Five Spring Centerpiece Ideas

Spring is in the air for many of us. Though the calendar marks the first day of spring this year as March 20, the daffodils are on display, the tulips are peeking through and the trees are in bloom here in North Carolina.

Spring provides a plethora of ideas for event decorating. Whether you are hosting a women’s retreat, a fundraising dinner or an adult conference, here are five ideas for centerpieces that can work well for banquets, round table event seating or registration/information tables.

  • Flowers, flowers, flowers: Embrace the season’s colorful offerings and liven up your tables with mixed arrangements including tulips, irises, hyacinths and daffodils, to name a few. Instead of typical vases, consider using objects reminiscent of spring, such as rain boots, metal watering cans or ornamental bird cages.
  • Butterflies, Bees and Ladybugs: While bugs aren’t the first choice for a centerpiece, highlighting some of the more charming insects and creatures of spring can be a fun, colorful way to decorate a table. (For the good of your event, please avoid mosquitos, stinkbugs, crickets and spiders.)
  • Gardening: Use items such as pots, small gardening tools, seed packets, watering cans, wide-brimmed hats and gardening gloves to create festive centerpieces. (You could also use these as door prizes at the conclusion of the event.)
  • Outdoor Activities: When you think of spring, getting outdoors is something that quickly comes to mind. Highlight springtime activities in your décor, including kite flying, riding bicycles, hiking, camping and even yard work. While you won’t be able to put a bike or lawnmower on the table, look for smaller replicas or items that relate to these.
  • Easter: If your event falls before or near the Easter holiday, utilize baskets, dyed eggs, green grass, tulips and colored ribbon to create themed centerpieces.

Once you settle on a specific theme for your tables, scour the internet for ideas on how to incorporate that into a centerpiece. The pictures you find will, hopefully, spark the perfect idea for your event.

If you can’t decide on just one idea for a table centerpiece, choose different themes for each table. No one said every table must be the same! In order to avoid a “hodgepodge” of centerpieces, however, stick to a similar color scheme throughout your room. This will bring everything together and create a spring-filled atmosphere!

What have you used for springtime centerpieces? Share in the comments section below.

 

Four Things to Consider When You Make a Mistake

 

If you watched The Academy Awards this year, in the midst of candy and donuts parachuting down to guests and a tour bus bringing unsuspecting sightseers right in front of the star-studded crowd, your viewing experience came to an abrupt halt as La La Land directors were interrupted during their acceptance speeches for “Best Picture.” The reason? They weren’t the actual winners. The wrong movie had been announced. It was a mistake of epic proportions, as the crew from La La Land handed over the award they mistakenly received to the actual winners.

Mistakes happen. They are inevitable. Some are, unfortunately, a bit more visible to the world, such as the Oscar mix-up. Other mistakes are ones that can easily be hidden. Regardless of the situation or the error, here are four takeaways from how the Oscars handled their embarrassing mistake:

  1. Own your mistake. As soon as you realize you have made an error, let others know. A natural response is to try to hide it. Don’t try to cover it up. This will only lead to greater problems down the road. The sooner you own your mistake, the quicker a correction can be made.
  2. Correct your mistake. After you confess your error, do what you can to make it right. While this initially may cause a bit of confusion or questioning, making the situation right is, for lack of a better phrase, the right thing to do.
  3. Investigate your mistake. There may be an explanation for the mistake that was made, one you might not immediately see. Social media was quick to blame the presenters for reading the wrong name at the Oscars when in actuality, they were given the wrong envelope. Make sure you know the entire story before placing blame on a particular person or side.
  4. Learn from your mistake. It goes without saying, when you make a mistake once, you should learn from that mistake and not make it again. After a mistake has been made and corrected, gather those involved and figure out the what, why and how of the error. Put parameters in place so it does not become a repeat situation.

While a simple check of an envelope could have spared many people a lot of unnecessary emotions at The Academy Awards, the fact is, a mistake was made. There are consequences for mistakes, but there are also great learning experiences that can come from them. Next time you make an error, whether in your personal or professional life, consider these four takeaways listed above. Your mistakes do not define you; your response to them will.

 

7 Event Planning Websites to Follow

Harry Truman once said, “Not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers.” Whether you are a seasoned event planner or simply plan an event here and there for your church or organization, there are many online resources you can utilize to enhance your event planning. As an event leader, it can be very beneficial to learn what others are doing that works (or doesn’t work), stay current with tips and trends and find encouragement from others in the industry.

Here are a few websites you can follow to learn more about event planning. Not all have a religious affiliation, but they offer many tips and ideas on creating an even bigger and better event.

  • Connect Association – This website offers “how-to” articles, leadership notes, videos, a blog, and galleries of photos from various events around the country.
  • Connect Faith – This website offers similar content as Connect Association. The main difference is Connect Faith writes from a religious perspective and highlights faith-based events.
  • Connect Corporate – This website is another one in the family of Connect Association tools, but it is designed more for the corporate meeting professional.
  • Planning Helper – This website offers free articles and information on event planning topics ranging from budgeting and site selection to registration and etiquette. It is a great site for new event planners and a great refresher for seasoned ones.
  • Event MB – The Event Manager Blog keeps you up-to-date on the latest trends in event planning and marketing. They release an annual report of “10 Event Trends” for the upcoming year.
  • Social Tables – Though Social Tables is known for event planning software, they also maintain a blog keeping you up-to-date on meeting and event trends.
  • Meetings Imagined – This site offers expert tips and trends for meetings and events. Their posts are quick to read and have great pictures.

Regardless of the purpose or size of your event, you can find tips and tricks to incorporate in your planning as you learn from others in the industry.

What event websites do you frequent? Share in the Comments Section below.

 

 

When Life Hands You Snow

You’ve heard the saying, “When life hands you lemons, make lemonade.” What do you do when life hands you snow? Make snow cream?

As I write this first post of 2017, I am looking out my window into a winter wonderland, coupled with frigid temperatures. I can’t help but think of all the events taking place at conference centers located near my home. Some events have been canceled; others decided to brave the weather.

As an event planner, there are many things you can control—weather is not one of them. Rather than throwing up your hands in despair at impending (and often inconvenient) weather, think of ways you can embrace it and even incorporate it in your event.

Here a few ways you can add to a guest’s experience in the midst of snow:

  • Place hand warmers (the kind that fit in your gloves or pockets) in registration packets guests receive upon arrival. You could also pass these out at the door as guests leave a large group session.
  • If you have extra staff or volunteers, clear the snowy windshields of guests prior to the last session.
  • Set up a hot chocolate bar for guests to enjoy during the evening. Include hot chocolate and toppings such as whipped cream, marshmallows, syrups, chocolate candies, and sprinkles. (For an added twist, serve up a hot chocolate float—add a few scoops of ice cream to your hot chocolate. It’s hard to describe the goodness of such a treat, but I would definitely recommend trying it, if only for a tasty treat for yourself!)
  • Host fireside chats in the evenings. If your lobbies or other meeting spaces have fireplaces, light a fire and invite speakers, worship leaders, or workshop teachers to spend a candid time with your guests. Ask them to share on a more personal level and give guests the opportunity to ask questions. Sometimes, some of your best moments can be in the relaxed, non-structured conversations that take place throughout your event.
  • Most importantly, make sure the walkways are cleared of ice and snow. If you must, grab a shovel and do it yourself.
  • If many guests have to cancel, yet your event is still taking place, consider recording the large group sessions and uploading them for later viewing.

While inclement weather can be an inconvenience and may even lead to canceling an event, there are ways you can adapt your program to incorporate its challenges. And, if you’re all out of ideas and there is fresh snow on the ground, grab some vanilla, sugar, and milk and have a snow cream party!

 

‘Twas the Night Before My Big Event

In the spirit of Christmas, I hope you enjoy this adapted version of a holiday favorite!

‘Twas the night before my big event, when all through the venue

Not a creature was stirring, except me, still going over the catering menu.

Did I order enough? Will the coffee be hot?

Gluten-free, vegan, nut-free—did I miss an allergy they’ve got?

 

“Ding” went my text alert—my main speaker just landed.

Fifteen delays later, just grateful he wasn’t stranded.

Sound checks could wait; I’d make time for those.

A panic quickly struck me. What if no attendee shows?

 

When all of a sudden, there arose such a clatter.

I ran to the auditorium to see what was the matter.

My stage set had fallen, the props in a heap.

How could this happen? It wasn’t at all cheap.

 

I sat on the floor. Should I cry or should I run?

I was frozen, in a stupor, what could be done?

All by myself, I thought, what a nightmare!

If I canceled the retreat, would anyone care?

 

I heard a door open and in walked my team—

Janet, Peter, Bill, Jim and somebody named Jean.

Tools at their ready with duct tape in hand,

My volunteers in their matching shirts at my command.

 

They shouted in unison, “Never fear, we are here!”

Jumping onstage, that mess would soon disappear.

Faster than lightning, in the blink of an eye,

That stage was reset and they all said goodbye.

 

“See you tomorrow,” I said with a smile.

In the morning this would all seem like such a small trial.

I’m sure more things would come my way,

But tonight, I thought, I should call it a day.

 

Past the registration area, straightening name tags on the table,

I’d try to get a bit of sleep, “Wait, did I remember the HDMI cable?”

As I walked through the front door out to my rental car,

I heard a quiet voice saying from afar:

 

“You’ve planned, you’ve prepared, you’ve got it all done.

Sit back, relax, and don’t forget to have fun.

Things might go wrong. You’ll figure them out.

For now, Happy Event Eve!” the voice said with a shout.

 

Be Thankful

Thanksgiving—a time for family, food, football and faith. A time to reflect on the blessings God has given us. A time to simply say “thank you.”

As we enter the holiday season, I hope each of you can take a few moments to ponder the ways God has been faithful to you this year. As you gather with family and friends, remember to simply give thanks for the many blessings you have received.

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I had the chance to ask Ridgecrest Conference Center leaders what they are most thankful for this year. Here are a few of their responses:

  • “I’m grateful for God’s grace, the opportunity to serve at Ridgecrest with some amazing people and for God giving me a wife who helps me grow in my faith, forgives me and believes in me.” – Art, Director
  •  “I am thankful for the improvements at Ridgecrest, a great year of serving groups and a leadership team that supports and challenges one another.” – Melissa, Sales
  •  “I am thankful for a family and extended family that loves God and holds Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior in their lives. I am thankful for a strong team and godly place to work.” – David, Conference Services
  •  “I am grateful for a wonderful staff to serve alongside and to be able to be a part of a leadership team that holds each other accountable to live out our mission.” – Rose, Event Coordination
  •  “I am thankful to work with a team of people who desire to lead Ridgecrest well and a family who encourages and loves me daily.”  – Robert, Business Office
  •  “I am thankful that God has shown favor to Ridgecrest by providing us with business growth that has allowed us to make substantial investments in our team members and facilities. I am also thankful for my boys that constantly remind me of what unconditional love looks like.” – Daniel, Facilities
  •  “I am thankful for the amazing team that the Lord has given us in Food Service and all of Ridgecrest, as well for the ongoing growth in our team as we seek to impact lives for God’s glory!” – Marcus, Food Service
  • I am truly thankful for the folks that God has brought to Ridgecrest—the team that I am on and the team that I lead.” – AJ, Housekeeping

What about you? What are you most thankful for this holiday season? As you prepare for this time of thanksgiving, take a moment to reflect on God’s goodness and faithfulness to you.

 

Ask the Expert: Planning a Marriage Event

Pumpkins. Changing leaves. Apples. The arrival of “sweater weather.” Football. These are all things that come to mind when I think of fall. In addition to hayrides, campfires, and harvest festivals, fall also provides the perfect setting for marriage events. With school in session and daily routines back in play, fall offers a great time to plan an event for couples.

I recently talked with Tammy Slayton, an Event Project Coordinator at LifeWay. Tammy coordinates events such as Marriage Getaways, Fall Celebration, Music City Gospel Singing, and Christmas in Branson. Tammy offered great advice on planning marriage events, and they aren’t just for the fall!

  • “What do you love most about marriage events?”
    Marriage isn’t easy; life gets in the way. I’ve met couples that come to a Marriage Getaway to reconnect and be reminded of how God brings them together to balance and serve one another through life. Then, there are those that have lost hope. I have seen couples come as their last chance and through the event learn how to ask, find, and give forgiveness as our speakers share testimonies and show witness to the power of God in marriages. As one whose marriage was restored after divorce, it blesses me to be able to bring these couples and speakers together to learn that nothing is impossible through God. We need to look to Him and not one another for completeness. Marriage is between two imperfect people who are loved by one perfect God.
  • “What elements do you feel are ‘must-haves’ for a marriage event?”
    • Transparency is a must.  Not one couple has it ALL together, and those that don’t need to see that.
    • Besides the teaching times, couples need time to themselves to have fun, laugh, and talk through lessons they have learned and are still processing. They need to start working on communication that could have been lost between them. (While most need time together, in some circumstances they may need a little time apart to focus on God and the lessons He may be teaching them individually.)
    • Truth! Everyone is so skeptical and mostly for good reason. The world is full of false teachers, liars, tempters, and thieves. A Christian event needs to speak Truth.
  • “What are some challenges you face when planning a marriage event?”
    Marriage events have a stigma that there’s something wrong with your marriage if you attend. Some spouses don’t want to face certain issues that are dividing the marriage, so a marriage event is the last place they want to go. There are many other events, and couples have to decide in which they are going to invest. In addition, there are things such as family, finances, and other responsibilities that may influence attendance at an event.
  • “What advice can you give to someone planning a marriage event for their church?”
    Balance the content. Poll members; ask what they are looking for in a marriage event (like dates, locations, content, activities, etc.). Provide food or refreshments. Pray about those that will speak at the event. Be ready for the fruit; prepare for new believers and those that would want to recommit to Jesus or follow a calling.

If you’re interested in learning more about LifeWay’s marriage events, take a look at their website. Dates for upcoming events will be posted soon.

In Light of Hurricane Matthew…

Earlier this month, our eyes were glued to weather radars as we watched and waited to see what path Hurricane Matthew would take.  Mandatory evacuations were put in motion.  Many people had to pack up and head out, regardless of whatever plans they had already scheduled.

Unfortunately, storms don’t operate on our timetables.  If they did, there would be no need for a Plan B for outdoor events.  So, what do you do when your upcoming event may be in the eye of the storm?  Cancel?  Reschedule?  Relocate?  Continue as planned?

Here are questions to ask yourself as you make weather-related decisions concerning your event:

  1. Does your venue contract contain an act of God clause? (If not, it should!)  Acts of God (or force majeure for the French scholars) are unforeseeable events that are out of human control.  They can include, but are certainly not limited to, hurricanes, earthquakes, tornadoes, wildfires and floods.  Melissa Inman, Director of Sales and Marketing at Ridgecrest Conference Center, says, “Don’t panic and cancel too early.  Watch the weather, and then contact your property.  You don’t want to pull out before an act of God clause can be implemented.”  Your venue might make the decision for you if they deem the location to be in danger.
  2. Is it possible to reschedule your event? If this is an option, remember to consider those attending.  While you most likely can’t ask each guest individually, take a poll of a group of attendees.  For those who cannot attend a rescheduled date, refund their fees as an act of good measure.
  3. Could you relocate your event to a place not affected by the weather? Ask your event venue for recommendations if they know your event will be cancelled at their location.  Oftentimes, if an alternate location has availability on such short notice they will be willing to work with you to make your event happen.
  4. How are attendees affected by this weather? Consider your guests and their situations.  For example, a recent marriage conference was held during the mandatory evacuations of Hurricane Matthew.  While the location was away from the storm, many of the attendees were traveling from the affected areas.  They could make the trip; however, they would be leaving their children with caregivers in the hurricane’s path.  As parents, being with their children was more important than attending a conference away from them.  Remember to be respectful of individual situations when people cancel because of the weather.
  5. Are there other ways to get content to your attendees? If the event continues as planned, try to live-stream event sessions or make them available for download to those unable to attend.

A little bad weather, while usually inconvenient, does not have to alter your event as a whole.  However, there are times when weather takes a more active role, and altering plans is necessary.  The safety of your attendees is much more important than carrying out your event in the midst of dangerous weather.

The best thing to do as an event planner in these types of situations is to stay in constant contact with your event venue.  Be proactive, but remember, weather is something out of your control.  Prepare for the worst, but hope for the best.

 

Creating a Comfortable Auditorium Atmosphere

Have you ever been excited to attend an event, session or movie only to find, once you get there, the auditorium is absolutely freezing, and your jacket is in the car?  Have you tried to take notes during a session in that same auditorium only to find it is so dark the screen on your tablet is illuminating your entire seating section?

One goal of an event planner is to provide a distraction-free environment.  There are many factors that play into designing a comfortable auditorium setting for your general sessions.  Temperature, lighting, sound and much more all combine to create a session people remember for the content or a session people remember because of the distractions.

Here are a few things to keep in mind when planning your large-group gatherings:

  1. Temperature – An empty room may feel cold, but when you fill it with people, it can heat up quickly. Don’t be too hasty to ask for a temperature adjustment because one or two people are cold when they arrive.  If you think the temperature needs to be changed, discuss concerns with the staff of the venue.  Their experiences and history in that venue should carry a lot of weight – don’t discount their judgment.
  2. Sound – Volume is measured in decibels, and there are standards to go by when it comes to what is too loud for your auditorium space. You can download decibel meters on your computer or smartphone.  The conference location should have an actual decibel meter to more accurately measure levels.  Never be afraid to ask the venue staff to check the decibel range and adjust accordingly.
  3. Lighting – While it is perfectly acceptable to lower the lights during worship times, remember to raise the lights during a speaking session so guests can follow along in their Bibles/conference guides and be able to take notes.
  4. Seating – Know the capacity of your room and the best way to arrange your seating. Some venues have permanent seating, while others allow for a customizable set-up.  Regardless of the way you arrange your seats, make sure guests are free from obstructions such as video-cameras or decorations that might hinder their view.

It’s a given – you can never please everyone.  However, by being proactive in planning these aspects of a general session, you can successfully eliminate a number of complaints.  There will always be a few who are too hot or too cold.  There will always be some who say the sound is too loud or too soft.  Listen to feedback and make adjustments if it is a recurring theme among participants.

 

Technology and Workshops: Preparation is Key

By nature, I am a planner, not a procrastinator.  When I was in graduate school, a professor reminded us, “A lack of preparation on your part does not constitute an emergency on mine.”  Wise words, but when you are an event planner working alongside both planners and procrastinators, you have to be prepared for anything.  However, by planning ahead as much as possible, you can (hopefully) limit the number of “emergencies” that may arise.

Break-out sessions and workshops are a valuable part of many conferences.  With additional sessions, however, come additional leaders, additional set-up, additional materials and the additional chance for last-minute needs.

In order to prepare for these sessions, ask your workshop leaders these questions regarding media set-up prior to the event:

  1. Will you need a projection system for your computer?
  2. If so, will you bring your own computer, or do you need one provided? (Recommend your leaders bring their own computers.  This will help alleviate any issues with presentations displaying correctly.)
  3. Does your computer have a VGA or HDMI output? If not, do you have the proper adaptor, or do you need one provided?
  4. Where will you place your computer in relation to the projector? This will help determine the length of cable needed to provide.
  5. Will you need sound for your presentation?
  6. Do you need assistance setting up your computer with the projection system?

In order to serve your workshop leaders well, make sure you provide them with what they request.  If you cannot honor a request, let them know ahead of time so other arrangements can be made if necessary.  Remember, planning ahead helps you too!

Here are a few additional tips to pass along to your leaders using computers at their workshops:

  1. Before your workshop begins, give your computer a fresh restart. Only open the application you need to run your presentation.  Close other applications, including Facebook!
  2. Make sure your computer’s screen saver is off – you don’t want to be in the middle of your presentation only to have pictures from your latest beach vacation start to scroll.
  3. If you are using sound, turn the volume on your computer all the way up, and let the sound engineer control the volume on his/her end.
  4. Bring your power cord!