Beautiful and Unusual Spring Centerpieces

Springtime was a long time coming this year- at least in the North Carolina mountains where we live. I’m 189% ready to breath in the warmer air of spring and open all the windows in my house to blow away the woodsmoke and dust of winter.

vegetable-centerpieceSpringtime also brings lots of fresh possibilities for decorating, today we’ll focus on centerpieces. When planning a centerpiece for your next event, consider:

  1. Unusually presented flowers. Add something unexpected to the vase like cut fruit or even whole carrots. Or ditch the vase all together and use teacups, ball jars, cabbage leaves, watering cans, or umbrellas.
  2. Let the changing landscape inspire you. Spring brings herbs, butterflies, bees, birds nests, budding branches, and bright green grass. Use one or two of these items to create a surprising centerpiece. You might need to try several combination to hit on something that is aesthetically pleasing. Try it out before you buy/collect enough for every table.
  3. Spring activities. What does Spring find you enjoying? Walks in rain boots, collecting flowers, gardening with gloves and trowel, watching birds with bird book in hand, painting with watercolors outside, or building a bluebird house? It can be fun and surprising to collect some of these tools and display them artistically.
  4. Books on Spring. I’m a book lover, and when I’m in a pinch, I can always go into my library and find a few books on almost any subject.  For a spring centerpiece I could bring down a gardening book, a birding book, and a travel book and surround them with some pastel candles. Lovely!
  5. Celebrate Easter by including a cross or relevant Scripture. There are so many arresting reproductions of the cross- or you can create your own with twigs and twine. (Don’t pair this with eggs. It’s a confusing combination of symbols.) Relevant Scripture on Christ’s resurrection can be beautifully scripted on thick pieces of paper and framed or folded to stand upright.

Do you have a favorite Spring centerpiece? Share a description or photo with us.

How To Create Your Own Social Media Promo Image in Photoshop

Sometimes, on Facebook and Pinterest you see an image with words imposed over it, that really catches your eye.  Today, I’m going to give you a quick tutorial on how to create these professional looking visuals that will steer people towards your site.

  1. Choose an image as your background. You want this to be interesting, not too busy, have “space” somewhere on it for the text you will be adding, and be representative of the topic. Save this image somewhere you will be able to find it.
  2. In Photoshop click File, then New.  Name it, and choose the canvas size.
  3. Now click File and select Place. Find the image you have saved and select it. Move it around on your blank canvas until it is exactly where you want it to be. Once you double click it will be set onto the canvas.
  4. Click the Shape Tool on the toolbar and select the rectangle tool. Draw the shape that will show behind your text. Now choose a color that complements your photo. In the Layers toolbar you can select opacity and slide it down until you like the effect. I like somewhere around 35%.
  5. Go to the text tool, draw the text box and add your text. Fiddle around with fonts until you love it. Be sure to include a minimum of words, remember, people will be scanning, not reading a paragraph.
  6. Save as, and then upload to your social media or website.

Here’s an example of an image that was used to draw people to a specific article on a company website.

frontdoorperfectcolor1

So what do you need to promote today? How might an image, inviting people to register or sign up to receive an information pack, be shared on Facebook, Pinterest, or other social media site? Enjoy experimenting.

Organizing a Fundraising Event

Unless you are hosting a group of multimillionaires, your fundraising event is not going to make much money.

What? You’ve poured hundreds of man hours into planning, and spent money on entertainment and, or a meal. So, why plan a fundraising event? To bring attention to a cause or organization and to establish and strengthen relationships with donors who will give over time.

To do this difficult work of establishing and strengthening relationships be sure to include the following items in your fundraising event:

  1. A call to action. Don’t let your attendees wonder what you want them to do. Sign up to volunteer one weekend in the next two months? Give money towards a specific goal?  Make this clear!
  2. Multiple ways to get involved. People’s health, schedule, financial and family circumstances limit and gift them in different ways. Do you have multiple opportunities for people to get involved with the cause or organization? A mother with children may not be able to clear an entire Saturday to help, but she might be happy to come by your office and pick up envelopes to stuff for a big mailing. Vary the options for your volunteers.
  3. Nurture relationships with follow-up. As the fundraising event coordinator it may not be your job to follow-up with the attendees. But, even if it is not, be sure you get enough information from everyone that follow-up is possible. Fundraising is all about relationships. Call the people who give, sign-up, and volunteer. Thank them, take them out to lunch, ask why they are passionate about the cause and how they envision helping in the next 12 months.

Organizing a fundraising event comes with its own strategies and challenges.  I hope these tips will help make your next money-raising event a success!

How To Choose The Most Effect Promotional Items

The range of promotion materials you can have printed for your event is extensive.  But some event planners seem to fasten on to just one or two options and never venture away from them. Here’s a list of choices to get your creative juices flowing, it might be time to try something different.

  • Baseball cap
  • T Shirts
  • Polo Shirts
  • Lanyard
  • Coffee cups
  • Pens
  • Pencils
  • Golf balls
  • Bags
  • Magnets
  • Luggage tags
  • Stationary
  • Memory Stick
  • CD/DVD
  • Banner
  • Tent card
  • Key chain
  • Postcard
  • Memo pad
  • Sticker
  • Gift basket
  • Chocolate
  • Water bottles
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Umbrella
  • Calculator

So how do you decide what would be most effective? First, identify your end goal. What do you want to happen because of this piece of promo material? Do you want someone to advertise your event for you, or remember to go online and register? If you want someone to remember to register a memo pad with “Register online at www.greatevent.com” would be much more helpful than a T-Shirt with your event logo printed on it.
Where do you want your user to be when they interact with your information? Near a computer? In the kitchen? The answer to this question will help you choose your best specific promotional piece.

If you’re planning on giving out your promo material at a conference- think about the likely weather and activities. Will it be sunny and warm, is everyone golfing? Perhaps you could have your logo printed on a set of golf balls or water bottles.

If you have a very desirable or more expensive promo item, you could require an action from your visitors before giving them the piece. For example- filling out a survey or watching a one minute video and answering three questions to “earn” the item.  Remember, your goal is not just to come up with the “coolest” promo item, but to find one that is desirable, useful and moves people to accomplish the action you want them to take. Keep track of an item’s success, and build on what you learn after each event.

Creating a Great Stage Design, Part Two

In continuation of our last blog post about creating great stage designs, Jordon Rudesill, Director of Service Programming at The Journey Church, shares insights into designing effective, portable stages for your next retreat.  Here are the last four key points I learned from our discussion.

studio in old wooden room

  1. Utilize various materials for different stage sets.  Coroplast sheets are a good option.  They come in different colors, are lightweight and are extremely durable.  Recyclable materials are also a good choice – pallets, construction materials, cardboard tubes, etc.  If you have the ability to use lighting, find material that reflects light well or that allows light to shine through, almost giving it a glow.
  2. Keep it local. Don’t think you have to do everything on your own.  There are people around you who love to design and build things.  Allow them to use their gifts in a different sort of outlet than how they typically employ their skills.
  3. Consider a generic stage set.  If you will need your set for more than one event, want to put a little more money into creating something “bigger” for your stage or have a small budget for a number of events, consider something you can use over and over again.  By doing this, you can tweak little parts of it to go with different event themes.
  4. If you can’t build it, why not print it?  Banners, posters and pop-up displays are an easy way to bring your theme to life as you plan your set.  They can be a focal point or can serve as space fillers on the stage.  These can be as generic or as event-specific as you desire.  In addition, if you want to print large posters yourself, you can do this with free online programs such as Block Posters and PosteRazor.  These programs allow you to print large size images by breaking them into smaller sheets of paper and then adhering them together.  While this requires a bit of hands-on work, the result can be quite remarkable.

Designing a set can be a bit of a daunting task if it’s something out of your usual routine. However, there are great online resources to help you as you brainstorm for your next event.  These include churchstagedesignideas.com and journeybackstage.com.

Thanks to Jordon Rudesill for his insight on creating great stage designs!  If you have any tips of your own, please share them in the comments section.

Complaints, Confrontations, and Verbal Attacks, O My!

Maybe, as a planning professional, you don’t see as many frustrated guests as those with “boots on the ground” during an event.  But, even if you don’t deal directly with discontented guests, you need to train your support staff on responding with grace, calm, strength and professionalism.

  • Grace. As Christians, we come at this challenge with, I believe, an extra tool. We have seen God extend His grace to us, time after time when we are frustrated, angry, whiney, or disappointed. Extend that same grace to your frustrated guests. Instead of a “this again” attitude, pray that God will give you wisdom to see past their attitude and problem, to a person that is important to God.
  • Calm. Take a deep breath and know that a calm attitude on your part is the appropriate response. This may go without saying, but escalating through gestures, tone, or voice level will NOT help the situation. “A soft answer turns away wrath but a harsh word stirs up anger.” (Prov. 15:1)
  • Strength. Just because you are extending grace, and responding in a calm way, does not mean you must give in to every demand. There are some guidelines that can’t be broken, no matter how much they upset someone. Along the same vein, no matter how much my children beg, they cannot play in the street. It isn’t. going. to. happen. If you can’t give the guest what they are hoping for, go deeper. What is the underlying issue? Can you address that in a different way?
  • Professionalism. Responding to difficult, frustrated guests is part of your job, see it as such. Imagine getting a performance review after each encounter. What did you do correctly? Incorrectly? How could you improve? This is a part of your job, not an argument to “win” or “lose”.

What are some strategies you have found helpful in dealing with irritated, angry guests? How do you train your team of event professionals to handle these situations?