Essentials For Hosting A Profitable Event or Retreat

how to run a profitable retreat or event in business

Events and retreats in your business are about community, business building and celebration. They’re about decisions on beach versus city, all-inclusive versus self-catering, and crisply scheduled versus go with the flow. Pulling it off is fun, exciting and more than a little stressful. Especially when the budget comes into play and those decisions you’re making are attached to invoices and contracts.

Diving into pricing negotiations and contract reviews is hardly the glamorous side of event and retreat planning, but it’s essential to making sure that you’re getting best value for your budget, and not setting yourself up for any surprises on the big day.

And let’s face it. You’re not putting in all this work organizing, marketing and hosting an event so you can lose money. This is a business. You want, need and deserve to make a profit. Negotiating each step of the way is how you’ll do that.

Here are the five essentials for securing your best, sweetest contracts with event and retreat vendors.

#1. Go for it!

Trust me, you won’t be the first person to ask this vendor for a deal, and you definitely won’t be the last. There’s no need to feel shy, cheap or picky when asking for something. As long as you’re treating the vendor and the work they do with respect, ask away. A great question to get you warmed up to negotiations?

“Is there any flexibility here?”

Asking a low-key, low-pressure question like this opens up a conversation about the terms and prices. The vendor may offer you something lovely right off the bat, or ask you if you have a specific adjustment in mind. Either way, you’ve started negotiating without that icky, nervous, greedy feeling. Brava!

#2. Think big. And small.

Event expenses add up fast. But the good news is that the savings can as well. Staying within your budget doesn’t have to mean scoring crazy 50% off deals with vendors – even shaving 5% off of an invoice will add up.

Your time and energy (both of which are in short supply) are better spent in discussions with your largest vendors to save smaller percentages, than they are in discussions with your smaller vendors to save larger percentages.

For example: Negotiate a 5% discount on a $30,000 venue bill…and you’ve just kept $1500 in your pocket. Negotiating a 50% discount on a $1000 spa bill? Not as much impact, but a whole heck of a lot more work to get there.

#3. It’s about more than the money, honey.

Lowering your expenses is a wonderful benefit of getting comfortable with negotiation, but there’s more to it than just the dollars and cents. Some vendors won’t be able to lower their prices. And that’s ok. It gives you the opportunity to get creative and find other ways to sweeten the deal. For example, you could negotiate with a vendor to have:

  • Early access to the venue for set up
  • An upgrade from a room to a suite for VIP 1-to-1 coaching work
  • Expedited delivery of the favors you ordered
  • Soft-hold on your favourite dates while you sort out details at your end
  • Free-of-charge nibblies for a welcome shindig

The possibilities are pretty much endless. The key is thinking of other ways to save yourself time, energy and money – besides taking a percentage off of an invoice.

#4. Options, options, options!

You’ve got your heart set on the swankiest hotel in town. Or a cute little boutique jungle resort that you’ve been following on Instagram for ages. These locations are part of the vision you have for your event or retreat and you’re determined to make it happen!

But this could mean that you’re paying far more than you’d like to, or sacrificing scheduling and sanity to pull it off. Instead, give yourself options.

Find at least 3 different places to get quotes from. (3 venues, 3 caterers, 3 photographers, 3 private yoga instructors, 3 spas – you get the idea.)

Then, make a list of everything you need, and send it to all of them for a proposal. Doing this ensures that you’re 1) comparing ‘apples to apples’ when making decisions, and 2) gathering enough information that you can then negotiate.

Location #1 can provide single-occupancy at no extra charge? Try asking Location #2 if they can do the same.

Wifi getting thrown in for free at 2 of the venues, but not your dream one? Let them know that their competitors are offering it, and ask for them to do the same.

The more flexibility and information you have, the better the deal you’ll get.

#5. Read the contract twice. Then read it again.

I know, I know, it’s no fun. No one likes reading through the fine print, but investing the time before signing saves a lot of headache (and potentially heartbreak) down the line. Here are some contract sections to watch out for.

Payment Terms: Get clear on how much is due, when, and how it needs to be paid. (because being presented with a bill and not having cash on hand to pay is a stress you do not need.)

Liability and Insurance: If a guest slips and falls during the morning yoga session, whose responsibility is that?  How much would the venue or caterer cover if something goes wrong with the meal or facilities?

Cancellation Policies: Some vendors will have flexible terms, and even a few weeks away from the event you’ll be able to pull out without losing much more than a deposit. But cancelling could come with a hefty bill. This will be especially true- and justified – if you’ve had them do custom work for you. Make sure you know what cancellations or changes to attendance numbers will cost you.

The Event or Delivery Details: This may seem like a silly one, but a wee little typo in the date or location of your event could cause big problems. Double (triple!) check for the month, day and year. The day of the week. The address and zip code. The spelling of names. Having a friend or relative look over contracts or design proofs with you can be a great way to catch any mistakes before it’s too late to make a correction.


Keeping these five pieces of advice in mind, negotiating with your event or retreat vendors can be a rewarding and relatively low-stress endeavour. Combing through your plans to spot opportunities to ‘sweeten the deal’ is a great place to start, and if you’re feeling stumped, calling in a negotiation pro to help you identify what to ask for, and how can go a long way in delivering the experience of your dreams and earning a profit. 


Nervous about starting the conversation?

Download 3 Expert Negotiation Starters and learn how to get the conversation started with vendors and service providers without all the stress and anxiety.


this post is inspired by my original guest post for Event Plan It, which was all about weddings