I am in the process planning the follow-up to an event I threw earlier this year. At the end of January, I hosted a retreat for millennial women of color. I felt compelled to create an event like this for my community and decided to take on the task. We stayed in a cute Airbnb in Venice, California, steps from the water. We discussed goals, dreams, finances, self-care and mental health. It was a great way for like-minded individuals to meet new people, share their experiences, and maybe make a friend or two. This was a great undertaking for me. I am great at generating ideas. Not so great with execution. I felt obligated to have this retreat and when I ‘accidently’ sent the invitations, I realized that there was no turning back. So I booked the 3 bedroom, 2 bathroom Airbnb. I found some great ice breakers games and group activities online. I started making decorations (which may have been my favorite part). I ordered the food. I went to the grocery store. I endured the looks of people looking in my cart trying to figure out why I had so much wine.
The day of the retreat was hectic. Let me just say, when you have an event, please start at the 99 cent Store and the Dollar Tree. I was able to find SO MUCH STUFF at the 99 cent Store. I went to a wholesale flower store so I could make my own arrangements for around the apartment. I even picked up some of those large letter balloons. With only about two hours before the retreat was supposed to start, I was locked out of the Airbnb. I just wasn’t working the pass code door right (-_-) My prince charming came in a taxi cab and hailed from Australia. He let me use his phone to log into my Airbnb app so I could contact the host. Oh, I guess I forgot to mention that I locked my wallet AND my phone inside. So I was COMPLETELY stuck. I was able to get inside and set up like a chicken with its head not completely cut off, just hanging on by a thread. One of the participants came about 30 mins early, and started to help me tie up the loose ends. Once the rest of the ladies arrived, it was show time!
I hosted a great, diverse group of ladies. They were beyond helpful- cleaning, washing dishes, taking the trash out, helping me set up, and pouring wine before dinner. I did not ask them to do these things, they took it upon themselves to lend a hand. Talk about picking the right first group. By free time the second day, they were able to hang out without me there, getting to know one another. See, the common thread between all these ladies was me. They all knew me, but did not know each other very well. To see them hanging out on their own and striking up conversations made me feel like I had accomplished a goal with the retreat.
The retreat ended and I was left in a state of shock, honestly. Shock because I couldn’t believe what I had just accomplished. I am still processing that I pulled off a women’s retreat; that I actually followed through with an idea. I am still kind of proud of myself. I am by no means an expert (of course) and I am still learning the in’s and out’s of event management, but there are some basic tips that I feel will help anyone. As I begin the taxing, but rewarding task of planning for the next retreat I will use the following tips to help keep me on track. These tips can be used to create a retreat, luncheon, and brunch- anything that has a larger purpose attached.
1. Narrow down a theme and your ‘why’
This helps create the direction for the event and helps you realize what you’ll need to create the right atmosphere. You want to know why you’re creating this ‘thing’ because when you don’t want to keep going, you can reflect back and stay motivated.
2. Home inventory
Before I started to buy all new decorations, I looked around my house to see what I already had. Your own stash is a great place to start when looking for decoration supplies-especially if you’re crafty like me. I already had a lot of things at home to use, so I didn’t have to buy much of anything.
3. Have a budget in mind
I paid for everything for my retreat. I wanted to be able to be able to offer this up and see what happened. With that being said, I did do a budget for the retreat. My budget was adjusted a few times, but knowing how much you want to spend can help you curb unnecessary spending and make you creative to save cash.
4. Outsource when you can
I scheduled an exercise hour the last day of the retreat. I was going to attempt to teach some yoga moves myself. Again, I was doing too much. I remembered I knew someone who could teach us yoga and reached out. We ended up using the exercise hour for sleep (girl’s night out the night before tuckered us out), but I was going to outsource this and it gave me the opportunity to be a participant.
5. Start early!
Start early planning and creating décor, reaching out to vendors, securing lodging, arranging assistance, anything that can make your hosting duties lighter. I really thought I had a lot of time to prepare for the retreat, and I did. I just could have done a better job at utilizing that time. Make the best use of that time.
6. Let people help you
Don’t think you can do it all, because you can’t. I tried and quickly realized that I needed help. Allow people to assist you. Delegate. It actually frees you up to interact with those persons you invited to your event.
7. The internet is your friend
I am not an expert in finances. So I had to research for more information to share with the ladies in that session. I was able to find some great ice breakers on the internet, as well as group activities. The internet is your friend when looking for ideas. Use it to your advantage. You’ll look like a rock star.
All and all, it was a successful event. People left feeling heard, empowered, and with a better sense of what they really wanted their lives to look like. Tears were shed. Laughter filled every nook and cranny of the apartment. Too much food was eaten. It was a great experience. So if you have an event you want to bring into reality, use my tips as your starting point. Let my trial and error make the road easier for you.
Any tips you want to share about how to execute an event successfully? Share them in the comments below.