When I started blogging back in 2009, my intention was to build a platform where I could provide people with reliable, trustworthy information about nutrition and food.
I could never have anticipated everything else this blog has brought me: readers who motivate me to do better, relationships with like-minded brands I really believe in, and a large group of friends & colleagues who share their expertise and continually inspire me.
In short, I feel so grateful to be blogging as my “job” and for all the people who help make this possible on a daily basis.
As with any job (especially one in which you primarily work alone), however, bloggers occasionally need a change of scenery, a renewed sense of connection, and some inspiration.
Last fall I found myself craving these three things. So I decided to plan a retreat.
Over next five months, I found a location, secured sponsors, invited a small group of bloggers, and created an agenda. When “Eat Sea Retreat” finally arrived, I just held my breath and hoped it would run smoothly.
Thankfully, the two-day event went off without a hitch. The location was ideal, the group dynamic was smooth, and in my opinion at least, the retreat was a wonderful mix of work, leisure, encouragement and support.
This was the first retreat – and actually first real event – I’ve ever planned, so I wanted to share some of the components that I think made it successful. Though the tips below are specifically aimed at blogging retreats, they could be applied to work events in any industry.
9 Tips for Planning a Blogger Retreat
1. Pick a stellar location.
Terranea is one of my favorite places on earth, and I knew no other place would offer the relaxed yet luxurious vibe that I feel when I’m there. I wanted other bloggers to experience Terranea, and then be able to share their experience with their own readers, so that more people might get the opportunity to visit a place my family treasures so much.
2. Look for sponsors who fit well with the location, theme and your values.
Terranea generously hosted us in two of their spectacular villas, but I also wanted to cover travel expenses for the bloggers, since they’d be giving up work days and requiring childcare, etc. in order to attend. Since Terranea’s culinary team is very focused on sourcing local, high quality and organic ingredients for the food they serve at the resort, I sought out to find sponsors whose values matched this. Stonyfield and Nature’s Path were a natural fit.
3. Keep sponsorships to a minimum.
Too many sponsors can dilute the value of sponsorship, and make bloggers feel obligated to share things that don’t feel authentic or natural to them. Since we would be making our own breakfasts to eat during morning sessions, Stonyfield and Nature’s Path fit perfectly into our breakfast & snack menus. The variety of products they offer meant there was something for everyone, regardless of dietary restrictions, and we all had fun with our DIY Yogurt Parfait & Oatmeal Bar.
4. Invite people beyond your go-to group.
I love my blogging friends, but for this event wanted to bring together a new group, so that we could really expand our horizons and learn from each other. The bloggers who came – Ashley, Lauren, Kristin, Megan, Lindsay, Liz and Nikki – ranged from people I knew well to people I had only interacted with a little online. Not only did we gain new knowledge from each other, but we left the retreat with new friends. It’s rare that you get an opportunity to socialize with people outside your usual circle of friends in a casual, comfortable setting, so this was a real treat.
Group photo taken by Jay Roberts
5. Mix indulgent meals with light, fresh fare.
You know those vacations where you get home and feel like you need to eat vegetables for a week just to be able to button your pants again? Those aren’t my favorite. So in between the truly spectacular meals Terranea arranged for us – at mar’sel and a private dining experience with Terranea’s executive chef – we made simple, healthy meals in our villa. I came home feeling pampered, yet not weighed down.
6. Make a schedule and keep track of time.
We had a lot to accomplish in two days, so we created a very specific agenda and timetable that everyone gave input on before our arrival. I wanted our time together to be productive but also leisurely, casual and fun, so I made sure to schedule in some downtime so we didn’t feel overwhelmed or behind.
7. Be a little bossy.
If you plan an event, you will by default be the leader. Don’t be afraid to take charge and keep things moving along. Women can get chatty ;), activities often take longer than you think, and sometimes a group just needs some direction. Gently keeping the group on track means you’ll be able to accomplish and enjoy so much more.
8. Provide some extra perks.
These bloggers flew to Los Angeles from all over the country, leaving families and jobs behind. So I wanted to ensure they didn’t just have fun, but also got a lot out of the retreat and felt it was worth their time. A couple activities I think we all found valuable – head shots with local photographer Jay Roberts and a “Brain Circle” where we all brainstormed solutions for each others’ challenges (as we dug into this table of goodies!).
9. Get input and ask for feedback.
During the planning process, I asked for input from the bloggers, brands and the Terranea team. I ran all my ideas by Liz – whose background is in travel & hospitality and is in general a wonderful resource – as well as other bloggers and friends who I thought might offer advice. Now that the retreat is over, I’m circling back with everyone to get more feedback, so that next time we do something like this, it might be even better.
This is not a sponsored post. All thoughts and opinions are 100% my own. Thank you to Terranea, Stonyfield and Nature’s Path for all you did to make this retreat such a fabulous experience.