Contracts 101

 

Event planning and contracts … the two go hand in hand. For seasoned event planners, contracts are often second nature. For new event planners, contracts can seem daunting with the legal jargon. This blog post is here to help.

What is a contract?
A contract is simply defined as an agreement between two or more parties. It is legally binding in a court of law. Contracts are in place to protect both parties.

Do I have to sign a contract?
Yes! If a company doesn’t offer you a contract, request one. This is your safety net when it comes to executing your event.

Who signs the contract?
This can be a little harder to clearly define since your church or organization might have rules set in place. Make sure to contact those in leadership positions within your organization prior to signing a contract. The person signing may be held financially responsible.

What should event contracts include?
It is not uncommon to have contracts with multiple entities. Depending on your event logistics, you may have contracts with a venue, hotel, guest speaker, worship band, rental companies, catering companies, etc.

Every contract should include dates and rates. Dates can include the actual event date plus any type of cancellation policies. For contracts with speakers or bands, clearly defined travel arrangements should be included. Contracts with musicians and some speakers also come with riders, documents explaining technical and hospitality needs. Rental and catering companies should include specific items requested and set-up/tear-down times, as well as dates to give a final guest guarantee. Housing contracts should include room types and dates pertaining to when and how room blocks can be adjusted (and any related financial impact).

In addition, all contracts should have an “Acts of God” or “force majeure” clause in the event a natural occurrence cancels or significantly alters an event.

What makes a contract binding?
In the past, verbal contracts were solidified by a handshake, or, if the parties really wanted to reach an agreement, the handshake might include spitting on the hand prior to the shake. Thankfully, spitting on hands isn’t a common practice today. Contracts are fully executed once signed by both parties. In some cases, a deposit might be required, as well.

What should I do before I sign a contract?
READ IT. All OF IT. And read it again. Know what you are committing yourself to before signing the agreement. Be detailed as you go through each section. Have another person read it, as well. As you work with contracts from different entities, cross reference them to make sure there are no discrepancies. For example, if your venue states you cannot bring in outside food, yet your worship band requires a certain type of food in their green room, you’ll need to make sure the catering company through the venue will be able to provide that and at what cost. Read it … and read it again!

What should I do after I sign a contract?
Keep a copy on file to refer to as needed. Also, go through each contract and note deadlines for various tasks. Schedule these on your calendar a week prior to when they are due in case you need to complete any additional work to meet that deadline. Deadlines could include room block adjustment dates, guarantees for catering, housing lists and room set-up forms turned in, and so on.

Event planners, don’t be afraid of contracts. Contracts are put in place to protect both you, your participants, and those you are working with. Realize they are legally binding, and you will be held to the terms of the agreement. Read them carefully. If you don’t understand something in the contract, ask prior to signing. Understand what you are committing to before you commit to it.

 

Ideas for Planning Unplanned Free Time

Free time can be both a blessing and a curse. On one hand, you want to give your participants time to rest and relax. On the other hand, downtime can lead some guests to ask, “What can I do now?”

Oftentimes, free time in an event schedule is intentional. This could take place in the afternoon after a morning of workshops or in the evening after the main session. As an event planner, it can be a challenge to know how much to plan or how much to “let happen” on its own.

Sometimes, however, downtime at a conference happens unexpectedly. Perhaps the hotel accommodations are not ready upon check-in. An activity may be rained out without an indoor alternative. Your main sessions may dismiss much sooner than expected.

A great option to have on hand for free time (both planned and unplanned) is an assortment of games to play. These can include board games or simply decks of cards. If you regularly host events, you might consider investing in a supply of games. Otherwise, you can ask some of your event team if they are willing to bring games from home or invite your guests to bring their favorites. If you are in need of ideas, here is a list of great group games that are easy to learn, easy to set-up, and easy to engage others:

  • Apples to Apples
  • 5 Second Rule
  • Bananagrams
  • Catch Phrase
  • Spot It
  • Decks of cards (Spoons, Hand and Foot, Crazy Eights, etc.)
  • Uno
  • Phase 10
  • Jenga
  • Blokus
  • Mexican Train Dominoes
  • Scattegories
  • Balderdash
  • A to Z
  • Rummikub

Some of your guests’ greatest memories may come from time spent around tables playing games after a day of teaching sessions. In the midst of the laughter and a little friendly competition, your guests can experience fellowship in a relaxed environment.

What are some of your favorite board games to play with a group of friends? Share them in the comment section below.

 

20 Ideas for Facebook Live

You’ve decided to utilize Facebook Live in order to market your upcoming event. Where do you go from here? Before making your first live stream, invite your team to a brainstorming session for content ideas. Determine how often and when you want to “go live.” Some videos might involve traveling to a particular location or meeting with a specific person, so developing a master plan will help you map out your marketing strategy.

Make your Facebook Live streams fun and inviting, yet informational and professional. These videos have the potential to draw prospective attendees to your event and enhance the excitement of those already registered.

If you’re having trouble coming up with ideas for live stream content, here are 20 to help you in the brainstorming process:

  1. Take your viewers on a tour of the venue, emphasizing a few of the main event spaces.
  2. Go live in the lobby of the hotel or other housing accommodations you will be using. If possible, interview a general manager or event host at the site for more information about the lodging.
  3. Find a local coffee shop your guests may want to visit and do a live feed onsite.
  4. Interview your keynote speaker about the upcoming event and answer questions live.
  5. Explore different workshops you will offer, providing a short description of each one.
  6. Talk to various workshop teachers about the content they will discuss during their sessions.
  7. Interview your worship leader. As a bonus, see if he or she will perform a song during your live feed.
  8. Showcase merchandise that will be available for sale at your event.
  9. Highlight an activity your group may participate in during the event.
  10. If your event will have a special themed night where participants can dress up, emphasize that by wearing an appropriate costume while discussing your themed night. This will give attendees an idea of what to wear.
  11. Do a “behind the scenes” video while setting up for your event at the venue.
  12. Offer a challenge for your attendees prior to the conference via Facebook Live. Have a special prize for those who complete the challenge.
  13. Highlight someone packing for your conference to help attendees know what to bring.
  14. Introduce your event team.
  15. Interview someone who has been to the event before.
  16. Host a live Q & A session about your upcoming event.
  17. Walk viewers through your event schedule.
  18. Let viewers know the heart behind your event. What makes it special to you?
  19. Showcase a special cause your event supports.
  20. Show viewers how to register for your event.

What ideas do you have for Facebook Live content? Share in the comments section below!

 

Tips for Using Facebook Live to Market Your Event

 

Social media is a great way to market an upcoming event. While there are seemingly countless ways to utilize Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, one of the easiest ways to reach your audience is through live video feed with Facebook Live.

Facebook Live is simple to use. After logging in to Facebook, click on “what’s on your mind” (where you would typically update your status). Click on “Live Video,” type a description, and, when you are ready, “Go Live!”

Facebook offers a few tips on its website when using Facebook Live. These tips are shared below, along with a few comments about how these can enhance your event marketing.

  1. Tell fans when you’re broadcasting ahead of time. Facebook recommends one day’s notice. This is a simple practice to put in place. The day prior, post when you will go live and include a teaser for what you will share.
  2. Go live when you have a strong connection. According to Facebook, Wi-Fi usually works best, but if this isn’t available, a 4G connection will be necessary. If your connection isn’t strong enough, you won’t be able to go live. Test your connection prior to going live, leaving enough time to find a new location if necessary.
  3. Write a catchy description before going live. Grab your audience’s attention by writing a catchy heading. This will appear in the news feed above the video.
  4. Ask viewers to subscribe to Live notifications. They can do this by tapping on the “Follow” button on current live videos or videos that have been live.
  5. Say hello to commentators by name; respond to their comments live. This tip is self-explanatory. If you are taking questions during a Facebook Live event, respond and use the commentator’s name. For example, if “Joe” asks a question, respond with, “Thanks for the question, Joe…”
  6. Broadcast for longer periods of time to reach more people. Facebook recommends at least 10 minutes. While this allows more viewers the chance to tune in live, as a viewer myself, I don’t always have this amount of time when the video is live. If using Facebook Live to market, vary the times, depending on the topic you are discussing. A few minutes could suffice.
  7. Use a closing line to signal the end of the broadcast. For example, you could close with, “Thanks for watching, and we’ll see you at ‘X’ event in ‘x’ days.” Include the event name and the latest countdown.
  8. Be creative and go live often. The possibilities are endless when it comes to content you can use to market an event on Facebook Live. If you plan to go live once a week for a few months prior to the event, you can build momentum and share quality information about your upcoming event.

In addition to these tips, here are a few of my own:

  1. Do a quick run through of your video before you hit “go live.” Live means live. Though you can delete a video after it is posted, you will lose the value of the live video and comments made.
  2. Use a tripod if available. No one wants to watch a shaky video.
  3. Choose a location free from distraction. Make sure the lighting is good. Record a brief video prior to going live. Review the video to see if the location chosen will work well for your Live event.

Stay tuned for our next blog post showcasing content ideas you can use for Facebook Live event marketing.

Ask the Expert: Creating an Event Website

I’m excited to share another installment of our “Ask the Expert” blog series. This week, we will dive into the world of website design. Jess Freeman is an Atlanta-based freelance graphic and web designer. She was named 2015 Gwinnett Chamber Young Entrepreneur of the Year. Jess is a great resource for designing event websites.

  1. I’m planning a retreat for the first time. I want to have a website to share with those who are interested. Where do I start?
    First, you’ll want to decide if you want to use Squarespace or WordPress for your website – there are other platforms, but these two are the most reputable and the easiest to use. Squarespace comes pre-loaded with themes you can choose; you would need to buy a WordPress theme. Then, you’ll need to choose a domain name. This should be no more than 15 characters long.

    The content of your website needs to be organized and flow in a way that makes sense. I always recommend having one to two buttons on each page that will direct the user to the next right step. The buttons will save users from having to scroll back to the top of the page and guide them through your content.

  1. I don’t have pictures from previous events, but I think pictures are important. Where can I find quality stock images at a moderate price?
    Images are indeed very important because they help convey emotion and connect with the viewers. One of the most popular stock photo websites is istockphoto.com, but you will have to do some searching to find photos that aren’t too cliché. CreativeMarket is also a popular resource with more affordable photos but less selection.

    Depending on the type of retreat, you may be able to use free stock photos. Now, to be clear, this does not mean going to Google Images and grabbing pictures – that could get you in a lot of legal trouble. However, there are royalty-free websites like Unsplash.com that have hundreds of great photos that are totally free to use.

    You could also try to work with a local photographer and do a little photo shoot for your website. It’s unlikely they would be able to (or want to) do it for free, but they may be up for a trade! For example, maybe you could list them as a sponsor and put their business card in a swag bag in exchange for some discounted services.

  1. What tips can you give when creating a website name?
    Names can be tricky because it can really set the tone for the event. It’s always best to keep it clear and simple rather than trying to be cute and clever. For example, my church has a “Walking Wisely Weekend” for middle school students. The alliteration makes it fun but still easy to remember. If they ever wanted to create a separate website, it would be easy to leave off “weekend” for a shorter domain.
  1. Is it possible for guests to register and pay online for the event? Any tips on how to do that?
    Thankfully, it is easy to have people register for events right on your website! For Squarespace users, you can set up a “product” as the event registration and get the names and emails of all customers. For WordPress, there are many plugins that can handle this – Event Registration, Event Espresso, Events Manager and many more.

    Another option is to use Eventbrite, a third-party platform. Some prefer Eventbrite because you can send “invitations” to people, you can enable specific seating at your event (like concert seats) and you can integrate it with Facebook. But, of course, they do take a percentage of your sales.

  1. How can I link Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and other social media to my page?
    Squarespace lets you connect your social media profiles and pages seamlessly. You’ll just need to “login” through Squarespace and an icon will appear on your website. For WordPress, it’s also very easy to integrate your social media with the help of plugins. Most of the time, however, your theme will have a spot for you to put links to your social media.

    I don’t recommend displaying social media feeds (like Facebook and Twitter) on your website. This was a popular thing to do many years ago, but it generally makes your site look cluttered and dated. Instagram is one exception, since it is pictures only – but this should be considered carefully, as you want to make sure the photos don’t clash with your website.

    Something I do recommend is having share buttons on your website. This enables people to share your site or your blog posts with just a click of a button. SumoMe and ShareThis are popular plugins that I use with most of my clients.

  1. What are some of your best tips when creating a website?
    One of my favorite tips to tell people is to limit yourself to three colors and three fonts. That doesn’t mean you have to use all three of either, but limit yourself! This will truly help your site feel more cohesive and look professional. Having fewer choices will also speed up the design process because you won’t feel as overwhelmed with options.

    As far as events and ministries go, it’s always important to make sure you’re not too insider-focused. Even if it’s a women’s retreat that you think only current members will want to come to, what if they decided to share it on Facebook and invite friends? The messaging is going to influence whether or not they feel welcome at the event.

A big thank you to Jess for sharing some great information about event website design. You can learn more about Jess and gain even more graphic design wisdom at jesscreatives.com.

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