When you feel like you have found the dream retreat center in a location that will inspire your students, you’ve thought about the pricing of your retreat and you’re confident in your ability to fill spaces, the last puzzle piece is creating the best retreat program.
If you’re new to retreat leading then figuring out how to create the best retreat program can be a little overwhelming. A lot of people actively look for the steps for creating the best retreat program. Where do you start with planning a retreat program, and then, how do you know that what you’ve planned is going to work for you and your retreat attendees?
What Are The Key Elements of Planning Successful Retreats?
Timeline planning • Selecting your venue • Itinerary & program design • Sustainability considerations • Marketing • Financials & profitability • Legal forms & liabilities • Insurance
Having students tell you at the end of a retreat that the experience was amazing for them is all that retreat leaders can hope for, and luckily, there are some things that you can do throughout the planning process to try and craft the best possible program.
Ideally, before you even begin to plan your retreat you should think about exactly what kind of experience you want to lead because this will influence your choice of retreat location, price, and program. A great way to begin is with identifying your ideal retreat attendee and what their story might be, and then keep that at the heart of your planning.
When you’re choosing your retreat location
Choose your retreat location carefully so that it reflects your purpose, theme, and the expectations you want to give attendees about your retreat. Your retreat program should mesh with your location. It will help you to settle on additional optional activities and provide the backdrop for classes.
A relaxed beachside location will have a completely different feel to a mountain retreat, or to a retreat held in a hotel resort. You might choose to hire a rural villa for your retreat, be near a small village or even close to a big city.
All of these could have an effect on the type of retreat program you build. Are you seeking authentic local experiences for your attendees or adventure activities?
Research, research, research
As a wannabe retreat leader, one of the best things you can do is be a retreat attendee. There’s nothing quite like figuring out what works and what doesn’t for you than being on the other side of the retreat.
Even if you haven’t attended a lot of retreats yourself, chances are you know people who have so turn to them for more information about what aspects of retreat programs they really enjoyed and what they weren’t so fussed on.
It’s also a good idea to research the programs of other retreats in the same or similar locations. Many retreats will be marketed online so it’s easy to find out at least the basics of a retreat plan.
This will help you to find out about different things in the area, or what retreat attendees at that location might expect, plus you can use this research into retreat planning to think about a way to make your retreat stand out from the crowd.
Have a theme
Settling on a theme for your retreat can really help you to share your retreat program. Even if it’s a simple mantra, you can weave it throughout your retreat program. Sometimes it’s the small details that make everything click!
Marketing your retreat when you have a clear theme or purpose can help you to attract the attendees that you have in mind and provide a central focus to build a community around during your retreat.
Creating the best retreat program possible comes down to a lot of organization. While it might seem counterintuitive to plan everything, even free time, you’ll thank yourself later when you can clearly outline to your attendees how the retreat will go and what they can expect.
If you’re not confident about your organizational abilities, think about having a co-leader to help you with your first retreat, getting help with the administration side of retreat and especially with taking deposits and payments.
WeTravel can help with creating your retreat for free, adding it our marketplace and taking payments through our payment gateway, as well as giving you the ability to share and embed your retreat on your own website and social media.
Balance the program with optional activities
Optional activities are a big of the retreat program. They can be anything from full on physical adventure activities to cooking classes, crafting, cultural experiences, or simply providing time and space for relaxation.
Your retreat location will dictate some of your options, but you can still think outside of the box about what you offer for students.
Remember that your attendees want to deepen their yoga experience and might not want to engage in too many optional activities.
There’s a balance between having activities available for students who want to partake while allowing people to enjoy their free time in their own way. Don’t overthink the activities too much!
Having a great retreat program isn’t just about planning, it’s also in the execution. If you’ve outlined the program to students in your marketing then you need to be aware of their expectations and work to fulfill them.
For this reason, some retreat leaders choose to not go into too much detail, while still conveying the overall theme and basics of what the retreat will be about.
If for some reason you can’t go ahead with planned activities then be open and clear with your attendees about what is happening and what their options are for the retreat. Communication is key!
Be a confident leader
As a retreat leader your attendees will put their confidence in you, and in return expect you to be a confident leader. We all start somewhere, so if you’re really concerned then think about co-leading a retreat for the first couple of times, to help you to get to a point where you know you can lead a retreat successfully on your own.
When you’re executing your retreat program do it with confidence, and this will come across to your students!
Planning a retreat is no easy feat, and creating a program that will give your students the best retreat experience possible is an important aspect of it. Don’t let the process overwhelm you, and start thinking about your program from the beginning.
And don’t forget to check out the WeTravel Retreat Leader Resources to help you with making your dream a reality!