Summer Series: Campfire Nights

Looking for the perfect ending to your summer retreat or conference?  A campfire experience is a great way to come together on the final night and reflect, relax and fellowship.

fireWhen some people think of campfires, they tend to go back to old experiences of singing “Kumbayah” while sitting around the fire.  While you can still incorporate some of the old-fashioned campfire traditions, there are also other ideas you can use, as well.

Here are some tips to plan an evening campfire experience:

  • Purpose:  Before you begin planning your campfire, determine the purpose for your evening.  What are you trying to accomplish?  Do you want a time of serious, personal reflection?  Do you want a relaxed experience to wind down from the retreat?  Do you want a time of worship?  Do you want to spend time reflecting on the actual retreat experience?  Do you want a combination of some of the above?  The purpose for your campfire will determine how you plan your evening.
  • Music:  Music can be a vital part of your campfire time.  Acoustic guitars and small drums (like djembes) can provide a great set, though many songs can be sung a cappella.  Fun, campfire songs can set the stage for an upbeat time.  These can include kid favorites such as “Down by the Bay”, “I Love the Mountains”, “Apples and Bananas” and “Little Cabin in the Woods”.  To transition to a more serious worship time, you can sing songs you might have been singing throughout worship sets during your retreat or use songs your guests will most likely know the words to, such as “Amazing Grace”, “Blessed be the Name”, and “Seek Ye First”.
  • Sharing:  Designate someone to lead a time of sharing if that is appropriate for your campfire.  Or, select a few people to speak briefly about some aspect of your retreat.  If your goal is to just have a fun experience, consider bringing in a storyteller to close out your campfire.
  • Snacks:  No campfire is complete without roasting marshmallows!  Provide ingredients for s’mores, or if you want something different consider roasting hot dogs or making banana boats.

Regardless of the purpose of your campfire, here are a few additional programming notes to keep in mind:

  • Have bug spray on hand for your guests to use.
  • Provide some type of seating for guests, whether that be chairs, blankets, logs or even hay bales.
  • Make sure the path to the campfire is well lit and well marked.  Flashlights or lanterns near the campfire area can also come in handy.

Campfires can be a great experience to culminate your retreat.  They can also be a great evening activity for a single night of your event.  However you choose to incorporate a campfire, have fun, relax and don’t forget the s’mores!

 

What Event Perks Do Your Guests Enjoy Most?

I’m curious to know what special items or services your guests rave over or request. Please leave a comment letting us know what gets you the most positive feedback. I’ll report on the results in an upcoming post.  Here are some options to choose from- and to feed the ever-hungry idea machine!

Site
Pool
Beach
Desirable downtown location
Hiking trails
Running paths
VIP Lounge
Luxury bedding in rooms
Free Snacks
All-inclusive meal plan
Theme Park

Tech
Free WiFi
Computer stations
Charging stations

Weather Accessories
Bottled water
Sunscreen
Ponchos
Water Mist Machine/Outdoor Fan

Networking/Training
Complementary books/material
One on one or small group time with celebrity
Free downloads
Video/audio recordings of sessions

Transportation
Site shuttles (airport or other)

App Highlight: Crowd Compass

CrowdCompass is an app that came to our attention a few weeks ago and we thought we’d show you some of its features. We’re not getting paid to talk about this app, we’re passing along a possible resource, hoping to make your next event better. So, here we go . . .

CrowdCompass is an event app tailored specifically for individual events. Your attendees will enjoy:

  • Interactive Maps: showing them exactly where they are, what is around them and how to get there.
  • Push Notifications: if a breakout session is moved at the last minute- you can let everyone know, right in their event app.
  • Individualized Schedules: Schedules set during registration show up with all the details on a user’s schedule within the app. Reminders can also show up to help an attendee keep appointments and remember things they don’t want to miss.
  • LinkedIn Integration: CrowdCompass uses your attendees LinkedIn profiles to fill out their photo and other profile information within the app. Now they don’t need to re-enter all of that in again!
  • Share Photos and Text To Event Feed: Users can post picture, comments, and questions on the event feed within the app.
  • Sponsor Showcase: Logos of your sponsors can be a part of the app. More exposure for them!
  • Metric City: 30 plus metrics allow you to see what your users are interested in and give you lots of information to help you improve the event in session, and in the future.

This seems like a great tool to use for larger, more complicated events. And with the interactive map feature, it would be a wonderful help to attendees if your event is scattered over a large area, or different parts of a city. Have you used an event app that was worth the time and investment? Please let us know!

Summer Series: H2Olympics

While you may have your adult guests occupied with seminars, classes and other sessions, what are you planning with their kids who may accompany them?  Summer conferences are a fun way for families to travel together, but there are times when there may need to be separate activities for the kids.hoseIf you’re looking for a summer afternoon idea for the kids at your conference, water activities are always a hit!  While this will require planning on your part, it’s sure to be an afternoon the kids will remember.  Before you plan this type of activity, make sure your host location has water resources available.  Questions to ask include, “Is there a water source near the assigned playing area?” and “Are there long hoses available to use?”

If you do have access to water, consider planning an H2Olympics, a series of water events where teams of kids compete against each other.  (And, if the whole family wants to get involved and not just the kids, consider pairing families together based on size to compete against each other!)

Here are some events you can incorporate:

  • Fill the Can:  Have a large kiddie pool filled with water.  Each team must transport water from the pool to fill their own buckets using only themselves.
  • Curling:  On a large slip ‘n slide, one member of each team gets pushed on their knees and then slides.  The team member that goes the greatest distance wins.  (Tip:  Cover the slip ‘n slide with baby oil or dish detergent for an extra slippery ride.)
  • Water Balloon Fight:  Each kid gets ten water balloons.  The driest team at the end of the balloon fight wins.
  • Water Balloon Shot Put:  One kid from each team participates to see how far he can throw a water balloon.  The team throwing the farthest distance wins.
  • Balloon Piece Pick-up:  Give each team a trash bag.  The team collecting the most water balloon trash wins.  (As a side note, this is a great way for everyone to help clean up from the water balloon fight without them knowing they are actually “cleaning”.)
  • Soap Shrink:  Give each team two bars of soap.  The first to shrink all bars in their water buckets wins.  (Tip:  Use travel-sized soaps for this activity.)

There are plenty of other water games you can include in your H2Olympics – be creative and utilize supplies and resources you know you will have on hand.  After the games are over the kids can have a free time playing on the slip ‘n slides or running through sprinklers.

If you do plan on having a water day for your guests, make sure to let them know about this before they arrive.  They will want to pack bathing suits, towels and sunscreen for the big event!

Tips On Scouting a Location

You’re taking a trip to look at a potential site for an event. Here are a few things to remember to help you make the most of your visit.

location

  1. Make a list of the all the group needs. Do this before you arrive. Prepare and bring as much information as you can on the specific group you are hosting. How many will be staying? What time of day will most of them arrive? Driving cars? Airport shuttles? What will they be bringing with them? Where will the find their first meal? What will they need in their room to get settled in? Be ready to be more focused on your group and exactly what they need, than the location itself.
  2. Start taking notes the minute you arrive. Imagine yourself in the shoes of your event attendees. Where will signs need to be placed? How is the service at the registration counter? Where are the nicest rooms located?
  3. Visit the spaces where main and breakout sessions will be held. Is the seating comfortable? Is the sound system high quality? What visual presentation capabilities does the space have. Go backstage. Is there a green room? Try to visit breakout session rooms when other things are going on outside. Is there audible noise bleed through? In other words, can you hear everything the person next door is saying?
  4. Try the onsite food offerings. Is there a variety? Vegetarian offerings? What meals are available? When do the restaurants stop serving? How is the service?

As you act as a scout for your next trip, all of these questions and experiences will blend together to help you make a decision. Set up a time before you arrive to meet with the head of Guest Services, or whomever manages groups and events at the location. Ask them pointed questions, and go over the list of needs you made before you arrived.

Making a trip to look over a potential location is definitely worth the effort. It is much easier to plan once you have visited a place in person, and it saves unpleasant surprises during the event. Find out as much as you can about your guests before you go, and remember that even the most amazing location may not serve the needs of a particular group.

What question(s) have you learned to ask during a site visit?