Using Volunteers And Interns At Your Event

As you get closer to your event’s date, stress for your whole team goes up. Lots of last minute tasks get put on your to-do list. What’s a great way to help get you and your team’s last minute tasks completed? Add volunteers and/or interns to help.

Let’s start with volunteers.

Volunteers can be a great way to utilize free help.  How do you find these people?  Put out a call on your event’s website, through social media or at your event for help.  Fans will typically be willing to step up and help wherever and however needed.

How do you pay these people?  Most will be happy to work for free, but one way you could pay them is with free swag.  A t-shirt, hat or free piece of product can go a long way.  If you really wanted to go out, you could offer free or half off admittance to your event.

Volunteers can have a wide age range.

Now let’s take a look at interns.  Interns are another great way to utilize free help.  This group is probably working towards college credit, and is in that age range.  View this group as your Timothy’s.  They probably want to be like you when they “grow up.”  The interns that I’ve worked with I’ve always tried to include in every day-to-day meeting and have made them be a part of the company.

The great thing about interns is they’re not looking for pay because the college credit is enough.  But again treat them right, give them some swag and make them apart of your event.

One thing to remember: our goal here is to help alleviate stress.  As you add volunteers and interns, you’ll want to look for self-starters that can dive in and take the bull by the horns.

Have you used volunteers or interns for your event?  How have they helped with your last minute tasks?

Working With An A/V Company

Every event has some sort of audio and visual (A/V) needs. Picking the right one can make or break your event.

Choosing the right one for your event can be a process. How do you do that?

  • Step one: Find a company that is close by your event. Working with one a few hundred miles could be your only option, but if it’s your primary, you will have transportation costs on top of standard rental fees.
  • Step two: Once you’ve found a company you’re ready to work with, ask for references. The last thing you want is for them to show up having over promised and under delivered. If they don’t have any references, they’re not a very reputable company. I would move on to another company.
  • Step three: Communicate ALL your needs up front. By this point, you have all the riders in front of you from bands and speakers. Hand those over to the A/V company as they’ll be able to interpret all the technical jargon for you. Don’t forget your needs for breakout sessions. And never assume the A/V company will have something on their truck.  They’re not mind readers. At this point in your communications, give the A/V company the events schedule. This will help them plan necessary equipment and technicians being in the right place at the right time.
    One other minor thought about communicating: if your event has a dress code and you would like the techs looking a certain way, be sure to mention that early on. Since these techs have to crawl and climb to setup lights and speakers, they may be dressed in shorts. That may or may not work for your closing banquet, for example.
  • Step four: Be ready to pay A/V company when they get on site. This varies from company to company, so be sure to have this coordinated early on.

A reputable company will know what they need to do to make sure your event comes off successfully. Trust them.

How do you work with your A/V company? Any hidden secrets you’ve discovered?

Sched For Your Event

I’m serving on the steering committee for a music event being hosted by LifeWay and sponsored by the Gospel Music Association.  It’s been fun to be on the other side of the table as I’ve helped coordinate the business track.  We’re using a cool tool that I wanted to pass along to you.  It’s a program called Sched that allows you create a schedule app for smartphones.  Sign up for a free trial at http://sched.org/.

Creating an app for your event can sometimes be very cost prohibitive.  This is the first platform I’ve come across that finally brings that pricing down to earth.

Creating your event is as easy as clicking on a button.  From there you start adding your events schedule.  There is a small fee as you get into the program, but it’s pennies compared to creating your own app.

There are a few of reasons I like this idea:

  1. It’s an app that works for Android and iOS platforms.  Building apps from scratch can be a nice way to customize your app, but then you have to pay for creation across two different platforms.  Sched does it all for you.
  2. The majority of your audience is walking in the door with some sort of smart device.  Sched puts your schedule on that device by taking up precious real estate on those devices.
  3. Sched integrates with your website.  Sched can become your home base for all things scheduling.  By updating on platform, you update two places: website and app.

Sched, according to their website, also allows you get analytics on who has downloaded your app.  This information can go along way to helping you to learn more about your customer.

Have you used Sched, or a similar program to create an app for your event?  What others ways have you used to take up real estate on a smart device?

Webinar: Hosting An Online Event

“Seminar, meet the web”…”Webinar!” Get it? Webinars are mainly used to present information on a certain topic, or to stage an online meeting.

Thousands of companies and individuals are using this technology to meet their goals.  Using webinars you can save money on travel costs, connect with people who are geographically removed and get your message out to an expanding audience.  This is not something that should be ignored.  So, let’s cover the basics.

First, decide what type of event best meets your goals.  An informational webinar on raising honeybees, followed by a question and answer period for your bee keeping supply customers?  An online meeting of company managers to review sales numbers?  Think through your objectives and choose a webinar or meeting format.

Now you’ll need to choose a host.  Different companies offer different features.  Fortunately, you’ve already thought about how you might be using this service, so you’ll know which features are most important to you.

Here’s a few popular hosts you could check out:

Costs range from free to about $100 per month depending on how many users you’d like to include and what features you need.

Once you’ve chosen a host, take the training and then practice, practice,  practice.  Get comfortable with the software and with dealing with issues that will arise.

Now it’s time to prepare your material and schedule your event.  Decide on a date and time and invite your attendees.  Some hosts offer ticket sales to your webinar through PayPal. Or, maybe your webinar is free. You decide.

When the scheduled date arrives, you get to host your first online meeting or webinar!  Expect some bumps in the road, you’re learning something new, right?  But give yourself a pat on the back, you’re adding to your skill set and this technology can expand your meeting space infinitely.

I’ll leave you with another great post on hosting webinars by professional writer Carol Tice, whose excellent webinars draw large crowds. Click on over to Entrepreneur.com to learn more.

Food Trucks At Your Next Event

There’s a new phenomenon that is sweeping the nation.  It’s not “Gangnam Style” or the “Harlem Shake.”  Nope.

It’s Food Trucks.

Off-the-Grid-by-Art-PoskanzerCC

You know what I’m talking about.  They are trucks that sell, well, food.  They are all the rage here in Nashville, and they’ve become a culinary delight and movement on four wheels.  These food trucks have grown in popularity so much that several of them have formed an association.

These Food Trucks can be a tremendous asset to your event.  How?  Well, let me share with you four ideas on how to use the Food Trucks:

  1. Optional meal choice.  One night instead of the regular cafeteria food, you could work in some food trucks to vary up what people are eating.  This meal time could also be a great time of fellowship and mingling as people discuss and debate their choice of Food Truck.
  2. Celebration.  There is a huge fascination with Food Trucks.  For some reason people really like buying food out of a truck.  I haven’t quite figured it out, but it’s a big deal around good ole Nashville.  Working these trucks into your event, could be a way to celebrate a big achievement your company has completed.
  3. Advertisement for your event.  Churches in the Nashville area have started hosting a Food Truck night as an outreach event for the community.  Is there a place you could host a Food Truck night to help spread the word about your event?
  4. Fun factor.  Imagine the attendees at your event coming out for dinner or a break and seeing these trucks all lined up.  Seeing those faces is almost like seeing my 2 year old on Christmas morning.

Why not have Food Trucks at your event?  Those trucks love the publicity, to make money and will come to you.  Most of these Food Trucks are active in social media, and post where they are, which is more great publicity for your event.

A Little Software Goes a Long Way

Your event is one month away, and registrations are pouring in.  You need to order supplies, assign roommates, and process a large batch of credit card payments.  Could an event planning software system help you work more efficiently?   Here are a few things such software can do:

  1. Accept registration online
  2. Process payments
  3. Manage room and roommate assignments
  4. Track supplies and ordering
  5. Manage event budget
  6. Create surveys and reports
  7. Create personalized emails to event attendees
  8. Interface with social media

There are many companies who offer event planning software including:

This list is a place to start.  Before you look at any websites, or speak with their customer service representatives, make a list of your needs and challenges.  Think through what you do, and what you would like to start doing.  Then you can see if a specific event planning software is a good fit for your needs.  It’s easy to be overwhelmed by everything a software package can offer, only to discover that while it can do lots of things, it doesn’t actually help you do what you need to.

If you find yourself interested in a software package, move forward slowly.  Attend an information session, talk to current customers and try a free trial.  Several of the companies listed above offer informational sessions in cities all over the US on a rotating basis, or will send a representative to talk with you.  If you are still interested after receiving more information, ask for a list of people who are current customers.  When you call them up, ask them what they like, what they don’t like, if there was a large learning curve, and what challenges they met when switching over to the software.  Having a few ten minute conversations with current users is instructional and enlightening.  If you decide to move forward, insist on a trial period.  It’s imperative that you try the software out before committing to pay a year-long membership fee.  Don’t expect everything to go smoothly the first week, but commit to giving the software a real test of use and implementation.

Systems that centralize planning and reporting can be incredibly helpful, so do some research if you think you might benefit.  But be sure the software you choose meets your needs.  Do you use an event planning software?  Why did you chose it and how is it helping you?

Setting The Stage…

Event planners often wear many hats. They may be interior decorator, graphic artist, chauffeur, and customer service representative within the span of a few hours. The interior design aspect of this job – preparing the stage and other meeting areas to be visually appealing, may or may not be an area of strength for you. Here are a few tips to help you grow.

Red Stage Curtain

  1. Learn something new. Take a floral design class at a community college, subscribe to a food magazine, tour other event facilities in your area. Designate a spiral binder or even a folder on your phone or computer and collect photos you think you could use later. A rush of new ideas can feed you for months.
  2. Something borrowed. When I was a newly graduated college student, working as a discipleship assistant in my church, we planned several retreats each year. Always on a rather tight budget. Once the food and location were paid for, we rarely had any money left for “frills” and this is when I learned the art of borrowing. I had close connections to a high school theater group, and they allowed us to use all sorts of props, from pillars to entire sets. As long as we picked them up and returned them in good working order they were ours for the taking. These added tasteful interest to stages and meeting rooms. We also borrowed plants, from a local garden center. We knew the owner and promised to replace anything we damaged. For one womenʼs retreat we borrowed thirty ferns and several large blooming plants. These gave the stage a lush appearance, and filled the room with a light but sweet scent.  We also placed a small couch, an end table and a lamp on the stage, taken right out of someoneʼs living room. Women couldnʼt stop commenting on the beauty and uniqueness of the stage and it hadnʼt cost us anything but a few man hours and some gas for the truck. What might you borrow to enhance your next event?
  3. Donʼt forget lights. Lighting can make or ruin a stage. Consider the difference between a candle-lit dinner, and one eaten under the harsh glare of a halogen bulb. What types of lighting do you have access to at the facility? Will you use different effects for different portions of the group meeting? Large groups of candles have become more popular in worship settings in the last ten years. They can add an air of intimacy and worship, but can also bring risks and sometimes the need for regulation. Check with the facility to see what their policies are on open flames.

Consider and plan lighting ahead of time so that it works with your goals. Creating an aesthetic atmosphere in your large group meetings that supports your goals takes planning and creativity. What can you do this week to invest in this area of your role as an event planner?

Event Pooling And Event Sponsorship: Cut Investment Without Sacrificing Your Event!

One of the main considerations event planners face is cost. The revenue/versus cost question plays a huge role in planning and decision making. What if, at the end of this equation, you simply can’t handle the number; the budget just won’t allow for it this year.

Scissors

Consider event pooling. Event pooling is when two or more organizations join together to plan, staff and fund an event. Who in your circle of ministry or business acquaintances might have similar goals for an event in 2013? Does the church across town also plan a yearly men’s retreat? Would their goals, be in line with yours? Before you contact others regarding your event, be sure to have some specifics ready. “Would you be interested in joining our church in putting on a one night men’s retreat that focuses on integrity in the workplace?”, is much more likely to get an answer than “Want to put on a men’s retreat together?”. Decide if you are willing to take input on theme, planning and location, or if you are simply inviting others to attend your completely planned event. These are two very different scenarios.

Event sponsorship. Another option used to defray costs is event sponsorship. Is there a business in your area that would love the chance to be a premier sponsor and take on a large role in funding the event? If you were planning a men’s retreat, perhaps a local golf club would benefit from getting their name in front of 200 local men. What if you held your retreat at their club; this would provide a location for you gratis, as well as give them a chance to showcase their facility.  Decide ahead of time what you can offer a sponsor. Let them know how many people will be attending, if they will be given announcement time, booth space, etc, and what kind of financial commitment you will expect from them. Sometimes these discussions are better had over lunch, and be sure to lead with the opportunity, not the cost.

If staffing, planning time or financial resources are stopping you from committing to an event, consider whom you might invite to come alongside you before you scrap your event! Event pooling and sponsorship do take cooperation, but can create and foster new relationships within your community, as well as provide the resources you need.

Christian Meeting Planning Resources – December Update

Here is what we’ve added in December by category

Marketing/Promotion

Site Selection

Retreats/Meetings

Meeting Planners

I hope you find these helpful and remember we have many more than might interest you  in the Meeting Planner Resources section of the blog.

 

Quick Holiday Tip

I was in Walmart yesterday, and came upon an entire section of gift baskets. And as I looked at the baskets full of specialty chocolates, lotions and soft socks– I thought of you dear reader! You and your event organizing self. This is a great time to buy a few gift baskets for your speaker, your volunteers, or your event attendees. Stock up, and then enjoy dipping into your “stash” later when your next event rolls around.

Gift baskets can also be used as prizes in competitions or games that occur during an event. At one event I attended participants were given a special bingo card as they entered. As they located different items on the card “the name of tonight’s speaker”, “the signature of one person from out of town” they slowly approached the goal of five diagonal or horizontal spaces filled. The first three guests to complete “bingo” were given a gift basket.

So, while you are doing some of your Christmas shopping, keep future events in mind and grab some gift baskets you will appreciate later!