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Planning a Retreat

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PLANNING A RETREAT

The first thing you want to do before starting to plan a retreat is to survey your guild regarding how many people will attend, and what type of experience is important to them. Things to ask are:

  • How much are you willing to spend on a room rental?
  • How much are you willing to spend on a retreat fee?
  • What amenities are important to you? (gourmet food, great location, etc)
  • How far are you willing to travel?

Once you have a general idea of what your group wants, start looking for a venue that will accommodate you.

CONTRACTING WITH A VENUE

Finding the right venue can sometimes be difficult to do while balancing the expectations of everyone in your group, but remember that the main point of a retreat is to get away from the day-to-day and sew with your fellow guild members.

There are venue options from hotels to retreat venues to off-season summer camps. Your survey will help narrow down what your group is looking to get out of their retreat.

Setting up an Request for Proposal (RFP) may sound like something you would only do for a large event, but writing out your expectations from a venue from the start will help you narrow your focus as well as let the venues know what you are looking for and see if they can accommodate you. A general rule of thumb is planning for 60 square feet per person attending your event. So if you are expecting 25 people at your retreat, you will need a venue that has a 1,500-square-foot room for you to sew. If you have a larger guild and expect 50 people to attend, you will need a 3,000-square-foot space. You can find a sample RFP here.

Make sure to outline in your RFP how many outlets are required per attendee, availability of trash cans, and ironing boards. Make sure the room is secured at night when no attendees are present. Ask about wifi availability. Are there any restrictions on outside food or drink? Is there a cost to park? Ask if there are any additional things that could add value, or rules that your attendees would need to follow, such as a religious venue having a no-alcohol policy.

 

If you are looking to contract with a hotel, you may want to consider extended-stay hotels such as Hyatt House or Homewood Suites. These venues typically have meeting rooms that are used during the week for business meetings, but will rarely be used on the weekends because they aren’t considered “wedding destinations.” These venues will also generally have fridges and microwaves in the rooms to allow attendees to cut down on food costs while attending.

 

SpeedRFP.com is a great resource if you are looking to contract with a hotel. This allows you to upload your RFP and send it to all venues within a radius that meet your criteria. You can then compare prices between venues and see which one will work best for your group.

If you are looking to contract with a retreat center, conference center, or off-season camp, a simple Google search in your area can provide ideas. Local venues typically work independently from national chains.

Additionally, you will want to ensure the workspace of your attendees is acceptable. Are you covering the tables in linens, are they okay to be left as is, or do you want to cover them in brown craft paper so people can jot down notes.

 

AMENITIES AND FUN AT RETREATS

Make sure to talk with your hotel about any food or drink policy. Quilters love snacks, and some venues are fine with outside snacks, but some have a requirement to purchase any food through their catering services. Ask about availability of an all-day beverage service such as a coffee or water station.

Depending on group interest, you can plan activities like a show & tell, shop hop, swap, or ice breaker. Appointing a “social coordinator” can be a great way to keep the energy up and fun going all weekend.

Giveaways are also great for retreats. Make sure to have a way to draw winners and have a plan. Do the winners get to choose whatever they want from a giveaway table? Or will the drawings be for specific prizes?

 

HELPING ATTENDEES KNOW WHAT TO BRING:

This is a common question for retreat attendees, “what do I need to bring with me?” Obviously you will need to bring your basic sewing supplies and any projects you want to work on. But you may want to remind attendees to bring:

  • A chair cushion
  • Task lamp
  • Irons
  • Ironing boards
  • Design walls
  • Extension cords or power strips
  • Additional cutting mats or rotary cutters

For items that are shared, make a sign-up list so you don’t have 15 people bringing ironing boards and no one bringing irons! You can organize these tasks on a Google sheet or a program like SignUpGenius.

 

COLLECTING FUNDS FOR WORKSHOPS OR RETREATS

There are various ways that you can run sign-ups for workshops and retreats. If you are a smaller guild and have plenty of spaces, you may want to use a simple Google form and accept payment via PayPal or check. Discuss in advance with your guild officers how you will collect payment, when, and what the refund policy will be. Some guilds collect a deposit; others require payment in full at the time of registration, perhaps with a sliding scale for refunds, or the ability to replace the participant with another person if the original attendee can’t make it.

 

Some guilds use the Eventbrite platform a great resource. You can set up a private event so only people with the link can have access. You can also set up tickets to go live at a certain time and create a waitlist through the platform. Attendees know immediately if they got into the event, and you can track how well your event is doing.

 

Fees for Eventbrite are comparable to PayPal, but you should have some ability to take checks and cash if you have members who don’t wish to complete a transaction online.

 

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