It’s time to sign the contract for my hotel. The Universe gave me a sign that I was supposed to host a retreat in August and I’ve done the work to find the venue, but I just can’t bring myself to sign the contract. Maybe it’s not meant to be?”
“I sent all the emails and made all the Facebook posts and it doesn’t seem like people are interested in my retreat. They say they love what I’m doing, but then they don’t register. Maybe it’s too soon and I should push it back?”
“My retreat is just three weeks away and I have one person registered, should I cancel it?”
These are conversations I hear all the time, and that float through my Facebook groups. The most recent one was general, and it looked like this:
So I’m curious, how would you answer this? What advice would you give the person who is facing lower enrollment than intended?
My answer? It depends.
So before I share WHAT it depends on, we have to address some fundamentals.
When we operate in alignment with our personal Truth, our business flows.
When business gets sticky, it is simply an indication that something is out of alignment.
Now, you don’t want to use this as a chance to beat yourself up or look for what’s wrong because your retreat isn’t filling, you can instead use it as a chance to ask yourself, where is my opportunity for MASSIVE growth!?
The ‘container of support’ that is the retreat is always causing growth – first yours, then theirs.
THIS is what makes this work so exciting. In what other career do YOU get to grow tremendously right along with your clients?
So when your retreat is not filling in the way you wanted, this is something to get curious about.
It could be that there is something practical that you weren’t aware of that is getting in the way, or something energetic or spiritual. But I want to be clear that the result of low enrollment, or hesitation in committing, is a SYMPTOM of something else that is seeking your attention.
Whether you cancel your retreat or not has everything to do with the transformation that is calling your name. Your decision should come from the energy that most aligns with your personal breakthrough, which is why there is no one right answer to the question. We have to follow the energy.
So Should I Cancel My Retreat?
First thing, there are often practical reasons that retreats don’t fill, or even that you may get nervous or run into ‘stickiness’ when it comes to finding the location for your retreat. (I wrote about this site selection issue here).
Is There a Practical Reason Your Retreat Isn’t Filling?
Let’s explore some practical reasons retreats don’t fill.
- You don’t have a large enough audience to market in the way you’ve been doing it.
If you want to market a retreat via email marketing or social media alone, you need a large audience and established credibility on the topic of your retreat. I’m not saying it’s not possible to fill a retreat from a small list or your personal network… it ABSOLUTELY IS, and I love when people decide to move forward quickly on filling their retreat. But to do so without a following, you absolutely must TALK TO PEOPLE.
There’s no way around this. Conversation is key. If you aren’t in conversation each day with a potential client or a connection who can refer a potential client, or at an event where you may meet a potential client, then you are not actually committed to filling your retreat. Posting on social media or emailing a small list simply won’t cut it. No matter how great your retreat is or how great your energy is, you either need to expose a large number of people to your online marketing, or simply talk to a small number of human beings in person.
- It’s not the retreat you’re meant to lead.
If you are offering something that seems like a good idea, seems easy or practical, or is so full of content there’s no room for transformation, chances are the Universe is guiding you to look within and become more aligned with the work you’re meant to do and own it. (This is my favorite work I do with clients in my Retreat and Grow Rich programs).
I get that it can make you nervous to lead that work that is near and dear to your heart. And that is the work that will resonate for your right clients every time. If you’re not completely thrilled about leading your retreat, that misalignment will come across.
- Your messaging is too ‘together.’
Attending a small retreat is a vulnerable choice. Attendees want to know that you are someone who can hold space for their vulnerability. If you demonstrate this in your marketing, while still being the expert on your topic, it will be easier for people to know you as a human and feel excited to come to your retreat.
- You’re marketing to everybody.
This is truly the biggest mistake I see people make. They want to keep the retreat broad enough that it’s an option for everyone. Yet the more specifically you can speak to what’s going on for your star client, the easier it will be for them to see themselves there, and the more important it will feel for them to be there.
ALL THINGS ARE OVERCOMEABLE
Do any of the above practical reasons retreats don’t fill resonate for you? What do we do now?
First I want you to know that all things are overcomeable! Even if you were marketing to too small of a list, playing it safe in the marketing, or showing up too perfectly or any combination of these things, there is still hope!
And if you notice, I did not include timing as one of the practical reasons your retreat didn’t fill. So you may be saying that you didn’t leave enough time to fill your retreat (for most people I recommend 8-12 weeks) and that’s the reason it didn’t fill. Perhaps, but most people who give themselves 12 weeks wait until the ‘last minute’ to fill their first retreat anyway.
And it’s totally doable! You’ll have to talk with more people because some will have hard conflicts, but don’t give up simply because of time. You CAN adjust your venue, your message, your energy, and watch that baby fill.
THERE’S NO SHAME IN YOUR DECISION
Now, if you follow the process below and determine that you’ll cancel, do so proudly. I’ve had clients whose biggest transformation came in the form of deciding to cancel or reschedule their retreat without dying of shame!
When you chose to book your retreat, you chose a transformation that IS HAPPENING, regardless of the outcome. Let yourself grow boldly through this experience and come back out the other side transformed.
THE LOVE/ FEAR DECISION GRID
In my book, Retreat and Grow Rich, I provide an exercise in the first chapter for readers to decide whether or not they actually want to host retreats. The same exercise works to decide what energy you are coming from as you decide whether to cancel your retreat.
Every decision has a motivation behind it. When we have trouble deciding it’s because we have many different competing motivations, which is honestly usually the case. We are weighing reasons that come from love and abundance and possibility and will spark an expansive outcome, and we are also weighing reasons that come from fear and lack and scarcity and will spark a limiting outcome.
The key to creating flow in your business is to make all of your decisions from the first energy, the energy of love. Laying out your thinking in the decision grid below can make a huge difference!
Here’s How To Decide
Draw a grid on a piece of paper like the one below. One by one I want you to fill in the four quadrants of the grid.
- What are my love-based reasons to cancel my retreat?
- What are my fear-based reasons to cancel my retreat?
- What are my fear-based reasons NOT to cancel my retreat?
- What are my love-based reasons NOT to cancel my retreat?
As you fill in your decision grid, something will happen. You will suddenly notice that one of the four quadrant’s responses is really pulling your attention. You’ll see either that one of the love-based reasons really lights you up and engages your energy, OR you’ll notice that one of the fear-based reasons almost makes you do a double-take because it is shining a light on your real fear. Or some combination of these.
As you lay these out, you’ll suddenly notice which decision to make to follow the love. If your fear is greater than the love, reach out for some coaching to find the courage to go where the love is.
Below I list some examples to get your juices flowing.
Love-based reasons to cancel:
- My energy is needed elsewhere/ I have a clear other priority that is so aligned
- Leading this retreat feels like giving myself away in a way that doesn’t nurture my soul.
- It feels like a breakthrough to cancel and pay the hotel cancellation fee without fear – it’s just business, and I know I can make more money!
- It feels nurturing and supportive to wait for a full room. I can sign high-level program clients whether or not I host this retreat.
- I see the clear reason this is not filling (see list above) and I know how to shift it. It feels loving to give myself time to do that.
Fear-based reasons to cancel
- It’s embarrassing to have a small room of people so I’d rather cancel so no one knows.
- What if I lose money because I don’t have enough people?
- I don’t want to seem desperate by really trying to fill my retreat at the last minute.
- I’m afraid to actually have to talk to people and invite them
- My spouse won’t have to take care of the (kids, dog, house) while I’m gone if I cancel so I won’t have to rock the boat.
Fear-based reasons NOT to cancel:
- It’s embarrassing if I cancel this retreat – what will people think of me?
- I don’t want to have to give their money back.
- I’m a bad person if I cancel.
- The venue will think I’m so unprofessional.
- I’m afraid I’ll never be a real business owner if I cancel my first retreat.
- How can I coach others to be successful if I fail at this?
Love-based reasons not to cancel:
- I want to lead this even to a small group.
- I want to go to the location because I know I’m meant to be there.
- It feels nurturing and supportive to follow through with my commitment.
- I know the right people have registered and I can serve them deeply, even if there aren’t many.
- I love being someone who follows through and I know I’ll learn so much from this experience.
- It feels like a beautiful chance to get creative and break through where I’ve stopped to continue to invite people to this retreat.
- I can find out how awesome my content is by actually delivering it.
- I can give my spouse/ kids a chance to thrive on their own without me.
- I’m excited to find ways to make the most of this time I’ve set aside, both for these clients and for myself… perhaps I’ll use it as my own retreat, or record video, or focus on transforming something right along with my clients. It will be fun!
- I don’t yet know why Spirit wants this group to be small, but I’m excited to find out!
ONE SIZE DOES NOT FIT ALL
As you can see, there are a variety of thoughts, motivations, and underlying factors that go into the decision to move forward or to cancel. Above all release fear and resist judgment. You are AWESOME! You are doing an amazing job. This has gone exactly as it’s meant to for the greatest and highest good. If you can hold that truth above all, you’ll stay grounded and clear as you seek the love energy, and the breakthrough that’s available, through the process of booking and playing with your live retreat!
Keep going! It’s been a journey for me, and it will be for you too… and I promise it’s a road that’s worth it.