How to lead a retreat

Retreats are so popular and there are so many to choose from.  As a teacher you want to get in on the action. You are told that there is a lot of money to be made in running retreats. You are contacted by companies that promise to help you find a venue, arrange logistics and take a commission. You just sell to your clients a holiday, teach two classes per day and sunbathe. Sounds good, right? Is this the reality? 

(C) Sian Mercer

(C) Sian Mercer

Know the Experience that You Offer

You must be clear about what type of retreat you offer. This only comes from knowing what type of leader you are. A retreat is about holding space for your clients to rest, reset and restore. To sell a retreat you need to believe in what you are doing and be genuinely excited about the adventure you are offering. Feel the uplifting energy of your idea, the day schedules and venue rolling you towards the fun of the holiday you offer. Even if you want to provide something deep, spiritual and healing this should have an element of the light you seek them to find at the end of the tunnel! Everyone wants to feel a smile for their break!


Some questions to ask yourself about your retreat offer:

  • You enjoy teaching a group class or do you prefer private 1-2-1s?
  • What size of class do you enjoy teaching?
  • Do you like to offer tasters of different practices?  Or delve deep into a particular area?
  • Is exploring the surrounding areas important to you?
  • How do you like meals to be set up? Is food a focus for you? 
  • Do you explore topics from life lessons? Do you enjoy discussions and sharing ideas? 
  • Luxury vs Eco venues?
  • Is ease of transport for your clients and yourself important?
  • Do you seek a break and lots of your own downtime?
  • Is there a theme that you wish to explore?

Hold Your Own Space

The first rule of running retreats is learning and managing your own space and wellbeing. You need to have a strong and disciplined self-practice of nurturing yourself to run a retreat.  Design a retreat where you deliver to a maximum of 80% of your personal energy/emotional/mental and physical capacity. You need to understand fully as what aspects of a retreat will take what kind of energy from you so that you design an experience that fills others without emptying you out!

For example, I have been up at 4:30am to have my 90 minutes of alone time in the morning before I first see clients at 6am. I know I need this time and it keeps me balanced to hold space for everyone. I try to avoid a 6am class start on my retreats so that I can enjoy my sleep too! 

What you design into your retreat impacts your need for space. Consider your choices when you create the schedule of the day and week. For example,  when I offer holistic massages I know I will be more exhausted and require greater alone time - so a 30 minute afternoon break is vital for me. 

Early bedtimes are great on retreats. You can have sufficient alone time to digest and clear your energy for the day. There are little tools and techniques throughout the day that as a leader you can adopt to keep internal space for yourself, and know that you offer your clients freely and unconditionally from your heart. 

The practices that taught on the Meditation for Intuition Program keep me on track throughout retreats to know what is 'my stuff' and what is 'client stuff' so I can keep myself aligned throughout. 

Managing Client Interactions

You planned the perfect retreat experience for you. You are good at your self-care and managing your space. But there are moments when clients ask you personal things on a retreat. This intimate period of time exposes deep aspects of who you are without necessarily knowing basics like your job - it can be an unusual and profound an experience. However, this also often leads to clients thinking they are able to ask strangely personal questions of you as a leader. How do you manage these moments?

  1. What experience have you offered? If you are immersing and delving deep then ask yourself if the question is relevant to your retreat experience. If it is, then you should answer with integrity that relates to the theme of your retreat. 
  2. Is this a topic that you openly talk about in public forums? E.g. I am open about my past with depression and my head injury so I will openly share if asked. 
  3. Know what topics are too personal for you, your 'no go zone'. Prepare some pre-made responses to manage this for a couple of situations e.g. dinner table vs pool-side drink may need to be handled differently. 
  4. Be prepared to hold your personal space firm. You do not have to share and can state this to clients with compassion for their curiosity. 


Offering Your Space to Others

As a retreat leader you are offering your personal space to your clients in exchange for some of their personal space. There is a deep energy exchange occurring and you might want to acknowledge this with the following approach to your retreats. 

You have built a house and invited everyone to come stay. It is your house and you control the party. You only offer one of the following party:

(A)  Investigate one room in detail

A retreat with a theme that you explore in depth focuses the group. It means that you can bring every conversation back to your theme. Make it all relate and show the web that you can weave beautifully in life when you adopt certain perspectives. When topics arise off theme you choose to allow the group to resolve this if needed. 

(B) A tour of the house with small displays of each room  

A retreat without a theme often takes this approach. You give your group a tour of the space you visit, you as a teacher and you as a person. You choose what rooms they see in your life and what information is on display. You have to respect your boundaries of what you display and be clear with the group about the relationship. 

Retreats as a Business

Many have seen me make a 'dream life' in the past 18 months on retreats worldwide. I have invested much time and energy to learn and grow myself, but also bring together my business development and legal skills to our holisitic wellbeing retreats. I enjoy this business for the creativity in designing each retreat, the healing journey delivered at each retreat and the connections we weave in these deeply connected moments. 

If you really want to get into running retreats there are many ways to do it - it is just a business. How you structure a retreats business is up to you and Omega Movement offers support for you to explore these in collaborations with us. We have our own travel agent insurance to sell retreats, costings templates, terms and conditions with privacy policies, international payment options and a network of global healing contacts. 

Get a FREE 30 minute consultation with me to get a quote of how I can help you grow your retreat business.