Retreats: What Can Go Wrong?

Dear friend, this week we are discussing the potential pitfalls of hosting a retreat. While I wholeheartedly encourage you to pursue your retreat plans, it’s important to be aware of what could go wrong.

Please note, this post is not meant to scare you but to inform and protect you.

So let’s dive in.

(You can also listen to this post instead of reading at ZenPreneur)

What Can Go Wrong: Pre-Retreat

1. Deposits & Payments

Are you collecting deposits and payments for your retreat? You probably should, as your venue is likely requiring a deposit from you. If you aren’t already, start collecting deposits now, otherwise this can be a problem down the road. This also ensures commitment from participants and helps you cover your venue deposit.

Pro tip: Consider your venue deposit and cancellation policy and try to match those with your own deposit and cancellation policies. This will protect you financially and ensure you have committed participants.

2. Dates Changes

Sometimes this happens. Either because you have to change dates for some reason (e.g., lack of attendees), or because the venue has to change dates for some unexpected reason. I’ve seen and experienced this second case, and in one of the venues I worked for in the past, I was put in the position of having to inform the retreat leader about a date change (we already had some bookings). Yes, it was pretty uncomfortable.

Pro tip: Check with your venue and see what would happen in the event of they or you changing the dates. Have it all stated clearly in your materials as well. Communicate any changes as early as possible with your attendees and venue, and offer alternatives to minimize inconvenience. If the change is the venue’s decision, see how they can compensate you and your attendees.

3. Non-responsive Venue

You might be unfamiliar with the venue and they are being non-responsive, this could lead to problems. Make sure to either know the venue well or do thorough research before deciding to host your retreat there. Many venues are eager to offer retreat services but may not have the necessary experience.

Pro tip: Visiting the venue beforehand can help you understand the layout, facilities, and potential issues. You can request discounts or familiarization trips. If your venue is non-responsive during negotiations or communication, it might be worth looking for another option.

4. Last Minute Cancellations and Refunds

Have you considered the possibility of last-minute cancellations? This could lead to unexpected losses, especially if you still need to pay your venue. This is why the deposit policy mentioned in point #1 is so crucial.

Pro tip: Have a clear policy stating your cancellation and refund terms. Ensure your participants are fully aware of these policies by having them sign a document upon registration to avoid any misunderstandings later.

What Can Go Wrong: During the Retreat

1. Complaints

Expect some people to complain, especially during the first couple of days. This is usually normal. If everything goes well and the venue cooperates, things tend to change. Aim to address complaints promptly and empathetically, ensuring your participants feel heard and valued.

Pro tip: Have a conversation with the General Manager (GM) at the venue and see how they can assist you. This will be helpful, especially if the complaints comes from unresolved venue issues.

2. Having a Challenging Participant

Dealing with a challenging participant can be difficult. Try to address any issues privately as soon as possible and see how you can help resolve their concerns.

Pro tip: A one-on-one conversation can often defuse tension and prevent it from spreading to the rest of the group. Check if the complaints are venue-related and see if the venue staff can support you in addressing them.

3. Difficult Venue

With the blooming in retreat popularity, some venues may not be fully prepared or experienced in hosting retreats. This can lead to significant problems. You might have sensed this initially (e.g., they were non-responsive), but now you’re facing the consequences of not trusting your intuition.

Pro tip: Stay calm and remember that a team is working for you at the venue. Show respect and patience. Building a good relationship with the venue staff can make a significant difference in resolving issues. If problems persist and affect you and your group, have a conversation with the General Manager to express your concerns.

4. Accidents

Accidents are not something anyone wants to think about, but they can happen. For instance, in one retreat I curated, a guest fell during a class and broke her tailbone, leading to a long healing process and insurance issues with the venue.

Pro tip: Ensure you have the right insurance for your retreat, including health and liability insurance for both you and your participants. Having your retreat attendees sign release of liability forms is also a good practice.

What Can Go Wrong: After The Retreat

After your retreat, there are several things that can happen, and while some are beyond your control, they offer opportunities to learn for the next retreat.

Bad Feedback and Reviews: Reflect on what could have been done better during your retreat. Is there a way to minimize the negative feelings your participants are taking away? Consider offering compensation. Talk to the venue to see if they can provide support. Always follow up with your participants post-retreat to get their feedback. Address any issues they bring up and see if there’s a way to rectify them.

Pro tip: Reflect on how you can respond to negative feedback professionally and constructively, showing that you care about your participants’ experiences and are committed to improvement. Despite our best efforts, sometimes things go wrong. Use the feedback to make necessary adjustments and improvements for future retreats. Focus on consistently delivering high-quality experiences and addressing any negative feedback openly and honestly. Over time, your commitment to excellence will help rebuild your reputation.

Remember, organizing a retreat is a significant undertaking that involves a lot of work and attention to detail, so be gentle on yourself and avoid pushing too hard. Don’t hesitate to seek guidance when needed.

Thank you for reading!


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¡Hola! I’m Manu.

I’m on a mission to help yoga and wellness professionals like YOU elevate their marketing & biz game, so they can navigate the industry fearlessly and achieve sustained growth. Having said that, I don’t like to use manipulative or coercive techniques.

You can learn about my story here.

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