C-Suite Agenda

Top Four Strategies for Up-leveling Your Next Event or Retreat

When people come together in a place and in a way that they never have before, magic happens. Whether on a personal or professional development retreat, that magic comes in the form of change, growth and key learning.

Here are four key strategies to get the absolute most out of your event or retreat.

  1. Get personal, but pace yourself
    When you really want to fill an event or a retreat, it’s like dating. You don’t show up on the first date and ask someone to go away for the weekend with you. That is a premature ask. It makes the other person uncomfortable and makes you look aggressive.
    First, you need to cultivate a relationship that includes the know, like and trust factor. In order to like you, people have to know you. You should expect it to take some time to get to know you. A more exact formula depends on the depth and frequency of exposure and engagement you have with your audience. You may have to get experimental and try different “formulas” or “protocols” to see what works best for your audience. If you have existing relationships, you can model them by thinking back to your first meeting or interaction and the timeframe it took to do business. How did you meet? The warmth of the introduction can influence your outcome and the next steps that will suit you best.
    Personal phone or video call invites carry far more weight than an email. So get old school and get personal. Make the ask to the person, personal and you’ll be on your way to making magic.
  2. Know your People
    My online summit, Destination Success: Rock Your Retreat Marketing In Order to Fill Your Events With Ease, features a series of interviews with event and retreat experts. Over the course of 50 interviews, the one thing I’ve heard over and over is that event planners must know their ideal client inside and out in order to be successful. The same is true in marketing any business, and especially to someone buying a multi-day in person experience that involves a travel investment.
    If you try to market to everyone, you will appeal to no one. A retreat is an intimate and often transformational experience, and it is critical that you address a very specific pain point for your ideal client for them to be motivated to use their very precious vacation time and come away with you.
    One practical way that knowing your audience pays off is assessing the lead time you need to connect with your client base.
    If you are doing a start-up event or are in your first years, it may help to know that lead times vary based on event size and connection to your client base. For a startup event with 50 or more participants, or a first-time international retreat, give yourself three to six months.
  3. Properly diagnose the pain point
    A retreat is a unique opportunity to solve a problem or create a transformation that will combine physical, mental and emotional experiences. The fact that people are outside of their normal lives will allow them to open up to greater possibilities within themselves. They will be able to cross thresholds, achieve new heights in a way that they simply cannot do in their regular home environment.
    You want to create an event that is going to solve a specific pain point. You have to know your ideal client very well and what keeps them up at night. Once you know that, you address that in your offering. A retreat or in-person event not only addresses this problem/pain point, but it allows a deep-dive that cannot happen during day-to-day life.
    Your marketing messaging, in turn, will address this—which can be counter-intuitive. That means that initially, your audience will be less interested in what seems obvious—the destination, the name of the resort, the activities. Instead, clients first want to know about the benefits: what or how their life will be altered, improved, changed after this experience. This is not only critical for your promotion, but for the design of your event.
    At The Cabarete Butterfly Effect, my signature watersport event, some women overcome fear, uplevel their skills in a safe and supportive environment, and/or they step into their own leadership.
    In the third year of hosting The Butterfly Effect event in Cabarete, Dominican Republic, I attended one of our sister Butterfly Effect events in Maui. While there, I met a woman who only spoke Japanese. On the day of the downwinder (where we enter the ocean at one point, and wind surf with the wind at our backs down the shore line, to be picked up at the end), we left from the launch point and headed out in decent waves with a storm brewing in the background. About half-way, this woman and I ended up near each other. As the waves got more choppy and the swell surged, she struggled.
    We locked eyes and I motioned for her to follow me. I could see the relief flood over her face. She moved through her fear and successfully followed me to the end. For me, I had the opportunity to step into a position of leadership and generosity to help this total stranger accomplish our collective goal. For her, I can only imagine the pride and relief for stepping through her fear and bravely completing something she at one point didn’t know if she could do. It is a moment I will always remember.
    This is an example of the type of unforgettable experience that can happen at in person events and retreats.
  4. Curate your relationships for cohesion
    Connect with clients. At the end of the day, your relationships are what will drive your event attendance. Getting your clients’ input in advance of planning will not only ensure you have an event they are interested in, but will help you create the type of event they will be banging down your door for. You can easily accomplish this with an 7-10 question email or phone survey. This is also a good way to plant the seed of interest and showing that you are doing that ever-coveted task of listening.
    Connect with colleagues. You already have businesses or colleagues that will have access to your ideal retreat client that can help you to promote it. It’s important to re-energize and maintain your personal and professional relationships, because the person who will connect you to your ideal client is likely to already be in your contacts.
    Leverage sponsors. In terms of sponsors, forming strategic partnerships with other like-minded businesses can help cover the cost of your event as well as create a symbiotic relationship which results in your sponsors marketing for you, because it’s in their best interest.

My event, The Cabarete Butterfly Effect, is the largest women’s watersport event in the Caribbean. Every July, women gather from around the world to celebrate and empower each other and their communities by participating in ocean watersports.

The three-day event includes a cocktail reception, TEDx-like talks, full day stand-up paddleboarding, kite surfing and wind surfing, and an evening gala. The event is 80% funded by sponsors before a single ticket is sold, and attracts approximately 100+ participants. The sponsors not only provide cash funding and in-kind/product placements—they also engage their own databases to help promote the event every year.

Representative sponsors from the 2019 event include Brave Soles, a local woman-owned business that upcycles tires into shoes and accessories, locally curated products such as lip balm, discounts to local businesses, powdered green juice samples, water bottles, rash guards, sarongs, popular branded surf accessories, and jewelry.

Each of our participants, colleagues and sponsors came together to create a cohesive experience that would otherwise not have culminated. That’s the way to create event magic.

Have you read?

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Michelle Bourdeau
Michelle Bourdeau helps coaches and service based entrepreneurs find success doing what they love the most and mastering the art of running retreats. With 20 years in the health and wellness industry, plus 11 years of running one of the largest women’s watersport events in the Caribbean, Michelle has a unique perspective on growing a service based business and planning and running events. Michelle Bourdeau is an opinion columnist for the CEOWORLD magazine.