One of the things that often worries people about planning a retreat or workshop is that they don’t know how they are going to find people to attend. Especially if you don’t have a huge following (yet). What if you put in the time and energy to create something beautiful and don’t sell any tickets? It is enough to make you want to throw in the towel! The beautiful thing about a retreat or workshop is that you are not looking for hundreds or thousands of attendees, especially not at the beginning. To kick off, you are likely looking to fill a roster of between 5 to 30 people (depending on your topic, location, space constraints, etc.). I am here to assure you that with some intentional outreach, you will have no problem selling out your first event and beyond!
1. I get it. You don’t have a huge community of people; that is one of the reasons you want to start creating events in the first place! One way to increase attendance is to partner with an established influencer, someone who already has a following of people who would be excited to attend one of their events. For example, a popular yoga instructor might partner with an emerging meditation facilitator. As the emerging meditation facilitator you might not have a huge audience clamoring to purchase a ticket, but the yoga instructor with a dedicated following will fill the seats for you both.
2. Get local in your search. Most people are not going to drive more than 2 hours (if that) for a one-day retreat or workshop. Accept that as a blessing because that will allow you to really narrow your outreach to a limited geographic location. Say you are planning a one-day nutrition retreat focused on incorporating homemade fermented foods and beverages into your diet. Map out a 90-minute traveling radius from your event location. Then use trusty ole Google (or your favorite search engine) to find all of the places where people who might be interested in health and wellness would go, and connect with those places. localized Facebook ads, reach out to local vendors who will talk you up and connect you with people who are in need of your retreat.
3. Update your social media accounts with attendee numbers, creating a sense of urgency and excitement. Share highlights from your planning process, such as workshop materials, giveaways, and meaningful content. Help your community see that this is an opportunity that they do not want to miss out on!
4. After your first event is a smashing success (I'm here for you!), you can continue to drum up excitement and connection by creating an affiliate program within your attendee group. They then become another network through which new people learn about your work. This can be a 10-20% referral fee, an additional discount on a future event, or something else you can dream up that works for your folks.
5. Along similar lines, continue to strengthen your connection to your attendees by giving them early access and discounted tickets to future events. Doing this keeps you connected to your community, and helps make sure your events stay packed with people. ;)
These are just a few ways that I have used to sell out my retreats, workshops, and conferences. Have you used any of these tips? Let me know how they work for you in the comments. What additional ideas do you have for increasing attendance at your events?