Hosting Your Speakers And Worship Leaders, Part One

You may have heard stories of celebrities with crazy requests when they come to a venue.  A bowl of M&M’s with all of the brown ones taken out.  Only white flowers in the hotel room.   A refrigerator in the dressing room with a glass door.  While these requests are on the extreme side, certain high-profile talent require things of this nature when they perform.

It’s highly doubtful you have had to deal with requests on this scale, but as an event planner, you should strive to host your speakers and worship leaders with excellence.  I recently spoke with various worship leaders and speakers and asked them to share three things a host (church, conference, organization, etc.) could do to make their experience the best possible one.  Their answers were surprisingly very similar.

The one thing each person I spoke with listed was good communication.  They offered great suggestions on what types of things they like to receive in advance.

  • “Communication prior to the event is huge.  I love being able to connect with the pastor/speaker beforehand.  This helps me form my worship sets and allows us to be on the same page walking into the event rather than scrambling to move pieces around last minute.  It’s also great to hear the vision of the event and what we’re trying to accomplish so I can begin to wrap my heart around it.” – Jarrod, worship leader
  • “A complete schedule of the event day(s) is very helpful, directions to the event venue, how long you want the music to be each service, a list of songs that your church is used to singing and may know…all are important.  In addition, take time to verify all hotels are paid for in advance, rental cars are paid for, etc.” – Chris, worship leader
  • “It is very helpful for me to plan my trip by knowing exactly when I need to be there and when the event is concluded.  It is also very helpful to know the subject matter pretty far out. If there is a general topic and you will allow me great freedom on what I will speak on that is good.  But, if someone wants to give more specific guidance (certain scripture passages, highlighting the theme, etc.) then communicate that as soon as possible.  If you have certain expectations for evangelistic appeal, then share that also.” – Sam, conference speaker
  • “Have clear, simple and easy communication available not only before the event but also during the event!” – Gerald, worship leader

It is evident excellent communication is a very important part of preparation for everyone involved with the event.  Stay tuned for part two of this discussion with worship leaders and speakers as they share other important things they desire from their conference hosts.

Commit to This Mid-Year Resolution

It’s hard to find time to stay healthy. It takes daily scheduling and effort, both of which can be difficult to muster in our busy lives! But if you don’t commit to being a good steward of yourself- your spiritual and physical health, you will feel the consequences. And they won’t be enjoyable. So if you’re willing to make a mid-year resolution, to spend a little time each day on YOUR health, here are some tips to help you move forward.

  1. Read a chapter of Proverbs each day for a month. There are 31 chapters in this “book of wisdom” so you can just find the number that matches up with the date and get started. After you read, spend five or ten minutes writing out your thoughts and prayers. It helps you focus, and later you can go back and see how God has moved and answered.
  2. Get walking. Maybe you’ve been avoiding exercise because you can’t afford a gym membership, you don’t have the right clothes, or your schedule is too packed to fit in the class you want to take. Just start walking! No special equipment, memberships or time slots. You’ll be amazed at how good it feels to be outside and moving. The benefits of walking daily are numerous, from lowering your cholesterol, to trimming fat, to preventing disease, dementia and osteoporosis.
  3. Stop stopping at the drive-thru. Convenience food is absolutely the worst option for your health. It’s easy, but loaded with sugar, salt, food dyes, fat, etc. But you probably can’t have home-prepared meals ready every time you need to eat, so what do you do? Locate grocery stores in your area with a salad bar or cafe. We have a local spot that offers a fresh salad and fruit bar, plus four different hot soups from 7 am until 9 pm. In the time it would take you to drive through, you can pop in, build a healthy meal, and pop out. For those new to the salad bar world, be sure to include a protein, like beans or grilled chicken on your salad, to give you the energy to get through to the next meal.

Will you make a mid-year’s resolution to commit some time to your health? It will pay big dividends in energy and well-being in the weeks ahead. You are precious to our God, and are called to be a steward of your resources, which includes– you. What do you do to stay spiritually and physically healthy?

Event Prizes to Fit Your Budget

Drawings, contests and raffles for prizes can be a fun element added to a conference.  Depending on the types of prizes you secure, these giveaways can be a high-energy, exciting part of your large group session times.  After all, everyone likes to win a free gift!

You might have been to conferences where they are giving away things such as iPads and hotel stays.  How can you obtain prizes for your events that won’t break your budget?  You would be amazed what people will donate if you just do one simple thing…ask.

Here are some tips to utilize as you ask organizations, companies and/or individuals to donate gifts to be given away at your events:

  • Make a list of restaurants, stores and attractions to call to request donations.  Often these types of places will donate gift certificates or smaller items to be used as prizes.  Recruit a team of volunteers to call or visit these places, as this can be a time consuming process.  Think about the dynamics of your group as you seek out giveaways – if the participants are coming from many different locations, make sure these places are not local to one specific area.
  • Utilize social media such as Facebook and Twitter to reach people who may have ties to different organizations.
  • Ask your speakers and band for copies of their books (if applicable), CDs, t-shirts and other merchandise they may sell.
  • Ask people on your team to seek out people they may know that can donate items.  It’s surprising to find out who people might have connections with among your team.
  • Suggest to donors that their business or organization will be advertised as you give their prizes away.  You can include this in a “thanks to our donors” section of your conference information and from the stage as winners are announced.
  • If individuals or organizations donate money, use this to purchase larger prizes such as an iPad.
  • Have an idea of what you might want someone to donate, but don’t be discouraged if the donation does not match your expectation.  On the other hand, you might be surprised at what some places are willing to donate.  (For example, I once called a chain restaurant for donations, and they gave 100 $10 gift cards to their restaurants for prizes!)
  • Always, always, always send thank you notes after you receive their donations!

As I have been told all of my life, “You never know unless you ask!”  What’s the worst that could happen?  Someone might say “no”, and then you move on!

Beyond the “Hello, My Name Is…”

We recently blogged about effectively designing name badges.  When done right, name badges can be a great tool for your event.  When done incorrectly, they can be a distraction and something attendees purposefully “forget” to wear.  Name badges are often considered a necessary evil, but they don’t have to be!

Here are a few ways you can utilize name badges for more than their intended purpose.

  1. Meal Tickets.  If the event is being held in a location requiring meal tickets for entry into the dining facility, consider using name badges to serve that purpose.  Talk with the event host to see if this is a possibility.  This is best utilized if the entire group is on the same meal schedule; however, there are ways to differentiate between guests with varying meal plans.  Consider a different color lanyard or name badge background for each meal plan.
  2. VIPs.  Do you have particular guests that might need “special attention?”  Perhaps these people can charge items on the conference tab, such as at the location’s coffee shop or office center.  Certain guests might need easy access to backstage areas or the green room.  Attach a badge ribbon or sticker to the name badge of these people in order to differentiate them from other attendees.
  3. Small Groups.  Will guests break out into pre-arranged small groups during the event?  Note the group an attendee will be in on the corner of the name badge.  This will take a little extra preparation time, but it is an easy way to quickly divide into groups.  (How many times have you tried to number off a group only to find half of the people forget their number by the end of the line?  This is a helpful way to solve that dilemma!)

Name badges serve a primary purpose:  they tell us your name.  With a little creativity, however, you can make use of these conference staples for additional purposes.  Keep these two things in mind if you want to go “beyond the name badge.”  First, too much information can distract from the name.  Choose one or two extras to add, if needed.  Second, and most importantly, the key in successful extra uses of a name badge is communication between your leadership and your event host location.  For example, don’t assume you can use name badges as meal tickets without talking with the host location.  (And, if you are the host location, make sure you communicate with the dining facility if the typical meal ticket required is done differently.)

Have you used name badges for something extra in an event?  If so, share those ideas with us in the comments section.

Ideas for Fall Retreat Decorations

Autumn harvest with Farmers Vegetables and  fruitsAs my daughter and I were playing at a park the other day, we spent a lot of time picking up acorns off the ground.  These weren’t your average acorns, though.  They were some of the biggest ones I had ever seen.  They were beautiful.  I couldn’t help but think of all the fun ways to use these in fall decorations.  My daughter had different plans for them, as they made great objects to toss into the stream nearby.

Next to Christmas events, I think conferences and retreats during the fall months can be some of the easiest to decorate.  Here are a few ideas on items to use as you plan your decorations:

Pumpkins are probably the most-used fall decoration, but there are many ways to use them for your stage, entryways, table centerpieces and more.  Combine pumpkins of different shapes, sizes and colors to create a beautiful fall arrangement.  Pumpkins can also be carved in very creative ways.  Gone are the days of a simple snaggle tooth face carved in a pumpkin.  Utilize geometric patterns, etching and stencils to create simple or intricate designs.  Consider carving or painting your group logo on a pumpkin on the registration table.
Use various types of containers to fill with fall decorations.  These can include wheelbarrows, harvest baskets, barrels, pumpkins with the tops carved out, wash tins and baskets filled with burlap overlays.
Fall provides vivid colors as leaves change from greens to reds, yellows and oranges.  Either real or artificial leaves can be used to enhance decorations.  Chrysanthemums, or mums, are one of the most popular fall flowers.  Pots of mums in vibrant colors can be found at most supermarkets, home improvement stores and nurseries.  (You can also give these away at the end of your events to volunteers and team members.)
Acorns, squash, gourds and apples can also add to your fall decorations.  These can be arranged in smaller groupings to showcase an array of fall colors.
Hay bales are a great way to add height to your stage decorations.  Keep in mind they are quite messy, so make sure to place something under them for easier transfer.  Your clean-up crew will greatly thank you for this!

Whatever your decoration style, fall provides a time for beautiful arrangements in brilliant colors.  Your guests will definitely notice these little touches you may provide throughout your event.

What are your favorite fall decoration ideas?  Share in the comments section below!

How To Foster Face to Face Interactions

Do you think we are more or less dependent on community than we were 50 years ago?  I would say less. Technology, a higher level of job turnover and migration, plus more available outsourcing means we can go weeks, or months, without needing others.

But we still do. I would argue that we are created to be a part of community, whether we acknowledge that need or not. Some people feel that need more deeply than others. But it exists in all of us. So, how can we foster community and face to face interaction between people who attend our events?

  • Small group discussions. Divide people by the state or month they were born in, or their age or profession. Sometimes its great to have a wide variety of ages in a group, other times it’s comforting to be introduced to people who are in your same life stage. Have groups of 6 to 10 discuss the main session that just closed, or what they are learning from the event. Keeping the group smaller than ten will ensure everyone has a chance to talk.
  • Prayer. If you are hosting a faith based event, prayer can be a wonderful way to nourish community. You can break into pairs, or into small groups. Give an “assignment” so that participants aren’t left wondering what to do. For example: “let’s spend some time in prayer for those around us in daily life who don’t know God. Break into small groups of two or three, and pray for the people in your life who are without the hope of Christ. In about five minutes, I’ll close us in prayer.”
  • Brainstorming Challenges. In a room of 250 or less, you can ask groups of 6-10 to come up with answers or solutions to a question or challenge. This gets the group interacting, and provides you with valuable insight into the personality of the gathering. You might ask a large group to break into smaller groups and come up with the three biggest challenges in their ministry. Then, a group representative can come up (or shout out) their group answers for the entire assembly.

Individuals and larger communities can be a wonderful resource. They can give support, share similar experiences, and provide insight into challenges we are facing. Our society focuses on the individual, but you can help your event attendees experience and recognize the value of the people around them, by gently introducing and providing interaction with those in the seat beside them.