3 Ice Breakers You’ll Love

Want to get a group interacting, without resorting to an icebreaker that is too silly or ridiculous?  Here are three moderate ideas for different group sizes.

Ice BreakersGet To Know You Bingo.  This is best in a bigger group.  To prepare, draw out a bingo board on an 8 1/2 by 11 sheet of paper and fill each square in with a short descriptive sentence.  These should be things people have done or can do.  Example “Was born outside of the United States.”  “Speaks Chinese”.  “Drives more than 50 miles to work each day.”  Once the game board is created, run as many copies as people you expect to participate.  When the time comes give your group five to eight minutes to take their sheet around and find people with the described skills or experiences to initial their corresponding block.  When five in a row up, down or across are achieved- Bingo! You have a winner.

Standing Still Scavenger Hunt.  Great for a medium sized group.  Create a list of 10 to 20 items your group will need to find.  These should be things they could have in their purse, pockets or wallet.  Examples: A paperclip, tissues, photos of family, lip balm, hand sanitizer, a tool, a device charger … You can also add unusual items like socks, a protractor, or something silly like bird food.  Have the medium sized group divide into teams of five or six people, and give them the list.  Each team must check off as many items as they can.  The winner is the group with the most items on the list. This is easiest with women, because they usually carry a purse.

Two Truths and A Lie.  This is an ice breaker for a small group because it takes a bit of time.  Or, you could break a large group into smaller numbers.  Each group member is told to think of two things about themselves that are true, but seem unlikely, and one lie.  Each person delivers his or her three statements to the group, who must guess which is the lie.

Try out one of these ice breakers at your next event to add some levity or loosen up a group that are strangers to each other.  All of them should help your guests interact, and provide conversation starters for meal times or mingling later in the event.

Don’t Make These Group Apparel Mistakes

So you’ve decided to order matching shirts for your event team.  You want team members to be more visible and accessible to your clients.  Great idea!

group shirts

Before you order, here are a few tips from someone who has made her share of team apparel mistakes.

  1. Research that fabric choice.  Several years ago I ordered team shirts for a group of twenty.  I choose to pay a little more to have a higher quality golf type shirt, with a synthetic material that was super breathable.  Unfortunately, the fabric pulled easily and got little fabric pills on it within the first few wears.  They planned to wear these at least once a week for a year, and it was a big disappointment that the fabric showed wear so quickly.  Before you order, ask if you can see the fabric, have the name of someone who has ordered the same shirt, or even give a shirt a test run before ordering multiples.
  2. On lettering, consider distance.  Before choosing a type size think about how far your clients will be from your employees.  Do they need to be able to read lettering in a crowded convention hall from twelve feet away, or will they be just across a counter? Choose font sizes accordingly. Think about the typical black t shirts with white lettering spelling out “security” in giant lettering on the back, how helpful would that be if “security” was written in fourteen point script on their breast pocket?  Not very.
  3. Evaluate color and style pairings.  What pant or skirt styles and colors will your team be wearing with their shirt?  You wouldn’t want to order a light tan shirt and then ask your team to wear it with khakis.  Beige attack.  You also wouldn’t want your team wearing nice black dress slacks with a cotton shirt, as those styles don’t complement each other.

Group apparel is a great way to set your team apart and help them be found.  I appreciate it greatly when I am at events or stores and looking for someone to assist me.  There are hundreds of team apparel options, but once you consider the style, clothing culture, and client interaction unique to your team, you will significantly narrow the field.  Happy shopping!

A Surprising Key Ingredient to Excellent Customer Service

In their book “The Whole-Brain Child” Drs. Daniel Siegel and Tina Bryson use brain science to teach parents ways to best nurture their children’s minds.

They explain that our brains are divided into not only a left and right hemisphere, but also an upper and lower section.  The lower section is responsible for more basic and automatic functions, the upper controls reasoning, language and logic.  When children experience intense emotions, the communication between the upper and lower portions suffers and parents are left dealing with a completely emotional, not at all logical being.  Anyone who has ever weathered a toddler tantrum knows exactly what I am referring to.

The doctors explain how parents can help re-establish this pathway between the upper and lower portions of the brain, and the first step in guiding children toward rational thought is — empathy.  Empathy from a parent connects the parent and child and also helps the child identify the overwhelming feelings they are experiencing.  Somewhat calmed and more receptive, the child is able to listen to the parent and be guided towards reasoning out a solution with their higher brain.

How does this relate to customer service?  I would suggest this same process can be used when dealing with frustrated, emotional clients and event attendees.  Teaching your employees the great benefit of real empathy could shape and improve the culture of your team and client satisfaction outcomes.  Empathy doesn’t mean giving in, it means taking the time to consider the customer’s position and feelings and communicating that to them.

Think back to your last really lousy customer service experience.  My worst experiences always seem to involve a rigid employee who is reading a script, and who obviously does not care about my problem in the least.  When I bring a problem to someone and they say something like “This must be very frustrating, let’s see what we can do” even if they are able to do very little, I am much more satisfied because of their attitude and approach.

Encourage your team to use empathy while dealing with clients, especially those that are tired, hungry, frustrated or angry.  Give them some phrases to use, and try some role playing scenarios.  Later, ask your team to share ways that empathy improved their guest interactions.  The authors of “The Whole Brain Child” believe that empathy is an important part of developing into a functioning adult, you might find it also greatly improves the care that you provide all your event clients.

3 Fantastic Devotional Resources

Devotions can be encouraging, centering, and inspiring or dull, clichéd and corny.  A single devotional resource will probably not be able to span the different audiences that you encounter over the course of a year.   Here are a few wonderful additions to your library.

devotions

  1. The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers & Devotions.  Read these prayers aloud for reflection or at the beginning of a time of silent or group prayer.  The themes are deep, the words beautiful, and the language understandable.  Published in 1975, you can find this book on amazon.com or request it from your local bookstore.
  2. The Skit Guys.  Eddie James and Tommy Woodard are an amazing team of actors that present Biblical topics with skill and humor.  I’ve seen them perform their skits live, and they never fail to make a big impact on their audiences.  They have a series of videos that include skits and sermon illustrations, so grab one and use it to present a compelling devotion.  For an even more interactive presentation use the video to illustrate a point, and then ask the audience a few open ended questions, to be discussed in small groups or with the main speaker via twitter feed.
  3. My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers.  This is a classic devotional that has been read by millions of Christians.  It was first published in 1935. I would recommend buying an updated edition so that the slightly antiquated language of the original doesn’t hinder audience understanding.  These short devotions center on a specific topic, like: “Living Your Theology” or “The Purpose of Prayer” and include a Scripture verse.

Adding these resources to your library will allow you to choose a devotional appropriate to your audience.  Do you need to begin a session with a time of quiet reflection for a small group of pastors, or focus the attention of 500 youth?  Think about your audience and help them connect with the wonderful truth of God’s Word.  What devotional resources do you come back to again and again?

Boost Event Quality with Group Leader Training

Have you ever heard the saying “An event is only as good as it’s weakest part”?  Probably not, I just made it up.  But I think it is true.  And small group sessions are often a weak portion of larger events. Why? Because small group times can create challenging dynamics and leaders are usually volunteers with little to no training.  So, let’s do some leader training and boost the quality of your next event.

Leadership Boost

When should you provide training?  Provide training anytime in the two weeks leading up to the event, even during a special pre-session that begins just a few hours before the main event.  Doing training further out is less effective.  Leaders aren’t motivated because they don’t feel the training is necessary (yet) and they often forget a large portion of the training if there is too much lag time between learning and utilizing their new skills.

What format should you use? I think in person training is most effective, using lots of real life examples and interactive scenarios.  Introduce a principle and then allow leaders to practice it in a mock scenario.  (For example, how to handle a group member that consistently dominates group time.)   If you absolutely can’t meet in person, try a webcast or post some training sessions on YouTube.  If possible, follow up with your leaders by phone to field questions.

What should you cover?  There are lots of training resources for group leaders, visit amazon.com and you’ll find a plethora of options.  (I’ve used “The Big Book On Small Groups” by Jeffery Arnold.)  A few basic topics include: setting group expectations, creating a safe place by laying simple boundaries, keeping time, recognizing and stopping unhealthy patterns, leading prayer, and managing group dynamics.  Decide exactly what you expect from small group session times and outline it clearly for your leaders.  You’ll both benefit from definitive expectations.

Group leaders might be in charge of anything from a hike during free time, to a number of discussion sessions after a main speaker; either way they need guidance.  Help them create a professional, excellent experience for their participants by providing some basic training.  And by eliminating awkward, poorly trained leaders, you’ll exponentially increase the quality of your next event.

How to Survive Planning An Event With A Committee

planning committeeLong meetings, differing opinions, politics, delays.  These are a few words that might come to mind when thinking about committees.  If you’ve ever tried to plan an event with a committee, you know it can be challenging.  Here are a few tips to help you represent their interests, keep to a timeline and create an event that lives up to your high standards.

  1. Insist on dealing with a single committee representative.  This strategy encourages the committee to reach a consensus before sending you information.  Otherwise, you might act on one member’s direction only to discover they were addressing you without the approval of the group.   This will also cut down on the number of emails and phone calls your receive. Instead of getting ideas, suggestions and comments from ten people, you’ll be receiving them from one.
  2. Give the committee a very clear list of what you need from them and when you need it.  Committees often meet only biweekly or monthly.  Don’t expect to be able to ask for a decision or piece of information and receive it quickly.  Map out what you will be asking them to provide, put it in print and include deadlines. Make it very clear that if they do not provide information by a deadline, you will make the best decision possible without it and move forward.
  3. Don’t be afraid to be the expert.  Working with a committee can be a bit intimidating.  A group of people who are familiar with each other, united in a common goal and used to being in charge.  Gulp.  But don’t let feelings of being outnumbered keep you from giving them your very best service and often that means speaking up.  Be polite and professional and help them use your years of experience.  For example, perhaps they suggest using a venue that would be inappropriate.  You could say “I’ve seen some very lovely dinners there.  But in my ten years of event planning I’ve seen quite a few summer events spoiled by the intense heat the sun creates on that open lawn.  What do you think about The Meadows?  It has much the same feel with a good bit more shade.”  Speak up, share your knowledge and move the committee toward their goals.

Employing these strategies can significantly smooth the process of working with a committee.  Dealing with a single committee representative, providing clear expectations and deadlines and confidently lending your expert counsel will help you improve your joint endeavor and direct a smashing event.

Two Quotes I Like To Consider When Planning A Christian Meeting or Event

I love quotes.  It’s an opportunity to receive wisdom from those that have gone before you, to learn from their experience, and a great way to get inspired.

The two quotes below are two of my favorites.  They not only inspire, but show tremendous insights of both of their authors.  Check them out:

“Some people say, ‘Give the customers what they want.’  But that’s not my approach.  Our job is to figure out what they’re going to want before they do.” – Steve Jobs

“I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it’s been.” – Wayne Gretzky

Let’s read those again so they sink in.

Steve Jobs has referenced the Wayne Gretzky quote, and if you read these two quotes one after another, there ideas are very similar in nature.  Jobs always wanted to create a product that nobody had ever thought of.  Take the iPad as an example of that product.  I remember distinctly the first time I held it, and I was AMAZED!  He and his team figured out what I needed before I did.  This device was not just a game changer, but the iPad defined a product category.

Gretzky’s quote shows amazing vision.  Someone once told me as a kid he charted out were the puck went after watching games.  Anticipating where the puck is going to be became a learned skill.

Let’s apply both of these quotes to your business as an event planner.  What do your event attendees want different from your event that they don’t even know?

That can be a hard question to answer, but you’ll have to become like Gretzky and look at where the puck is going to be.  Tough job but needed to grow.

What about personal life?  If you’re like me, you might need a nice swift kick in the rear to get that project completed or off the ground.  A little forward thinking is all that is needed.

3 Ideas On Giving Back

I have two great mentors in my life.  These are gentlemen that I talk to about business, family, God and life in general.  They have helped me tremendously, and I’m grateful for their willingness to give back.  Because of them, I have been challenge to give back and to look for opportunities to mentor others.

Being a mentor was demonstrated in the Bible by Paul who guided a young Timothy in the ways of being a Christ follower.  Jesus was a mentor to his disciples, and through them the early church was formed.

We all get bogged down in our busy day-to-day lives.  Stopping to guide someone or simply to answer a question can be very rewarding for both sides.

Are you wanting to give back, but don’t know how?  Here are 3 ideas:

  1. Speak in front of students.  Many schools across different age groups have career days.  Take that opportunity to volunteer to speak on event planning and having a career as an event planner.  Give out your contact information to those who are interested in learning more.
  2. Have interns work for you.  This is my favorite way to teach.  We always have interns at our office, and sometimes the interns have worked their way into a full time job.  We don’t treat our interns as coffee or dry cleaning gophers, but rather they become part of the family sitting in on meetings and learning the ins and outs of our organization.  This is the way to treat interns.  They are there to learn.  Teach them!
  3. Teach on the Internet.  I’ve heard it said, “the Internet is the future of education.”  That is so true.  You can learn so much by a simple Google search.  Start a blog teaching your way of event planning.  Be sure to post your contact information so people can email you with questions.  Remember it’s a way to give back.

How do you give back?  Have you found a way that works for you?  Share in the comments.

Who Else Wants To Increase Their Value As An Event Planner?

“No event planner is an island entire of itself.” John Donne. Well, that’s not exactly how the poet wrote that line, but it’s still true. No event planner pulls of an entire event without help. Allison Saget, an event planner for Fortune 500 companies, wrote in her book, The Event Marketing Handbook:

“It is important throughout your work life to develop a network of relationships.The people in my event network range from executives to technical support gurus to creative agencies. These individuals are experts in their field. I believe creating an event network makes you resource rich and will extend the value of what you bring to a program.”

So, it looks like we’re talking about more than having a few caterers and tent rental companies in your Rolodex, right? Think through your current resource network. I’m a visual person, so I’d probably sketch this out. I’d put pen to a large sheet of paper, jot down all of my event network members and pin it up somewhere near my desk. Excellent.  Now that you’ve identified who is in your network, consider ways to foster these relationships.  Send a note saying “thank you”, check in via email or telephone, write a recommendation on LinkedIn, or send a customer or article their way that would foster their business. What if you spent ten minutes a week fostering a relationship with one of these people?

Aside from cultivating the event network you’ve already established, also plan ways to expand this group. You might sign up for a conference, join the local chamber of commerce, invite a new acquaintance out to lunch.  Choose people that are modeling excellence, passion and innovation.  Try to connect with someone who could become an “expert source” at least once a month.  You won’t click with everyone, but those you do will be worth the failed attempts.

Sketch out your event network, and decide how you will deepen and expand it. You must be in charge of creating a support system for yourself that is professional and vibrant.  You’ll be delighted at the rewards you, your clients, and guests will reap from this investment.  Who do you count as a valuable member of your event network, and how did you first connect with them?

4 Ways To Celebrate At Your Event

I wrapped up a big deal for one of our management clients the other day.  What was the first thing we did?  Celebrated, of course.  It might be as little as a muffin from Panera or as big as a steak from Stoney River, but we celebrate everything at my company.

I find it to be rewarding and gratifying when something big comes together (especially if it’s a big project I’ve had a hand in), and we, as a company, take that opportunity to celebrate those victories.

Do you take the opportunity to celebrate achievements?

Celebrating these big accomplishments is a great addition to any upcoming retreat or event your company is doing.

How do you do celebrate?  Here are 4 ideas:

  1. Concert.  Bring in a band, solo artist or DJ to juice up the celebrating.  If you really want to have some fun, do some karaoke.  That’s one way of getting your employees to get out of their comfort zone.
  2. Nice dinner.  Let’s face it, we all like a nice dinner.  Especially if it’s something we wouldn’t personally splurge on like steak or lobster.  You get the general idea.
  3. Movie night.  Grab your favorite movie treat and settle in for a nice movie.  If you’re off on a retreat, do it later in the night, and have your attendees wear their PJs (nothing too crazy here.)
  4. Bowling.  At your next event, take a field trip to a local bowling alley and knock down some pins.  To really get people mingling, mix up departments.

Remember that whatever you do to celebrate, the key word is “fun”!  Your company (or team) is celebrating.  You can’t watch a movie like The Notebook.  It’s got to be something fun and exciting!!

Have you added a celebration night to your event?  What has worked for your company?