Contracts 101

 

Event planning and contracts … the two go hand in hand. For seasoned event planners, contracts are often second nature. For new event planners, contracts can seem daunting with the legal jargon. This blog post is here to help.

What is a contract?
A contract is simply defined as an agreement between two or more parties. It is legally binding in a court of law. Contracts are in place to protect both parties.

Do I have to sign a contract?
Yes! If a company doesn’t offer you a contract, request one. This is your safety net when it comes to executing your event.

Who signs the contract?
This can be a little harder to clearly define since your church or organization might have rules set in place. Make sure to contact those in leadership positions within your organization prior to signing a contract. The person signing may be held financially responsible.

What should event contracts include?
It is not uncommon to have contracts with multiple entities. Depending on your event logistics, you may have contracts with a venue, hotel, guest speaker, worship band, rental companies, catering companies, etc.

Every contract should include dates and rates. Dates can include the actual event date plus any type of cancellation policies. For contracts with speakers or bands, clearly defined travel arrangements should be included. Contracts with musicians and some speakers also come with riders, documents explaining technical and hospitality needs. Rental and catering companies should include specific items requested and set-up/tear-down times, as well as dates to give a final guest guarantee. Housing contracts should include room types and dates pertaining to when and how room blocks can be adjusted (and any related financial impact).

In addition, all contracts should have an “Acts of God” or “force majeure” clause in the event a natural occurrence cancels or significantly alters an event.

What makes a contract binding?
In the past, verbal contracts were solidified by a handshake, or, if the parties really wanted to reach an agreement, the handshake might include spitting on the hand prior to the shake. Thankfully, spitting on hands isn’t a common practice today. Contracts are fully executed once signed by both parties. In some cases, a deposit might be required, as well.

What should I do before I sign a contract?
READ IT. All OF IT. And read it again. Know what you are committing yourself to before signing the agreement. Be detailed as you go through each section. Have another person read it, as well. As you work with contracts from different entities, cross reference them to make sure there are no discrepancies. For example, if your venue states you cannot bring in outside food, yet your worship band requires a certain type of food in their green room, you’ll need to make sure the catering company through the venue will be able to provide that and at what cost. Read it … and read it again!

What should I do after I sign a contract?
Keep a copy on file to refer to as needed. Also, go through each contract and note deadlines for various tasks. Schedule these on your calendar a week prior to when they are due in case you need to complete any additional work to meet that deadline. Deadlines could include room block adjustment dates, guarantees for catering, housing lists and room set-up forms turned in, and so on.

Event planners, don’t be afraid of contracts. Contracts are put in place to protect both you, your participants, and those you are working with. Realize they are legally binding, and you will be held to the terms of the agreement. Read them carefully. If you don’t understand something in the contract, ask prior to signing. Understand what you are committing to before you commit to it.

 

Ideas for Planning Unplanned Free Time

Free time can be both a blessing and a curse. On one hand, you want to give your participants time to rest and relax. On the other hand, downtime can lead some guests to ask, “What can I do now?”

Oftentimes, free time in an event schedule is intentional. This could take place in the afternoon after a morning of workshops or in the evening after the main session. As an event planner, it can be a challenge to know how much to plan or how much to “let happen” on its own.

Sometimes, however, downtime at a conference happens unexpectedly. Perhaps the hotel accommodations are not ready upon check-in. An activity may be rained out without an indoor alternative. Your main sessions may dismiss much sooner than expected.

A great option to have on hand for free time (both planned and unplanned) is an assortment of games to play. These can include board games or simply decks of cards. If you regularly host events, you might consider investing in a supply of games. Otherwise, you can ask some of your event team if they are willing to bring games from home or invite your guests to bring their favorites. If you are in need of ideas, here is a list of great group games that are easy to learn, easy to set-up, and easy to engage others:

  • Apples to Apples
  • 5 Second Rule
  • Bananagrams
  • Catch Phrase
  • Spot It
  • Decks of cards (Spoons, Hand and Foot, Crazy Eights, etc.)
  • Uno
  • Phase 10
  • Jenga
  • Blokus
  • Mexican Train Dominoes
  • Scattegories
  • Balderdash
  • A to Z
  • Rummikub

Some of your guests’ greatest memories may come from time spent around tables playing games after a day of teaching sessions. In the midst of the laughter and a little friendly competition, your guests can experience fellowship in a relaxed environment.

What are some of your favorite board games to play with a group of friends? Share them in the comment section below.

 

20 Ideas for Facebook Live

You’ve decided to utilize Facebook Live in order to market your upcoming event. Where do you go from here? Before making your first live stream, invite your team to a brainstorming session for content ideas. Determine how often and when you want to “go live.” Some videos might involve traveling to a particular location or meeting with a specific person, so developing a master plan will help you map out your marketing strategy.

Make your Facebook Live streams fun and inviting, yet informational and professional. These videos have the potential to draw prospective attendees to your event and enhance the excitement of those already registered.

If you’re having trouble coming up with ideas for live stream content, here are 20 to help you in the brainstorming process:

  1. Take your viewers on a tour of the venue, emphasizing a few of the main event spaces.
  2. Go live in the lobby of the hotel or other housing accommodations you will be using. If possible, interview a general manager or event host at the site for more information about the lodging.
  3. Find a local coffee shop your guests may want to visit and do a live feed onsite.
  4. Interview your keynote speaker about the upcoming event and answer questions live.
  5. Explore different workshops you will offer, providing a short description of each one.
  6. Talk to various workshop teachers about the content they will discuss during their sessions.
  7. Interview your worship leader. As a bonus, see if he or she will perform a song during your live feed.
  8. Showcase merchandise that will be available for sale at your event.
  9. Highlight an activity your group may participate in during the event.
  10. If your event will have a special themed night where participants can dress up, emphasize that by wearing an appropriate costume while discussing your themed night. This will give attendees an idea of what to wear.
  11. Do a “behind the scenes” video while setting up for your event at the venue.
  12. Offer a challenge for your attendees prior to the conference via Facebook Live. Have a special prize for those who complete the challenge.
  13. Highlight someone packing for your conference to help attendees know what to bring.
  14. Introduce your event team.
  15. Interview someone who has been to the event before.
  16. Host a live Q & A session about your upcoming event.
  17. Walk viewers through your event schedule.
  18. Let viewers know the heart behind your event. What makes it special to you?
  19. Showcase a special cause your event supports.
  20. Show viewers how to register for your event.

What ideas do you have for Facebook Live content? Share in the comments section below!

 

Tips for Using Facebook Live to Market Your Event

 

Social media is a great way to market an upcoming event. While there are seemingly countless ways to utilize Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, one of the easiest ways to reach your audience is through live video feed with Facebook Live.

Facebook Live is simple to use. After logging in to Facebook, click on “what’s on your mind” (where you would typically update your status). Click on “Live Video,” type a description, and, when you are ready, “Go Live!”

Facebook offers a few tips on its website when using Facebook Live. These tips are shared below, along with a few comments about how these can enhance your event marketing.

  1. Tell fans when you’re broadcasting ahead of time. Facebook recommends one day’s notice. This is a simple practice to put in place. The day prior, post when you will go live and include a teaser for what you will share.
  2. Go live when you have a strong connection. According to Facebook, Wi-Fi usually works best, but if this isn’t available, a 4G connection will be necessary. If your connection isn’t strong enough, you won’t be able to go live. Test your connection prior to going live, leaving enough time to find a new location if necessary.
  3. Write a catchy description before going live. Grab your audience’s attention by writing a catchy heading. This will appear in the news feed above the video.
  4. Ask viewers to subscribe to Live notifications. They can do this by tapping on the “Follow” button on current live videos or videos that have been live.
  5. Say hello to commentators by name; respond to their comments live. This tip is self-explanatory. If you are taking questions during a Facebook Live event, respond and use the commentator’s name. For example, if “Joe” asks a question, respond with, “Thanks for the question, Joe…”
  6. Broadcast for longer periods of time to reach more people. Facebook recommends at least 10 minutes. While this allows more viewers the chance to tune in live, as a viewer myself, I don’t always have this amount of time when the video is live. If using Facebook Live to market, vary the times, depending on the topic you are discussing. A few minutes could suffice.
  7. Use a closing line to signal the end of the broadcast. For example, you could close with, “Thanks for watching, and we’ll see you at ‘X’ event in ‘x’ days.” Include the event name and the latest countdown.
  8. Be creative and go live often. The possibilities are endless when it comes to content you can use to market an event on Facebook Live. If you plan to go live once a week for a few months prior to the event, you can build momentum and share quality information about your upcoming event.

In addition to these tips, here are a few of my own:

  1. Do a quick run through of your video before you hit “go live.” Live means live. Though you can delete a video after it is posted, you will lose the value of the live video and comments made.
  2. Use a tripod if available. No one wants to watch a shaky video.
  3. Choose a location free from distraction. Make sure the lighting is good. Record a brief video prior to going live. Review the video to see if the location chosen will work well for your Live event.

Stay tuned for our next blog post showcasing content ideas you can use for Facebook Live event marketing.

Tips for a Memorable VIP Basket

Speakers, workshop presenters, worship leaders/bands and event leadership often go to great lengths to prepare for and attend an event. While this is the full-time occupation for some of them, many must take off work, travel and spend countless hours in preparation. Obviously, monetary compensation is expected for some of these, but others work out of the desire for the event to be the best possible.

Regardless of whether event VIPs are paid or volunteer, welcome baskets in their hotel rooms are a great extra touch to show how much you appreciate what they are doing. Here are a few tips when putting together a VIP basket:

  • Container: You don’t have to use a basket! In fact, if your special guests are traveling by plane, a basket is not conducive to travel. Consider using a gift bag or something easily collapsible instead. Also, choose a container that coincides with the size of items you are placing inside. A full basket, no matter how big or small, will speak volumes to the recipient.
  • Quantity: Be reasonable with what you place in the gift basket. If your event is one night, don’t include five pieces of fruit or enough snacks to last a week. Include one or two bottles of water, a few snacks, one or two pieces of fruit and a few extra items.
  • Contents: In addition to small food items, include a local product if possible. For example, find a local store that sells small jars of honey, locally roasted coffee beans, handmade soaps or homemade chocolates. If you offer to include a business card with the item, some local businesses may give you a discounted price.
  • Quality: Don’t buy cheap candy or snacks. Buy “the good stuff.” It may cost a little bit extra, but your basket recipients will appreciate the gesture. If you include fruit, make sure it is fresh and without bruises.
  • A Few Extra Tips:
    • If you know a person really loves a certain type of snack or drink, try to place that in his/her basket.
    • Think practical. Include gum and breath mints. You could also add a pack of Shout wipes, wrinkle spray or dental floss.
    • Include a hand-written thank you note.

These tips will help you create a memorable VIP basket. Make your baskets ahead of time with non-perishable products. On the day of your event, you can easily add any last-minute items and then deliver them to the hotel rooms or have the front desk hand them to the guests at check-in.

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.

 

Who’s on Your List?

I am a big fan of awards shows—the Grammy Awards, the Academy Awards, the Golden Globes, the People’s Choice Awards. You name the show, I typically enjoy watching it. I like to see what the stars are wearing, however subtle or bizarre. I love to see the opening number and the musical performances and collaborations. I enjoy discovering the menu of the dinner at the Golden Globes. As an event planner, the logistics of such events leave me in awe. The magnitude of people (and egos), the numerous set changes and the overarching weight of live television are all extremely large tasks to undertake.

When I think about awards shows, however, another important element comes to mind—acceptance speeches. I am always amazed at what people use their platforms to say. Some thank any and everyone. Others have a few specific people to mention. Still others use their moment at the microphone to spread a political or social agenda. As I watched the Grammy Awards this past week, I paid extra attention to the speeches of the winners. The first award of the night went to a rapper who repeatedly gave all the glory to God. As I listened to his words, I thought, “Who would I thank if I was in his shoes?”

It’s always interesting to see how different winners come to the stage for acceptance speeches. Some are prepared, with notes on what to say so they will remember everyone they want to thank. Others come to the stage seemingly without having thought twice about what they might say. Regardless of how they give an acceptance speech, one thing is true for all of the winners—they didn’t get to this point alone. Countless people have helped them get to this stage.

When it comes to event planning, you can’t do it alone. Those who help you plan and execute your event need to receive your gratitude, whether that is from the stage or on a more personal level. Just like some award winners pull out a list of people to thank when they accept their awards, keep a list of people you need to thank as your event unfolds. At appropriate times—either before, during or after the event—make sure to offer appreciation (whether spoken or written) for those who helped you bring the event to fruition. Some people you might include are:

  • your planning team and event staff
  • volunteers
  • event attendees
  • your family (for the support and time they give you to carry out your events)
  • the host location
  • speakers, worship leaders, workshop teachers and other conference guests
  • most importantly, God.

Who is on your list to thank after an event? How do you offer thanks to those who make your events possible? Comment in the 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!

 

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.