Start fine-tuning your program of activities. If you have a co-facilitator, you may want to start by brainstorming together.
browse through several resource books
talk to facilitators of prior retreats and see if evaluations done by participants will give you helpful ideas.
think back to activities which seem to have gone well at other successful retreats you have attended.
you may want to add other persons to your planning/facilitation circle at this point, to generate more ideas or to lead/facilitate specific parts of the retreat.
Consider these suggestions:
Assume that you will need to spend several sessions with your co-facilitator refining the program. It takes thinking time as well as talking time. Each time you go back to your plans, you will find things to change.
Assume that everything at the retreat will take longer than you thought it would. Therefore, plan fully, but be ready to take things out when you have too much.
Remember that retreats usually differ from conferences in the significant respect that a retreat is on one theme and offers everybody only one activity at a time. Conferences, though they also usually have some general theme, offer lots of workshops with more than one thing going on at once, so that participants make choices among options at certain times.
People come to retreats expecting lots of "down" or free time. If you try to keep them at an activity too long, they grow weary. They may leave the activity or not show up for the next one. You may want to try to prevent this by having short activities and lots of breaks. Or you may want to convince yourself that it is fine if some people opt out of attending all the activities you provide. (Convincing yourself of this may be easier said than done!)
Remember that people operate on different internal "time clocks." Think about ways to offer early morning programming (e.g., matins, yoga), as well as "into the night" programming. Consider how to honor needs of some to gather and drum/talk/dance late into the night, while others cherish truly quiet time.
When you are planning activities, keep in mind that some people will be having reunions with old friends, and they will be totally at ease. Others will be new. They will know nobody or almost nobody. They need to be made to feel welcome and at ease.
If the retreat begins on Friday evening, people will arrive at different times, some tired from driving, some frazzled from the work day they have just completed. Assume people's heads and hearts are in different places. They need an opening activity or ritual to get them to relax, focus, and get ready for whatever you plan to do.
Most people who come to retreats are receptive to whatever you plan for them. You can expect them to be eager participants, but they need clear directions. Giving them too many options can end up in confusion.
Whatever you plan, you need to be willing to revise to suit the needs of the group. Remember that it is THEIR retreat. If they get interested in talking about something or doing something, try not to cut them off or force them down a track where they aren't ready to go.
It is good to have some things for the group to do together in one circle and some things for small groups — possibly with reporting back to the whole group. Remember that some people will be more comfortable about speaking up in a small group than in a large one. On the other hand, it works very well to have at least a couple of activities in which you go around the circle and have all participants speak, not only to introduce themselves but also to answer some question or finish out some sentence. Some people speak more easily when it is established that it is their turn and the subject is something that they are sure to know about. In open discussions, it is harder for those people to speak up, especially if there are some "eager talkers" in the group.
Always respect the right of anyone to "pass" — to not speak.
Keep in mind that going around the circle for each person to speak can take a long time if you have a lot of people.
The people at your retreat will probably have lots of talents, some hidden and some not. You may want to provide opportunities for people to display their creativity, either in showing and selling their arts and crafts, or in performing or leading others in such activities as early morning birding, or yoga at the end of the day.
If you need to have a business meeting scheduled at the retreat, try to have it at a time that does not interfere with the activities or mood of the retreat: possibly over breakfast, or announcements made at the beginning of the morning session, or right after the retreat is over. (Warning: people tend to want to leave at the end of an intense weekend, or have little energy left for important business.)
Consider the power of ritual as a force for building community. Opening rituals bring the group together, helping to leave the rest of the world behind and focus on the retreat theme and space. Closing rituals cement and solidify, allowing participants to gain from the retreat experience, while releasing it to move back into their everyday life. (See Appendix E for resources on ritual.)
Be cautious about use of incense and other highly aromatic materials in your rituals. These may create problems for those with allergies.
Think about incorporating music into your retreat. If you can get someone to play the guitar and sing, or someone to beat a drum, that can be a fine way to bring people together. You may want to have a theme song, or theme chant, for the retreat and have the group sing it several times. Chants are generally easy to teach and lend themselves well to repetition. (See Appendix E for resources on chants.) Consider also setting aside "after-program" time in the evening for drumming and other informal musical experiences. And, be sure to invite participants to bring drums, rainsticks or other musical instruments.
Get other people who will be attending the retreat to take care of some things. This will lighten your load, and it will get more people actively involved.
Someone(s) to bring light refreshments for the registration hour(s) and later (or next day)"happy hours." Keep in mind policies on and appropriateness of wine/spirits at different times in your program. Plan to have baskets for donations whenever refreshments are served. (See Appendix I for menu thoughts.)
Someone to look out for shy people and make them feel at ease.
Someone to line up talent for talent show if you are having one.
Someone to help newcomers find their way around the facility, or to assist anyone with physical difficulty.