After running my business behind my computer screen, except for speaking at events hosted by other people and other companies, I decided to step out of the virtual world and into the real one.
Every year I partner up with my best friend (business and real life) for a joint venture in February.
And, this year, Hermione waved her magic wand to make everything align like it never has before so that we could host an in-person retreat together.
We love connecting with creatives via virtual masterminds and retreats, but we craved something different and we’ve been getting this feeling that the women we work with have been, too.
For the past couple of years, anytime we’d mention doing something in person, we got massive positive responses from it.
We wanted to do it. We knew our people wanted it. So, it became about timing.
Neither of us had hosted anything quite like this (Mayi was about to host her first small mastermind at her house) and we quickly realized there was a lot of stuff we needed to consider that wasn’t on our radar.
Have you thought about hosting an in-person event? Just curious about the behind-the-scenes planning? Either way, here’s what you need to know and what we’ve been arranging:
1. Location, Location, Location!
When you’re hosting an event, you can’t do anything else until you pick a location. And, the location can make or break your event.
Decide to host your 500 person event in a town that is a two-hour drive from the nearest airport and you’ll be lucky if you can get 20 people there. On the other hand, if you’re only trying to get 10 women to that same location and you’re going to provide a taxi service from the airport to the venue, it’s much more realistic.
You’ve got to think about your ideal customer.
Can they get to your location easily? How much does it cost to get there from different parts of the country/world? Is there an international airport close by? Does the location have lots of hotels? Will there be lots of taxi and Uber options? Are there lots of restaurant options?
When we were thinking about Austin, we knew it wouldn’t be as convenient as Miami or L.A. (two other locations we had looked at), but as we researched airfare, it was actually pretty low–even from Panama. Plus, we love the motto: Keep Austin weird. There are plenty of restaurant and hotel options. Ubers won’t be a problem. Check…check…check…check!
2. Your Venue
Another element you have to decide on pretty fast is the venue. It’s hard to sell an event without a venue. You need pictures of the place. You need to be able to tell people where they’ll be going. Without a venue people are reluctant to hand over their credit cards.
Now, here’s a little chicken egg scenario. You can either: decide on the amount of attendees first and then find a venue that can hold that amount of attendees OR you can find a venue you love and base your amount of attendees off of the venue.
Before you hunt for a venue, think about the mood you want to create for your event. What are the top three priorities for your venue to have? Envision the space and then look, so you don’t pick a venue that creates the wrong vibe for your event.
When we found the Austin house, we knew it what THE SPACE we’d been looking for.
We imagined a space that creatives would find inspiring–that they would love so much that they couldn’t stop taking pictures. We wanted a venue that had a pool and a lovely outdoor space so we could all chill and relax together. The Austin house has a 2-acre garden. We wanted multiple large living areas–our venue has three. And, we wanted the bathrooms to feel like spas.
3. Amount of Attendees
Are you looking to create a massive event with lots of speakers? Do you want a more intimate event where all the attendees can get to know one another? Are you looking for something in the middle?
Creating your own event means that you get to decide on every detail.
The amount of attendees will affect how your event feels. If you have five women all staying at a beach house, your event will feel extremely cozy. If you’re filling a large conference room with 300 hundred people, your event will feel big and exciting.
When we decided that no more than 40 women could attend our event, we knew that we wanted enough women at the event for everyone to find people they really connected with but we didn’t want it to feel overwhelming.
A lot of our ideal customers are introverts and some suffer from social anxiety, and we want those women to feel comfortable. (Don’t worry if you fit into the social anxiety category…you can hang with me cause I’m right there with you!)
We want it to feel like a girls vacation while handling business and learning. Holla!
4. Food and Refreshments
This is just my opinion, but no matter how short your event is, I think you should always have some kind of refreshments available. That could be as simple as water and coffee. This always picks up the energy in the room and gives people something to do when they enter.
If your event is more than a few hours, provide more than water and coffee if you want to keep your attendees happy, energized and refreshed! You also don’t want them to leave because they’re hungry or thirsty.
Again, this doesn’t mean you have to provide the world. You could have water, juice or lemonade, coffee, single serving size bags of pretzels or trail mix, easy to eat fruit like bananas, etc.
Mayi and I have already done a lot of behind-the-scenes prep for Austin, because we want to make sure our guests feel very taken care of.
For the VIPs, we’re providing breakfast on Saturday so they don’t have to leave the house to go get something. We’re also giving the VIPs the chance to order lunch with us both days if they don’t want to leave the house. On the first night, we’re having a private dinner with the VIPs when we break for the day. For all the attendees, we’re providing drinks (multiple options) and light snacks the entire time. We’re also providing pizza and wine for dinner the second night so we can hang out until the last possible second!
5. Other Experts
Are you going to have other experts speak or provide their services?
You have to take into account your budget and how much this will cost. You should also consider if your attendees are coming for your expertise or for a mix. Do they expect a conference of multiple speakers or do they expect a retreat setting with you as the main host?
For the Austin retreat, Mayi and I are both running a workshop each day. If we did more than that, if wouldn’t feel like a work-cation…it would just feel like work and that’s not our objective.
6. Photography and Videography
You’re putting on an amazing event, so you probably want to document it, right? You especially want to document it if you’re going to host it again, because the photos and video will be your best form of marketing.
My husband has always been my photographer. Every single picture of me on my website has been taken by my husband. I’m lucky he grew up with an artist as a mom who constantly pushed him in that direction, because he has an eye for photography.
Mayi and I hired a professional photographer when I flew to Panama for our work-cation, but we ended up using Kris’s photos because we liked them soooooooo much better. We’ve already “signed” him as our Austin photographer.
We haven’t decided on videography yet, but we definitely want video from the event.
We’re doing this even though we don’t think we’ll be able to host another retreat next year (super sad emoji) due to personal reasons. We hope to be back at it in 2021, so we’ll use them then.
A lot of events don’t include transportation, but every once in a while smaller events do.
For instance, I spoke at a retreat that was hosted by the lovely Bonnie Christine and my husband drove a number of the attendees back and forth to the hotel they were staying at.
My husband will also be providing a similar service in Austin for the ladies who stay at the hotel that we recommend. Isn’t he a keeper? (Love you, heart!)
Is your event going to include anything extra? A notebook for attendees to write down their notes? A yoga session first thing in the morning?
We’ve built the Austin retreat around the extras! We want our women to feel pampered. They’re going to receive a tote bag that Mayi has designed. We’re going to have a spa session, we’re going to go hiking, we’ll have a chill session by the pool, and more that we don’t want to give away because we want there to be surprises!
9. VIP Level
Have you thought of offering a VIP level? If your event is a day-long event, you could sell a VIP level for 10 people who get to join you for dinner at the end of the event. If your event is a few days, you could have a VIP level for 3 people who get 45-minute consulting sessions with you.
All you have to do is get creative to come up with a VIP level that your ideal customer would be interested in.
For Austin, it was built in. There are seven extra beds in the house, so we created seven VIP tickets for women who want to stay in the house with us. We added breakfast, the option to order lunch both days, and a private dinner with us on the first day to the package. And, there you have it…the Austin VIP package which I think is an incredible bundle.
10. Clean Up
Here’s the not-so-fun-part of planning an event. The clean up.
If your event is a multi-day event, are you going to hire cleaners to come in and clean at the end of each day so that it’s sparkling new each morning? Or, are you going to take care of that yourself when you’re worn out and need to get sleep?
Is clean up built into the price of renting the venue or do you need to hire someone to clean up when you’re finished?
For Austin, we’ve hired cleaners to come in at the end of the first day and clean so that everything will be looking new again at the beginning of day two. We also have clean up ready for the end of the event.
This is everything we’ve planned so far. I’ll do another post once we’ve planned more and I’ll definitely publish a post after we’ve accomplished our first retreat in September, so stay tuned!
Our retreat is 20% full and we have a few VIP tickets left if you’re interested. You can find all the details right here. (We’ve included flexible payment plans!)
I’d love to spend a couple days with you in Austin in September my friend.