For some entrepreneurs who attend events all the time, finding the difference between a conference, retreat and workshop can be a bit difficult.  They may look at every event as a conference, for example.  That’s not the case though.  These three events have specific purposes, specific goals to accomplish and a specific audience as well.

In the small business realm, I’ve only been to one workshop and I quickly learned then, there is a major difference.

This workshop was for the entrepreneur who needed to set some time aside, two days to be exact, to work specifically on their business and get some things in order.  We had a workbook, reviewed our goals, made new goals, mapped out content, made visionary plans and so forth.  It was the time that we needed to really dig deep and get specific things accomplished or written down within our business.  

This event only had 12 attendees.  The tight-knit group provided for quality feedback and a bond that you may not necessarily receive at a conference.  

Without further adieu, here are the major differences between the three events.

EventConference
DefinitionA formal meeting of people with a shared interest, typically one that takes place over several days.  Convention, summit.
Why Attend Attend a conference to be inspired, network, engage, be energized.

Conferences tend to have a larger amount of people with several speakers.  Sometimes there is a keynote speaker and breakout speakers who take over different sessions or workshops that are smaller in number.  It’s not too much physical movement going around and the attendees are usually in place until break or lunch/dinner time.  It’s mostly one-sided in terms of the speaker making their presentation and the attendees listening and taking notes.  Because of the number of speakers and large crowd, attendees tend to leave with information overload, too much content and very overwhelmed.  I’ve seen come conferences do this and I think it’ll soon become a trend, offer a group program after the conference that helps to break down and implement everything attendees learned.  Pretty cool right? 

EventRetreat
DefinitionA quiet or secluded place in which one can rest, relax or use for prayer or meditation.  Haven, resort.
Why Attend Attend a retreat to relax, rejuvenate, revitalize, reflect on the past, recharge, refocus.

Retreats are a wonder, I gotta tell ya.  It’s amazing to hear folks talk about them after they’ve attended one.  I haven’t had the opportunity yet, but retreats should be exactly what they say they are.  It’s a very special event where you experience the best of both worlds – work and relaxation.  Retreats have two sides and that’s on purpose.  It’s the perfect blend between reflecting and recharging but getting some work completed as well.  It’s not heavy work but it’s an opportunity to make strides in your business.  Retreats are also held in retreat-like areas.  The location is usually tucked away somewhere that’s calming and retreat-like – an antique home in the woods with a running stream nearby, a beach house on a beautiful coast or a cabin in the mountains with stellar views.  This event is usually one to three speakers but I’ve seen retreats where it had more of a speaker lineup like a conference.  Retreats live up to their name when they’re filled with activities such as yoga, meditation, exercise, nature walks, etc.

EventWorkshops
DefinitionA meeting at which a group of people engage in an intensive talk or activity on a particular subject or project.  Discussion group, class.
Why Attend Attend a workshop to learn, implement, plan, get hands-on training.

Workshops are the best, in my book.  It’s a decision you made to spend money for alone time in your business.  It’s you doing the hard work.  It’s why you purchased that ticket, right?  You budgeted time away from family, friends, clients, customers and other responsibilities so that you can get some work done on your business.  This is the main focus of a workshop.  They come in different varieties, as well.  There are workshops that target artistic entrepreneurs such as photographers, makers, designers, painters, etc. who want to take their craft to another level and there are workshops that target service-based entrepreneurs such as virtual assistants, lawyers, coaches, etc. who want to work on and uplevel their business.  So remember that:  workshops for artistic entrepreneurs, workshops for service-based entrepreneurs.

So now that you have this information, now what?  Don’t just attend an event for the sake of attending an event.  What are the most pressing needs in your business?  Will this event help to solve it?  Am I only going because my friends are there?