Once you’re ready to host retreats and other multi-day events, you’ll want to get really good at building community. I have a number of key tips that work for me.
Building Rapport is Different From Building Community
If you are someone who hosts any kind of event, you have to build a community. I often talk about the importance of building rapport with your audience. That’s important when you’re speaking. But building rapport with your audience is temporary. It’s basically one-sided. It’s you building rapport with them. It is not Building Community.
“Building rapport is temporary. Building a community is permanent.”
What is Community?
A community is something you continually build. With my mastermind, I am always building our community. I continually ask my members questions and have all members share. You can build a community well virtually, but it’s even stronger when you’re in person at retreats and multi-day live events.
How to Build Community at a Live Event
When you do a live event and, or retreat, you need to build community. So what do you do? First, you create the space. You know your goal is to build community with everybody. You want to get your attendees engaged which is similar to building rapport. To do that, you let them share. Whatever the topic is, spend the first 30 minutes letting your attendees share. A very popular way to share is to ask ‘What do you want out of the event?’ We’ve all heard that. We’ve all done it. Well, I like to change things up. I ask, “What miracle do you want to have happen this week?”
Instead of saying, what do you wanna walk away with, I ask what miracle would you like to have?
This question goes deeper and is great for advanced trainings. It really helps deepen the results they will get. Because to be a great speaker, you have to find out what’s inside your heart. Especially after you learn the systems, formulas, and foundations I teach, you get better by getting real. If you wanna get in the zone, it takes work and it takes more training.
At a recent retreat I hosted, we talked about what miracle would you like to have. What miracle and what are your fears? Let’s just tackle those fears. Not only fears of speaking but what are those fears that you’re facing that are preventing you from getting the miracle that you want? What is something in your head? Is it that self-talk? And then the third thing is, what is your resistance? You see, resistance is different than fear. Fear might be, you know you’re afraid to step on the stage because you’re afraid you’ll forget what you’re gonna say or it might be fear that you’re gonna look stupid, foolish, be judged all that stuff. But resistance is you’re not feeling that fear anymore and you’re still not taking action. Why is that? Oftentimes it’s the resistance that’s more subconscious than anything else.
Be a Catalyst for Miracles
Many years ago my mentor used to tell me to put on a one-day event. I had the database. I wasn’t afraid. There’s no fear there, but I wasn’t doing it. Why? I had resistance. My mentor told me in January to host the event and all of a sudden now it’s December and I hadn’t done it. I began to get worried he might not want to be my mentor anymore. I might disappoint him. That feeling was bigger than my resistance. So I did it. He recommended just getting 50 chairs, and don’t worry about it. Do a free event. A hundred and thirty-eight people attended. There was standing room only and I made $11,000. Boom! In one day. I could have been making a ton more. I could have had four or five events in that year, but resistance stopped me. I had to go and find out what that resistance was. Turns out it was buried deep and related to a childhood incident. The only way to let it go was to bring this up to my conscious. And I got there because my mentor had me talk about it.
Community building happens because of the questions you ask. As a facilitator, if you only ask what would you like to get out of this weekend, that’s all you’re going to get. In other words, if you ask a surface question, you get surface answers. But when you go deeper and ask, what’s stopping you? Fear? What’s that resistance? Then you can have your attendees go deeper and resolve what’s in their way.
The power is in the questions that you start with to build that community.
Create A Safe Environment
If you want to build a strong community, you’ve gotta create a safe environment. One of the other things I say at the beginning of an event before people begin sharing is that all that is said stays in the room. This sets the tone for a safe place. Then people can do their introspection, be honest, move out of their heads to their hearts and into their guts, and express themselves freely. You won’t get the answers without it creating that safe place at which your community can work.
Have Your Attendees Build Community with Each Other
The next thing you want to do is have your audience build community with each other. How do you do that? You break them into groups of two, not three yet. You can do three, but it depends on the work you’re doing. Start with groups of two just so they could meet each other and work together. Then debrief by asking a couple of groups of two to share. You can’t have everybody share because it would be too many people and would take too long.
Then, I usually make everyone choose a different partner so they get a second connection. That’s not a new idea, but it works. They were in a safe place, I had built a community with everyone and then I had them share stories and receive coaching.
Eating together, breaking bread, and talking are also great ways to build community together. We will also pray together. At a recent event, I had those that were comfortable, say the prayer so it wasn’t me doing all of the praying. I will also involve others with interesting expertise to contribute to the event. They may lead some spot training. For example, one of my attendees is a trained Laughter Yoga practitioner so she led a quick training. Another attendee did some video training.
Be Intentional with Your Events
You never want to wing it at an event. Every activity I do is planned. I work on events and my retreats mentally and emotionally for weeks. I have an agenda that is like a giant speech. Where I have my sandwiches of speeches with meat planned out in between the slices of bread.
Building community is not about barreling through the material. I build in some “crazy activities” to do together. It breaks up the energy and adds an element of fun. Every afternoon we had an outing. We went out to a variety of restaurants. One night we went dancing. We got a chance to let our hair down. Of course, I didn’t drink but it was a great time to be social and energize the group.
Stay Connected During Networking and Social Times
At the end of the day, other facilitators will say, “Goodnight you guys go have fun.” They don’t spend time networking with the group. The group then builds a community without you. The next morning they try to step in and they don’t know what’s going on. They become the odd man out and have to spend a lot of energy reconnecting and that’s tough.
You have to eat with them, party with them, go to the show, the movie, whatever activity you’re doing with them. It’s a mistake that happens when a facilitator is just focused on doing their program. Without your audience, there is no program. You’re part of the community. You’re leading the community every day.
I often include optional outings. For example, we took a walk or a run to Starbucks. One gal that was a runner, she and I ran, and then some others preferred to walk. There were an extra couple of people, who wanted to stay and sleep in a little bit. That’s okay. Giving them choices helps to support the community we built with each other.
Create a community, but remember you are the main person in that community. You don’t want them to create it without you. Otherwise, they don’t need you as a facilitator.
Stay in Control of Your Community
If a discussion starts that goes off-topic or takes the energy down, you must redirect it otherwise your community gets fragmented. It is valuable to get trained on how to handle difficult people as well.
Give Gifts and Extend Your Community
At the beginning of my recent retreat, I gave everyone a gift and thank you note. And we talked about what was in that gift. I explained that there were certain things in that gift that they would use throughout the retreat. What I did was anchor them to that gift package.
Then during the event, I let them know there was an extra gift that they could give to someone else. It was a stone with a word on it. And I had a powerful exercise they were to share with their gift recipient as part of that gift. This is a great way for your community to build community with others outside of your own community. In fact, it extends your community because the stories come back to you.
If you’d like to build community and your business, let’s talk about how you can start. Grab a spot on my calendar here: https://calendly.com/arveerobinson/30min