Commit to This Mid-Year Resolution

It’s hard to find time to stay healthy. It takes daily scheduling and effort, both of which can be difficult to muster in our busy lives! But if you don’t commit to being a good steward of yourself- your spiritual and physical health, you will feel the consequences. And they won’t be enjoyable. So if you’re willing to make a mid-year resolution, to spend a little time each day on YOUR health, here are some tips to help you move forward.

  1. Read a chapter of Proverbs each day for a month. There are 31 chapters in this “book of wisdom” so you can just find the number that matches up with the date and get started. After you read, spend five or ten minutes writing out your thoughts and prayers. It helps you focus, and later you can go back and see how God has moved and answered.
  2. Get walking. Maybe you’ve been avoiding exercise because you can’t afford a gym membership, you don’t have the right clothes, or your schedule is too packed to fit in the class you want to take. Just start walking! No special equipment, memberships or time slots. You’ll be amazed at how good it feels to be outside and moving. The benefits of walking daily are numerous, from lowering your cholesterol, to trimming fat, to preventing disease, dementia and osteoporosis.
  3. Stop stopping at the drive-thru. Convenience food is absolutely the worst option for your health. It’s easy, but loaded with sugar, salt, food dyes, fat, etc. But you probably can’t have home-prepared meals ready every time you need to eat, so what do you do? Locate grocery stores in your area with a salad bar or cafe. We have a local spot that offers a fresh salad and fruit bar, plus four different hot soups from 7 am until 9 pm. In the time it would take you to drive through, you can pop in, build a healthy meal, and pop out. For those new to the salad bar world, be sure to include a protein, like beans or grilled chicken on your salad, to give you the energy to get through to the next meal.

Will you make a mid-year’s resolution to commit some time to your health? It will pay big dividends in energy and well-being in the weeks ahead. You are precious to our God, and are called to be a steward of your resources, which includes– you. What do you do to stay spiritually and physically healthy?

Why You Should Do Devotions With Your Leadership Team

Guiding your leadership team in a look at God’s Word and a short time of prayer says several things.

  1. My relationship with God is a top priority.  This sends a clear signal to your team that you are in a relationship with God. You care about what God has to say in His Word, you want to study it often, and you want to demonstrate that you are bringing the tasks ahead of you to Him.
  2. I want us to follow God together.  I am concerned about your spiritual/inner life. I was at a Bible study last year, that was providing some wonderful Biblical insight. Near the end of one meeting, one of the women began crying, relating that something very painful and disruptive had happened in her life two weeks earlier. Without any appropriate time to share this information, she had felt pressured to “keep smiling and fake it”, so as not to disrupt the flow of the study. Your team members are coming from their own stressful, complicated circumstances. Giving them a chance to share their concerns and then leading them to God’s throne can be healthy and loving. (If this time gets too long perhaps you can have one or two people share each day, instead of the entire team).
  3. You follow Christ’s example. You are modeling Christian leadership to your team. Imagine that the men and women on your team will emulate Christ when they move into a higher levels of leadership. We do often lead as we have been led. Spending time looking into God’s Word, listening, praying– these are marks of Christian leadership. Don’t be afraid to try new things, or even fail in front of your team. “We tried something new last week, that didn’t work very well. I want us to ….” Even demonstrating how to fail well can be a wonderful lesson.

Don’t just make your “Christian effort” during devotion time. This should go without saying, but coaching, praying, encouraging, even loving confrontation should happen throughout your time with your team. Spending time in God’s Word, and in prayer, is a wonderful way to begin each work day, and it sends multiple important messages to your staff. Do you read Scripture and spend prayer time with your team? If so, when and how?

Fundraising Twist

Don’t you love going to fundraising dinners? Ahem.

A friend of mine, who has been to countless such affairs, affectionately calls them “rubber chicken dinners.” He says the same four meals, all involving chicken, have been served at fundraising dinners in the south for the last twenty years. Joking aside, here are a few ideas to spice up your next fundraising event.

Choose a local, national or international event to coat-tail.

Do you have a local festival that everyone loves to celebrate? Grab on to that theme! Think Watermelon, Shakespeare or Apple Festival. Or a local marathon, Arts and Crafts Fair or Car Show. Set up your event so the time and place complements the large event instead of conflicting with it.

A major national sporting event? Project the game and divide the participants into teams for the evening. Have the team battle in a few fun games, and see which team can raise the most dollars, pledges or volunteer hours.

An international event or celebration? The Olympics, the World Cup, awarding the Nobel Peace Prize… Tailor your food and decorations accordingly. Add a note of celebration and uniqueness to your annual dinner.

Find something that people are interested in, but not already booked for. Unless you can offer some incredible draw, don’t host a Superbowl or Oscar party, people often have traditional parties that they attend every year. You don’t want to be in competition. You want to grab on to something that they are interested in, but don’t have any plans for–yet.

Make it fun! I already mentioned dividing the participants into teams- what else could you do to get people out of their seats and having fun? Adults don’t often have many opportunities for pure fun. You might be surprised how engaged a group of professionals can get when you invite them to play kickball, or compete in a scavenger hunt.

Using local, national and international events as a spring board for your next fundraising dinner can bring a refreshing twist. Wishing you lots of fun and funding for your cause!

Focus on Missions, Part Two

In our last blog post, we discussed ways to incorporate fundraising for mission emphases, ministry causes or charities.  Many organizations have non-profit groups they support regularly.  Others may not have something they regularly donate to but may want to do a special charity emphasis during an event.missionsHere are a few ideas if your group is looking for a missions cause to support:

•    Compassion International – The main goal of Compassion International is to provide for children living in poverty through child sponsorships.
•    World Vision International – World Vision offers child sponsorships, as well as opportunities to provide for specific humanitarian needs such as medical care, education and animals for impoverished communities.
•    Samaritan’s Purse – Samaritan’s Purse provides medical help, disaster response, orphan care and aid to wounded warriors, to name a few.  Operation Christmas Child is also a large part of this ministry.
•    International Mission Board – An entity of the Southern Baptist Convention, the International Mission Board exists to spread the name of Jesus Christ throughout the world.  Support of the IMB includes funding missionaries, providing through the World Hunger Fund and donating for specific strategic projects listed on their website.
•    North American Mission Board – Also an entity of the Southern Baptist Convention, the North American Mission Board exists to share God’s love throughout North America through planting churches, disaster relief and more.
•    Nothing But Nets and Nets for Life are organizations created to help fight malaria in African countries by providing mosquito nets for children and families.
•    The Water Project and Blood Water are non-profits with one major goal – to provide clean drinking water to people in impoverished countries.
•    Local Charities – There are most likely organizations in your own community you might want to support in a financial way.  These could include crisis pregnancy centers, homeless ministries, food banks and free medical clinics.
•    Some aspect of your organization – If you are a current non-profit, there may be certain causes within your organization you can highlight and raise money for during your event.

While this is certainly not an exhaustive list, this will hopefully get your brainstorming process in motion.  With any non-profit organization, it is important to do your own research on their mission statement, processes for providing support and financial information.  GuideStar is an online service providing financial information on non-profit organizations.  (Note:  When researching through GuideStar you may need to look up the parent organization rather than the specific cause.  For example, Nothing But Nets is a division of the United Nations Foundation.)

What about your group/organization?  Are there any specific ministries you support financially?  If so, tell us about it in the comments section!

Focus on Missions, Part One

Does your church or organization have a specific mission emphasis, ministry cause or charity associated with it?  If so, camps and conferences can be a great way to highlight and raise extra money for these.

There are many ways to showcase a charitable emphasis throughout your event.  Here are a few ways to implement these in the event program:

  • Before the event:  Prepare guests if you will be taking up donations through pre-event communication.  Some people are prepared to give at any time; others need more time to think through their donations and bring cash or checks with them.
  • From the platform:  During large group sessions, have someone speak from the stage about the specific emphasis.  Utilize videos to give guests a better visual understanding of the cause.  Have someone from the specific organization (either a leader or someone who has personally benefited from it) give a brief testimony.
  • Set up a display:  Find a central area (or areas) where most of your guests will pass by, and set up a booth with information about the ministry emphasis.  Make it creative, eye-catching and inviting.  Have a volunteer available to provide extra information and answer questions.  (Some of the most creative displays I have seen highlight the actual need you may be supporting.  For example, if you are raising money to build beds for impoverished children in another country, create a replica of where these children currently sleep, as well as examples of the new beds that will be built.)
  • Information in guests’ hands:  It is important for your guests to have information at their disposal as a reminder to give during the conference and hopefully continue to support the mission after the event.  Information can be in welcome bags, placed on seats before a large group session and/or handed out as guests enter or leave a session.
  • Collecting donations:  There are a variety of ways to collect donations throughout a conference.  Donation boxes placed at the entrance of the event space is one example.  Offering baskets can be passed around during a large group session.  Guests can walk to the front of the event space during a session and physically place their donations in some sort of basket or altar.  Regardless of how you decide to collect donations, make sure to celebrate the total received at the closing session – this is a great way for guests to leave energized and excited about this aspect of the event.  Even if you don’t reach the goal you might have set, celebrate what was given!

Depending on the size and purpose of your organization, you may be able to take credit card donations and also provide tax-exempt donation receipts.  Make sure your guests are aware of these things.

Do you want to implement raising money for a specific cause at your next event but don’t have a certain organization you support?  Stay tuned for our next blog post where we will highlight a few resources for causes you can support!

The Act of Discovery and How It Can Revitalize Your Event

I took a class in college whose principals have really influenced my life long term. It was called “Teaching and Learning”. One of its main principles was that a good teacher identifies what they want their students to learn during a lesson, and then leads them along a path of discovering it for themselves. I’ve certainly found this is a much more effective strategy than feeding people information in long, detailed lectures. Wouldn’t you agree? Remember a time when you came to a conclusion that you were willing to act on, the exact one someone else had been trying to convince you of for months? Yep.

What does this have to do with events? Well, what do you want your participants to take away from your event? How could you lead them towards this as individuals, and as a group?

In the Summer 2014 issue of Biz Bash, Scott Stedman, spoke about elevating the event experience: “The real driving spirit is the act of discovery, enhancing that moment of discovery and providing it.”

I love this quote. The act of discovery.

What challenge, task or journey could you provide for your participants that would lead them towards a premeditated discovery? It could be anything! From understanding a key business concept, to empathizing with a certain customer experience. Don’t forget to provide follow-up, ideally verbal. People will remember their discovery more clearly if you help them connect their experience to the higher concept you are trying to teach them.

Have you ever watched the show “Undercover Boss”? The CEO of a company takes part in some daily (usually menial) task at his company without disclosing his identity. This is an individual experience, but it certainly leads the participant to discoveries about himself, the people who work for him, and the way his company functions.

Whether it is watching a movie, taking a field trip, or completing a challenging physical feat by working as team, there are so many things to learn from experiences. Use them to your advantage, and to accomplish the purposes of your event!

How To Create A Visual History

You’ve just arrived at a fundraising luncheon. Would you rather learn about the non-profit from a brochure, a two page report, a twenty minute speech by the director, or an interactive history display?

I’d choose the display. Let’s talk about how you might bring something like this to life for your next event.

First, identify your purpose. What do you want your participant to take away from the display- figuratively! A better understanding of the company’s grass-roots beginnings? Why they are committed to organic standards? A realization of the stellar leadership? A grasp of the evolving product line? Determine a definite purpose and make sure it supports the overall push of the event.

Now that you know your purpose, decide how you could communicate that in an interactive and visual way. How much space do you have? How much time? What is your budget? A simple display might have 5-7 photos with some written descriptions. A larger, more complicated visual tour might have anything from a diorama, audio files to access online via a QR code, maps, info graphics, streaming videos, company “artifacts”, clothing on display… there are so many possibilities!

Before you start to build be sure to take into account how you will transport your display, how long you will have to set it up, and location infrastructure like wifi, door width and power outlets.

Now, gather your materials and finish your test setup. You should let several different people do a walk through and share their observations with you. Ask them what they found interesting, confusing, exciting. You’ll pick up on common responses that will allow you to tweak your display.

Visual displays don’t have to be hard or complicated to create- and they can add so much to an event. Have you ever created anything like this? What was the response? Would you do it again?

Organizing Service To Go

Building a time of community service into an event is not a new idea. Doing it well is a challenge. Service can be a great opportunity for deepening community, and for discipleship. If you’re considering adding a time of service to your faith-based event, follow these steps.

Make the connection obvious. Pair the type of service with the event theme. A youth leader training group could serve an outreach center to teens. Or, you could do any type of service and make it clear that you would be teaching the leaders how to lead a team of people in service during the outreach.

Stay Close. Look for opportunities to serve close to the event venue. Clean up, painting, yard work and food service are typical opportunities. Check around for a smaller school or public institution close to your event location and ask how you might be able to help. Is your event profession specific? If you have engineers, nurses, firemen etc… consider how you might tap their unique skills.

Modeling. Believers should be in service in their communities on a regular basis. So, don’t go about this as a “punch card” experience- “I did my service for the year and now have photos of it to post on Facebook.” Find people who serve regularly and appoint them as group leaders. They can model compassion, truth and joy in the sometimes uncomfortable and tricky situations that arise during community outreach.

Logistics. Vans, drivers, snacks, water, permits, reflective vests, supplies, waivers, appointments. What will you need to do ahead of time so that the morning, afternoon or few hours of service will go smoothly?

A service experience can provide a unique opportunity for bonding and modeling in a believer’s life. Weaving this into an event is challenging and rewarding. Have you taken a group out for service during an event? What did you do? What will you do differently next time?

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!

Training Conferences to Attend in 2014

If you’re procrastinating and haven’t signed up for any continuing education for 2014, it’s time to make your reservations! I found four conferences that are in the final six months of this year, to help you sharpen your event planning skills and make lots of new and helpful contacts.trainingMPI World Education Congress August 2-5, 2014. Minneapolis, MN.  An educational conference for meeting and event industry professionals. A-list speakers, over 100 session options, loads of suppliers to meet, and organized networking times. You’ll even find a “convince your boss” toolkit on their site with a letter outlining attendance benefits.

ASAE Annual Meeting and Exposition August 9-12, 2014. Nashville, TN. This conference is focused on helping the leadership of non-profits and associations succeed. While not specifically geared towards event planning, those that work heavily with or for these two groups might find new insight and excellent connections by attending this conference.

IMEX America Oct 14-16, 2014. Las Vegas, NV. “American’s Worldwide Exhibition for Incentive Travel, Meetings and Events.” This unique trade show offers several attendance options, from a one day visit to a much longer, in depth training track.

IAEE Expo! Expo! December 9-11Dallas, TX. International Association of Exhibitions and Events (IAEE) hosts its annual meeting. A conference for event professionals, this three day event offers over 80 sessions, and a show floor full of vendors and demonstrations geared towards your planning and technology needs.

Do a little research and see which one of these conferences might educate and inspire you. And, while you’re looking up these different event websites, take notes. What do you like about them, what are they missing, what made you click to find out more? Take the opportunity to walk in the shoes of someone contemplating signing up for an event. Who knows how it might change the planning and advertising for your next event.