Grace for the Moment

 

The sound system breaks.  The printer ink runs out.  The speaker’s flight is cancelled.  The catering is late.  The event programs are still in the home office.  The registration line is out the door.  The attendees are complaining about the temperature of the meeting room.  The bathrooms are backed up.  The event signage is portrait, and the sign holders are landscape.  The power goes out.  The battery light on your phone is red, and you can’t find the charger.

Have you ever experienced any of these event frustrations?  You’ve planned.  You’ve prepared.  You’ve organized.  Yet, there’s one thing that creeps up unexpectedly (or in many cases, lots of issues arise), and the way you react can have a domino effect over the course of your event.

Here are three things I have learned throughout my time as an event planner:

  1. Expect the unexpected.  When dealing with people, places and technology, there are so many things out of your control.  When unexpected issues arise (and they undoubtedly will), pause and think logically about how best to take your next steps.  Your team will follow how you react to the situation. If you are calm, cool and collected, your team will follow suit.  If you show a sense of frustration or panic, it’s likely your team will respond in the same way.  While you cannot predict the unexpected, you can expect it will happen.
  2. Don’t let a surprise ruin your event.  Embrace creative ways you can respond to the unplanned situation.  Once I was at an outdoor concert when the power went out.  What could have been a quick cancellation with angry concertgoers turned into a very personal, acoustic session with the band sitting on the edge of the stage that was unforgettable. See how you can turn the unexpected into something even better.  Like the concert I attended, it might just turn out to be one of the most memorable moments of your event.
  3. Pray for grace for the moment.  Perhaps the most important thing you can pray for yourself before an event is that you will have grace for each and every moment.  Pray you will react to every situation with grace and love, kindness and gentleness. Moments will undoubtedly come that test your patience – either with a guest, a team member or the event facility staff.  Pray others will see Christ through you in every encounter you have.

When it comes to event planning, you can’t control many outside circumstances.  However, you can control how you react to them.  By preparing yourself to expect the unexpected, embrace surprises and show grace in each moment, you will find the event much more enjoyable!

Ask the Expert – Setting the Stage with Lights

When you meet Jen Baker, it’s very quick to see she has a passion for stage lighting.  She serves as the Lighting Designer at Ridgecrest Conference Center and has been involved with technical services for eleven years.  Lighting is more than a job for her – in fact, when I asked her how she views her work with lighting as a ministry, she said:

One of the first things God created was light.  I have always taken that as without light we cannot see the beauty of the Master Artist and His creation.  Light has the power to illuminate, sculpt and create an atmosphere.  Lighting is a tool that can be used to help break down the barriers during worship and create a safe place for people to enter in worship.  My place as a lighting designer is to visually interpret the message being communicated, whether in song or spoken word.

Needless to say, Jen knows lights and knows them well.  I recently spoke with her about elements of lighting for events of various sizes.  Here are some of the highlights I took from our discussion:

  • Utilize color schemes to create the atmosphere/mood of your session. You can create a warm, cozy feeling with warm tones such as soft white, amber, oranges, purples and reds.  High energy effects can be created through yellows, oranges, greens, whites, light blues and pinks.  For a slower, more intimate time, utilize blues, pinks, purples, reds and some greens.  When in doubt, always start with blue or white.  It is a good, neutral color that works well for any type of atmosphere.
  • If you have a contemporary band, a few lights in the right place with some uplighting and backlight can give you the same experience as a big stage, in a more intimate setting.  If you just have a speaker, lights across the back wall, on either side of the projector screen or around the room can make the room less boring, more intimate and give your audience something to look at.
  • If you have banners or a small stage design, adding lights to highlight can make it pop. It will draw attention from the first moment your guests enter.
  • You don’t have to use only stage lighting to enhance your set – you can use lamps, LED rope lights or candles that change colors.
  • Always be strategic in where you place your lighting or what you are highlighting. You can get away with fewer fixtures by doing this.
  • Don’t let it get you down if someone doesn’t like the color choice or effect you choose. You will never please everyone.  Individual audience members differ in their sensitivity.
  • If you have a worship leader, try to work with them and help create an atmosphere that enhances their song choices.
  • When it comes to power, make sure you get enough extension cords to make everything neat. Always buy black.  Nothing is worse than bright orange extension cords running across the front of a room.
  • The most important thing of all: Gaff Tape!  Do not use duct tape to tape down cords.  It leaves residue; gaff tape will not.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned from Jen, it’s that you can do a ton of creative things with lighting to enhance your event space.  You don’t have to be an expert in technology to incorporate basic additions with lights.  While we will leave the large event spaces to the professionals, you would be surprised what a few lights and a little practice can do!

 

 

Ask the Expert: Ordering the Perfect T-Shirt

This week we continue our “Ask the Expert” blog series.  I recently discussed apparel giveaways for events with Royleane Allen, CEO of 413 Strengthgear, Inc.  413 Strengthgear was established in 2003, and Royleane has 15+ years of experience in the industry.  She offered excellent advice on ordering T-shirts for both the experienced and new event planner!

  1. “This is my first time ordering T-shirts to give participants at my event.  What general tips can you give me?”
    The first thing to consider is the demographic of people attending your event so your vendor can design and source the best product for your attendees.  A couple of questions could be:  Are attendees mainly male or female, what is the age range and what type of event are you hosting (ministry, outdoors, entertainment, etc.)?  Knowing these elements will allow your vendor to help narrow down a design catered towards your audience.
  1. “I’m not a graphic designer by nature – how do I know what color T-shirt to order?”
    There is not a right or wrong when choosing a T-shirt color.  We typically show the trending colors for that season and then go back to what type of consumer will be purchasing or receiving the T-shirts.  Figuring out gender, age group, style preference, etc., help determine what will be best.  For example, someone 50+ might like a more classic color such as heather grey or navy.  Right now someone in their 20s might like colors currently trending such as mint, mango or island reef.
  1. “I forgot to ask for T-shirt sizes in my registration process.  Any advice on how to order when I don’t know what sizes I specifically need?”
    For an adult event, when ordering unisex T-shirts, a very general retail ratio would be a breakdown like S-1, M-2, L-2, XL-2, XXL-1.
  1. “I have a limited budget.  What are the best cost-saving measures when it comes to designing T-shirts?”
    T-shirt pricing is based upon the garment style, the number of imprint locations, the number of imprint colors in each location and the quantity being ordered.  To help lower cost, limit your number of imprint locations and colors.  The garment style plays a large part of the cost, based on what brand and type you are ordering.  Ask what the best price point garment is that your vendor carries, and they can direct you accordingly.
  1. “Other than T-shirts, what are your top three non-apparel giveaways you recommend for event attendees?”
    Our top three non-apparel giveaways are coozies, hand sanitizer and pens.  Other close follow-ups would be sunglasses, chapstick and lanyards.

It’s amazing to see Royleane’s passion for her job.  It’s definitely more than just designing an awesome T-shirt!  She sees camp/conference merchandise as opportunities to open doors that may spark conversations about an experience at camp so others may have the opportunity to go and experience them, as well!  What might happen if we decided to think of our conference giveaways as more than just something to hand out, but rather an opportunity for attendees to later share about life change?

Ask the Expert: Making the Most of Your Snack Breaks

If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the course of my life, it’s this: Never be afraid to ask for help. That is the premise for the next series of blog posts, “Ask the Experts”. Regardless of your event planning situation, it’s likely someone has experienced it before. Seeking help from outside sources can not only save you time and energy, but it can also help your event run smoothly.

Catering snack breaks can be a daunting task for new event planners. I recently had the privilege of discussing a few catering questions with Marcus White, Food Service Director at Ridgecrest Conference Center. Marcus has been in the hospitality and food service industry for over 30 years. He offered great advice on catering snack breaks.

  1. “I’ve been asked to plan snack breaks throughout my event. Quite frankly, I’m nervous. What general tips can you give to ease my fears?”
    Typically, snack breaks are the easiest type of service to provide for you and your group. I would recommend that you let us (the catering provider) know the time of day you are looking for, how many guests you plan to have in your group and the general types of items you want. If you know your group is mostly ladies (or mostly men or children) for example, we can help you create the best options for you from our menu.
  2. “My event attendance could be anywhere 50 to 100. How do I prepare when I’m not sure how many people to expect?”
    This question is often the toughest for an event planner to decide. Each group is different, but typically we recommend you guarantee your count on the higher end of the range. We understand you want to be good stewards as you guess your counts, but truly there is nothing more embarrassing or frustrating to the guests themselves, the group’s leadership and even to our own team when a group guesses low and we run out of food. This is one reason why we have made our snacks and breaks menu mostly individually wrapped and sealed items so if there are any leftovers, some groups may choose to keep some of those items and use them at a later time during their event.
  3. “I’m afraid I won’t have enough food and/or drinks. Are there standards as far as food and beverage quantities to prepare?”
    That is a great question. There are standards we use based on our past experiences with similar groups with similar menu choices. If you let us know what your group number maximum is and what you want to guarantee for, we will use that experience and help make sure there are plenty of snacks. Most of the time we are very close to accurate amounts and, of course, we can often supply more items if more guests show up than expected or guaranteed.
  4. “I know a lot of people have food allergies and some people are just picky. How can I make sure everyone is satisfied?”
    The best way to make sure that most guests are satisfied is to offer a little more of a variety as opposed to just one item for a snack break. The greater the variety the more likely that most everyone can at least find something. You can take a look at our Snack Break Menu for a few ideas: Snack and Breaks Service.

While providing food for breaks may seem like a big task, a little thought-filled planning can put your fears at ease. A big thanks to Marcus White for sharing some of his expertise in this area!

 

BlueFire: An Online Tool for Event Registration

Effective registration is crucial for a successful event. First impressions are key, and for many, registering for an event is the first interaction they have with the host organization. As an event planner, an uncomplicated registration process can allow you to spend time on other details.

While it is possible to create your own registration system, there are online programs available that can streamline the process and virtually take care of it for you. BlueFire is one such online service specifically designed for US-based nonprofit, religious or educational organizations. A faith-based company, BlueFire exists to help nonprofits make giving and getting involved easy for their supporters. According to representative Ben Reese, “Our mission as a company is to provide helpful tools for your organizations to collect payments and donations in any way that they choose. This includes only using BlueFire for event registrations, even free events.” (BlueFire was initially launched to help nonprofits accept online donations. Since inception, it has expanded to include benefits such as event registration, as outlined below.)

Signing up for BlueFire is very simple. An easy, step-by-step guide is available on the BlueFire website, gobluefire.com. There are no set-up fees, monthly charges or contracts to sign. Registration with BlueFire includes registration with HaloPays, the payment processor and payment gateway that will be used behind-the-scenes. HaloPays charges a low percentage transaction fee.

After reviewing BlueFire, here are a few benefits:

  • BlueFire easily integrates into your current website.
  • You can set up both free and paid events for your organization. Secure payment by credit, debit or e-check is available.
  • In addition to registration and payment, registrants can also provide information such as t-shirt size, dietary restrictions, etc.
  • It is possible to take payments on location with a USB credit card swiper.
  • BlueFire supports unlimited administrator, webmaster and accountant-level accounts, allowing organizations to provide appropriate access to any of their members.
  • You can easily monitor registrations and payments in one spot.
  • BlueFire is PCI-DSS compliant.

Reese also adds, “With BlueFire, our organizations don’t just receive a flexible and robust event registration system. They also receive a powerful donation and payment system with user-friendly reporting and reconciliation tools, reliable 3-day batch processing and the support of an organization that wants to see Jesus Christ magnified.”

When it’s time for your next event registration, don’t feel like you have to begin from scratch. There are tools designed to help your registration be as successful as possible.

These opinions and thoughts are my own, and I have not been compensated from BlueFire for this blog post…I just really like their software!

 

National Day of…

February 14.  April 1.  October 31.  These are all dates we can easily match to an “official” day – Valentine’s Day, April Fool’s Day and Halloween.  Does September 19 mean anything to you?  Probably not, but if you’re anywhere near a Krispy Kreme Doughnuts on this day, you may run into people dressed as pirates and ordering in a pirate voice.  It’s National Talk Like a Pirate Day.  Krispy Kreme has embraced this as a promotional tool for their doughnuts.  It’s fun.  It gets people excited.  People of all ages participate.

When planning an event, you might need a little extra “something” – this may be an activity, a giveaway, an evening event or just an extra from the stage.  Depending on the dates of your event, it might just fall on a “national day” you can integrate.  A simple search on the website nationaldaycalendar.com (or other national day website) can give you detailed information on fun days you can celebrate throughout the year.

Here are a few I found that could easily be incorporated into event planning:

  • January 19: National Popcorn Day (How about a popcorn bar after the evening session?)
  • February 10: National Umbrella Day (Use umbrellas as a giveaway with your event logo on them.)
  • March 23: National Chip and Dip Day (Serve a variety of chips and dips for your afternoon break.)
  • April 20: National Look Alike Day (Let your guests know ahead of time and have a look alike contest during your event.)
  • May 14: National Dance Like a Chicken Day (Nothing says “wake up” in your morning session more than having your entire group get up and dance like a chicken!)
  • June 23: National Pink Day (Let your guests know before the event to wear pink, and serve pink lemonade and other pink snacks during your break.)
  • July 23: National Vanilla Ice Cream Day (If you’re serving lunch, have ice cream for dessert.)
  • August 12: National Middle Child Day (During a large group session, have all of the middle children stand up and clap for them; trust me (as a middle child myself), they will appreciate it!)
  • September 12: National Day of Encouragement (Leave slips of paper in chairs for guests to write an encouraging note to the person sitting next to them.)
  • October 28: National Chocolate Day (Chocolate fountain?  Chocolate bars?  Chocolate pie?  The possibilities are endless!)
  • November 17: National Take a Hike Day (As an afternoon activity, plan a hike for your guests – don’t forget the trail mix!)
  • December 28: National Card Playing Day (If you’re looking for a late night activity for the night owls, have various card games for guests to play at their leisure.)

While these national days may seem a little far-fetched, they can add a fun element to your event!  Once you plan your dates, do a quick search and you may find an activity perfect for your group!