat center, a hotel or a resort. I have experience at all types.
There’s no right or wrong, but your venue should be a reflection of your brand and should attract your juicy clients like bees to honey.
Find a few options and go on site visits before you make a decision. If you can eat a meal during your site visit, do it. Good quality food = happy campers!
When do you want to host your live event and for how many days? I recommend a 2- or 3-day event as you’ll need that time to really go deep.
Consider adding on an optional VIP upgrade at an additional cost where you provide a ton of value and an exclusive experience that only the VIP peeps will get.
I’ve hosted live events on weekends and during the week.
At this stage in my business, I personally prefer hosting my events during the week because I don’t want to miss the weekends with my children. Plus, I’m attracting businesswomen with flexibility in their work schedules so getting away during the week shouldn’t be an issue when you are working ON your business (vs. IN it).
You need to start promoting at least 4 months prior to your event (earlier if possible).
Lead time is crucial in your marketing efforts. You must give your clients and prospects notice if you want to fill seats.
Yes, you’ll get last-minute sign-ups, but the majority will sign up a few months prior. Don’t underestimate the importance of this! When I was a conference director in the corporate world, we did studies that found that the more lead time we had, the more registrations we had.
The sweet spot was about 5 – 6 months out.
Who will be leading your event?
You the entire time or will you invite guest teachers to join you? This is personal preference though I highly recommend inviting some guest speakers to share in the “holding of the space” and to help you promote the event.
Hosting an event (I don’t care what size it is) is a HUGE undertaking and the more help you can get with this, the better. Plus, your attendees will enjoy learning from another teacher who will know more about a particular area of expertise than you do.
Just be mindful that your speakers understand what you’d like them to teach, when they’ll be speaking and what your guidelines are for “selling from the stage” (when appropriate). It needs to be a win for all parties. Be clear upfront about your expectations.
As for your teachings, I recommend building in plenty of exercises for your peeps to participate in.
Don’t just straight-up lecture! That’s not the point of a retreat. You want to give your attendees a chance to INTERACT with the material, try it on in their businesses and lives, connect with their fellow attendees, and go home with a plan and direction.
My team passes out lots of worksheets to our attendees that truly brings the lessons I teach to life. It’s amazing watching the magic unfold.
When it comes to creating my multi-day events, I build in time for personal exploration and play.
I’ve been to so many events, where you are in a conference room from morning until late at night without much fresh air or processing time. That’s not my bag.
I’m all about giving people the SPACE they need to get the answers they seek. And guess what? Those answers won’t only come from you. You are creating the sacred space for your attendees to find their own answers. This is SO, SO powerful.
Part 2: Website, Email Campaign, Launching
Okay, so let’s continue on our journey of what YOU need to know when it comes to offering up live events and retreats to YOUR tribe. What I know is this: these experiences CHANGE your business (and your life).
Now, let’s talk about marketing. This is a HUGE area, so I’ve broken it down into website, email campaign and launching.
1. MARKETING: WEBSITE
If you learn nothing else from this post, remember this: IF YOU DON’T MARKET YOUR EVENT, YOUR EVENT WON’T HAPPEN. So many smart business owners are clueless about marketing. It makes me sad because it doesn’t have to be this way. Marketing isn’t hard! It’s sacred.
Here’s what you need to host your event from a marketing-perspective: a website (a one-page sales page will do, but you can create something more elaborate if you’d like), some flyers if you’re hosting locally, and an email campaign.
For my 1st annual Retreat for Goddesses in 2011, I invested $1,500 to hire a graphic designer to create our branding and multi-page website.
I am a brand junkie and believe in the power of strong branding so this was an investment that made sense for my business.
If you are on a tighter budget, you could get away with hiring a Virtual Assistant (VA) to create a simple sales page for you with your invitation to your peeps to join you. You can also create a sales page using a pretty template from LeadPages.
No matter what path you choose, your sales page has to be VERY COMPELLING and your copy must be strong. If you want an example of a sales page, check out my sales page for my retreat ALCHEMY Live.
You can see the key elements to include: banner, invitation, event details, reasons to attend, photos, client testimonials/social proof, payment options, call to action.
Hire a graphic designer to create a beautiful banner/logo for you that you can splash EVERYWHERE as you lead your marketing campaign.
You need to have a way to collect payment.
Do not require people to call you or send you a check. No!
We use Authorize.net hooked into my Infusionsoft account in my business, but if you’re not there yet, use www.paypal.com or www.eventbrite.com to collect payment. You want your website to do EVERYTHING for you. Makes it easier for everyone.
We also include some kind of satisfaction guarantee with our events.
I’m so confident attendees will go home changed, for the better, that we have a guarantee that says if by the end of the first day of the event, they don’t love the experience, they can turn in their materials to a member of event staff and ask for their money back.
People love guarantees. It’s called “risk reversal.” Off this in all of your events and feature it on your website.
2. MARKETING: EMAIL CAMPAIGN
Once you have your site up, it’s time to shift into action!
Up until this point, you can be planting the seeds about your event with your clients and tribe. It’s a good idea to do some research with your community prior to booking your venue and choosing your dates about what THEY want to get out of an experience like the one you want to create.
Once you open up registration, reach out to those who expressed an interest to offer them the first chance to book their spot. I like offering early-bird pricing to give incentive to fast-action takers.
News flash: one email just won’t cut it! It has to be a multi-month effort.
In the emails, highlight the benefits of attending, answer the key questions or objections attendees have and continue believing in what you’re offering.
In every email, you must have a CALL TO ACTION. Invite them to sign up right then and there.
You can offer bonuses, preferential pricing and special VIP deals that EXPIRE.
People tend to delay making decisions for as long as humanly possible (even if they want to do something). You have to get in there and give them a reason to take action NOW.
2. MARKETING: LAUNCHING
For sophisticated marketers, you’ll want to create a big LAUNCH around your retreat.
Knowing how to LAUNCH has allowed me to be in charge of my own destiny. Seriously.
Hosting a teleclass, webinar or video series would be really smart.You could do a bunch of Periscopes or Blabs, too.
In-person workshops or “tour stops” are really effective too.
I hosted workshops at local yoga studios to promote my 2nd annual Retreat. I even rented the local Women’s Club in my hometown in Florida and ended up attracting 3 women to the Retreat for Goddesses that year to travel all the way to New York. I was thrilled!
I’m also a big fan of offering free or discounted tickets to my live events to students and clients in my courses. That works really well. Try it!
If you go this route, make sure you get your clients to agree to a no-show fee (in writing!) or pay a refundable seat deposit so that you don’t get stuck with a bunch of no shows (it happens and you don’t want to be financially hit by this).
The idea is to give people a taste of you and your teachings. Once they experience how amazing they feel in your presence, they’ll want to go deeper and commit to the offering you are inviting them to be a part of.
Part 3: Stick Campaign, Self-Care, Making Money
Okay, so let’s continue with the FINAL installment on our journey of what YOU need to know when it comes to offering up a live event to YOUR tribe.
Now it’s time to look at creating an effective stick campaign; your self-care routine before, during and after the event; and making money from your event.
1. CREATING AN EFFECTIVE STICK CAMPAIGN
When I hosted my first Retreat for Goddesses in 2011, my coach at the time told me I had to create a stick campaign to keep my registrants engaged after they signed up. I had no idea what she was talking about.
I just thought when people signed up, that was it … I’d be seeing them at the event a few months later. Easy breezy. Wrong.
I don’t know what it is, but nothing gets people more excited and scared simultaneously than signing up to attend a live event.
You need to STAY IN TOUCH with your attendees after they sign up to let them know you believe in their choice and you will make their attendance worth their while.
Otherwise, peeps start getting cold feet, scheduling conflicts start emerging and cancellations occur (you’ll get these regardless, but a stick campaign will help reduce this).
On the cancellation front, do make sure you have a clear cancellation policy in place so all parties know how this works.
Answer these questions:
- Is there a fee to cancel?
- By what date will cancellations be accepted?
- What happens to their registration fee when they cancel by a certain date?
- Is it refunded in full, refunded minus a cancellation fee, credited to their account for a future purchase with your company or forfeited all together if they cancel last minute?
- Or are cancellations not allowed, but tickets can be transferred?
YOU DECIDE and stick to it.
So, back to the stick campaign. For my 1st annual Retreat for Goddesses, I went all-out with my stick campaign and sent all of my registrants (I had about 16 that year) “Goddess Guidance Oracle Cards” by Doreen Virtue. I loved those cards and wanted everyone to have a deck. I figured this was my year to lay the foundation of the event.
You do NOT need to spend a lot on a stick campaign. I actually spent too much on this in my first year. At around $10 – $15/mailing, this wasn’t a sustainable strategy. You live and learn.
Honestly, creating a Facebook group where your peeps can connect with each other and get excited prior to the event is AWESOME. They can also make travel plans and release some of their pre-event jitters!
The point: create a pre-event “stay-in-touch” campaign to ensure your peeps feel comfortable and excited about taking this leap with you!
2. SELF-CARE ROUTINE
Okay, so you MUST take exquisite care of yourself before, during and after the event. Leading a multi-day live event is one of THE most intense experiences of my career. It will be the same for you if you really go deep with your people, which I believe is what they want.
Here’s an idea of what I did to nurture my mind, body and spirit leading up to one of my retreats:
2 WEEKS PRIOR
- Choosing outfits that I feel and look great in. I tend to go for SOLID bright colors as they photograph the best
- Hair appointment! Cut and highlight with my go-to stylist
- Lots of yoga
1 WEEK PRIOR
- Writing and visualizing about my intention for the event
- More yoga
1 DAY PRIOR
- Setting up my “out of office” email
ONSITE AT THE EVENT
- My team really “takes over” and do what they do best at the event. I vigilantly protect my energy!
- I have my own sleeping room (I don’t recommend sharing) and lay down between sessions when I need to rest (even when I don’t nap)
- Eating very well – lots of protein, greens and fruit
- Drinking LOTS of water. Tea in the morning
- Massage in the spa
- Yoga and meditation
- Writing and visualizing about my intention for the event
- Sharing from the heart, listening to the stories from our attendees, being present
- Being grateful for it ALL, trusting the FLOW of the Universe
AFTER THE EVENT
- More yoga!
- Reaching out to all attendees to express my gratitude for coming
- Reaching out to new mastermind clients with special gifts
- Lots of REST!
This is my method.
Yours can look TOTALLY different.
The key is to include PLENTY of time to nurture yourself on the deepest level.
You will be AMAZED at what hosting a live event “brings up” for you – the good, the bad, the ugly and the beautiful. You’ll grow more than you thought possible. This is why you are on the plant. TO GROW and help HEAL the peeps you are here to serve.
And one final point here: YOU WILL NEED an assistant to help you prep for the event and help you run things onsite. If you don’t already have one, get creative about finding help. This is crucial to your success.
3. MAKING MONEY FROM YOUR EVENT
Let’s get serious for a bit here.
The purpose of your business is to MAKE MONEY.
Your purpose might be something totally different (it probably is), but don’t confuse your purpose with your business’ purpose.
You are ALLOWED to make money from your live event and SHOULD make money from your live event.
Creating, hosting and leading a live event takes TOO much work for you not to make a profit on your efforts. You’ll see.
I’m getting all intense on this point because I didn’t really get this with my first live event and when I crunched the numbers after it was all said and done, guess how much I made on the event?
Mind you, I was 4 months post-partum with my second son Luke when I ran that Retreat so I was just happy I pulled it off!
But all those late nights I worked to get the details right and “perfect” and all I had left to show for my efforts was $1,500.
I was disappointed.
BUT … it wasn’t all for nothing because I DID launch my brand new coaching, training and mastermind program at that event and signed up about 4 clients from that event.
Then I launched that program to my whole list a few weeks later and signed up about 8 more people.
This led to consistent cash flow and awesome client experiences.
I also had a photographer at the event and got GREAT photos for future marketing efforts. This built my brand in huge ways.
I’ve hired a photographer for every single event and consider this a very wise investment. You want VISUAL reminders of the magic you helped create. This is a major boon to your biz.
I’ve leveraged my live retreats as the spot where I open up applications to work with me privately in my coaching and mastermind program.
I take on a very limited number of private coaching clients and my live retreats help give me a real taste of who I would work well with … and these prospects at the event can get a real sense of how I can help them grow their business once they’ve spent a few days with me.
See how that can work well?
Your live event can be a LAUNCHPAD for something spectacular that you share with your tribe that will change their life AND your business.
So many of your attendees WANT to go deeper with you and continue to have access to the possibilities that you and your program will help them see. You’re doing them a SERVICE by offering them an experience to continue working with you.
If you’re making an offer at your event (and I typically recommend this), incentivize your peeps to take action AT THE EVENT. Can you offer them a special bonus? Do you have a limited number of spots?
Make it easy to make a decision – either YES or NO. Make them feel SAFE and PSYCHED to work with you if they feel called. You can do this with integrity and not be cheesy.
This is HOW you’ll make money from your live event in my experience.
This is how you’ll CONTINUE to change lives. You’re providing a divine opportunity for your people to continue the transformation started at your event. Nothing is sweeter or more profound. Everyone wins.
(There are certainly other live event business models out there, but I’m sharing my personal experience as an entrepreneur. I didn’t even mention sponsorship because that’s not been my bag with my events, but when I produced big conferences in my corporate days, sponsorship revenue was a HUGE portion of our overall sales. Go for sponsorship if that feels right to you.)
Hey – If you’re already signed up for our upcoming event ALCHEMY Live, see you there! It’s time to turn your gifts into gold.
If you didn’t grab a ticket yet, hop on before it’s too late. I’d love to spend time with you in person!