New Season Planning Sesh

by on Sep 13 '17

Do you have a pre-season studio planning ritual? No, we’re not talking about a candlelit, sage-smudging ceremony…although, hmmm, is that a thing we should consider?! Rather, do you have any traditions for getting yourself and your team ready for a new season?

For us, we always hold one-on-one meetings with each of our staff members to cover expectations, individual goals, and other details for the year. In addition, we also host a big collective staff meeting to bring everyone together to discuss the upcoming year, review policies and have fun!

This year, to launch our 25th season, we took our pre-season planning to another level and hosted a full-on teacher retreat…taking our Road Trip to Studio Success to a literal level with a fun + special 2-day retreat in the mountains! We are so amazed, proud and honestly a little scared of all the productivity that came out of these two days! We used the time to reinforce our studio values, discuss curriculum, brainstorm, set goals, and of course to bond with each other and have some fun!

Even though most studios have already kicked off your new season, it’s never too late to do some focused planning if you haven’t already done so. Even if you don’t have two full days to dedicate to it, a productive half-day session could be plenty of time to nail down some goals and map out a plan for your new season.

We’re sharing our agenda and a few highlights with you in hopes some or all of our sessions might spark ideas for your own planning retreat!

Day 1

1:00-6:00p.m.: Arrivals to our cabin (sadly no one dropped in by helicopter on our cabin’s (gasp!) helicopter pad!), bonding time at the pool, and a few one-off meetings.

6:00p.m.: Toast to Season 25 and welcome dinner! We said cheers to 25 years with some bubbly, then had yummy food catered in to save ourselves time in prepping, cooking and cleaning. It was so worth it!

Cheers to 25 Years!

7:00p.m.: Group photos and gift bag time! We gifted each of our staff members a spark*source planner to help them in mapping out their own goals for the year, iTunes gift cards to find fresh new music for their classes, a fun, branded “#iteachatrhythm keychain and a few other fun items. Of course, we also #wowcarded each of them from our new WOW Cards v2.

7:30p.m.: We kicked off our official meeting by reviewing five of our studio’s key values. We are so lucky to have a staff who embraces and embodies our values on a daily basis, but it is always a great idea to reiterate and reinforce.

8:00p.m.: Next, spark*source time! We gave everyone a few minutes to work in the Get It, Goal! section of their new spark*source to spark a discussion on each person’s individual goals. Specifically, we had them write down their Hoorays, Oops, Ahas and Eye Rolls from the previous year. This helps to set the framework for what they want to continue, change or accomplish for this season. We then went around the room for each person to share what they wrote…this led to an incredible group discussion.

9:30p.m.: Review Staff Expectations! Each year, we update and verbally review all of our staff expectations and each staff members signs an acknowledgement of their understanding. This helps to prevent any misunderstandings or miscommunications throughout the year.

Day 2

9:00a.m.: Coffee & Continental breakfast!

10:00a.m.: Group discussion! For this session, we held a meeting with all staff to discuss and develop guidelines and expectations for our teacher’s assistants.

11:00-4:00p.m.: Break-Out Sessions and Focus Groups! These sessions proved to be extremely valuable to our retreat! We held  45-minute sessions on every dance style we offer with all of the teachers who teach that style. We reviewed curriculum, shared ideas, discussed recital choreography and more. Each session was documented in Google Docs and shared with all the teachers.

Concurrent to the class sessions, for those who don’t teach the style we were meeting about, we also held additional focus groups on various topics, including:

  • Team-Building Ideas
  • Recital Themes
  • Front Desk Staff
  • Hashtag suggestions for our Season 25
  • Adult Classes
  • Music

4:00-5:00p.m.: Recap discussion of “other” focus groups! Since not everyone was able to be in each of the “other” focus groups, we brought the group together to review the notes for each session, discuss them further and determine next steps.

5:oo-7:00p.m.: Free time!

7:00p.m.: Dinner! Again, we had it catered to keep things as simple as possible for us!

8:30p.m.: Everything Recital! To conclude our jam-packed retreat, we ended the evening with a long discussion about recital…what we loved, what we didn’t love and where we can improve. It was a productive discussion that produced lots of ideas, suggestions and action items. Then, the rest of the evening was spent hanging out, laughing and bonding.

Throughout our two-day event, we had a few other activities that were not part of the agenda, but asked each person to do on their own when they had time:

  • Hip Hip Hooray Window! We designated this window in our cabin as the idea window. We provided sticky notes and asked anyone who had a big idea or suggestion to write it down and stick it on the wall. We recorded and are still perusing all of the ideas everyone gave us…lots of good stuff!

  • Compliments & Critiques! We gave each staff member two index cards and asked them to write a compliment to the studio on one of them and a critique of constructive criticism to the studio on the other. The request for compliments was not so that we could pat ourselves on the back, but rather to identify the things that we need to keep doing. Sometimes, you may not realize something you are doing is making such a big impact on someone, so it helps to hear those things. And, we won’t lie! We were super nervous to read the critiques, and some of them were indeed hard to swallow. But, we know that in order to improve and continue to be successful, we need to be open-minded and aware of our improvement opportunities. We need to listen. And, we appreciate the honesty and openness from our staff!

The staff put their compliments in the “Everyday I’m Hustlin” Box and their critiques in the “I Literally Can’t Even” box!

  • Words of Affirmation! Everyone loves a compliment, and we thought it would be great for the staff to share a few words of praise to each other. So, we designated spaces on the walls with each staff member’s name, and, over the course of the the two days, each staff member wrote a few words or brief message on a sticky note and posted next to each staff member’s name. At the end of the event, each person got to read and take home all their kind messages to keep as a reminder of how awesome they are!

The following morning, we woke up early to pack up, leave and start another busy work day and another dance season. But, we left better than we arrived, more organized, more united and more ready to conquer what lies ahead for us this year!

We hope that you can use some of these ideas to help create a productive planning session for your staff that leads to a successful dance season for your studio! We’d love to hear from you about your pre-season planning rituals, even the ones involving aura cleansing! Let us know in the comments below or send us a message!



  • Amazing! Love you people!!! You know I would have brought the sage and crystals had I been there.

  • Do you do any teacher conventions for studio owners? I would love to attend!!!

    • Hi Paulette! You are so kind! At this time, we do not offer seminars for studio owners, but it’s something we are considering for the future. We will keep you posted on our blog and social media if we decide to take that step! Thanks so much for reading our blog! 🙂

  • Your ideas sound so fun and productive! I have tried to do a smaller version of the teacher retreat, but always have 1 or 2 that don’t come because they have conflicts. Any suggestions?

    • Hi Joy! Thanks for reading our blog! Conflicts can be challenging. We pay our staff for their time there…they have an admin rate which is lower than their teaching rate. This helps some. Also, we try to make it a super fun get away that they want to attend! We also sent a save the date several months in advance, and while attendance was technically not mandatory, it was highly encouraged. Everyone couldn’t stay the entire time, but most were there for the key meetings and discussions. Best of luck to you this season!!

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