Event Prizes to Fit Your Budget

Drawings, contests and raffles for prizes can be a fun element added to a conference.  Depending on the types of prizes you secure, these giveaways can be a high-energy, exciting part of your large group session times.  After all, everyone likes to win a free gift!

You might have been to conferences where they are giving away things such as iPads and hotel stays.  How can you obtain prizes for your events that won’t break your budget?  You would be amazed what people will donate if you just do one simple thing…ask.

Here are some tips to utilize as you ask organizations, companies and/or individuals to donate gifts to be given away at your events:

  • Make a list of restaurants, stores and attractions to call to request donations.  Often these types of places will donate gift certificates or smaller items to be used as prizes.  Recruit a team of volunteers to call or visit these places, as this can be a time consuming process.  Think about the dynamics of your group as you seek out giveaways – if the participants are coming from many different locations, make sure these places are not local to one specific area.
  • Utilize social media such as Facebook and Twitter to reach people who may have ties to different organizations.
  • Ask your speakers and band for copies of their books (if applicable), CDs, t-shirts and other merchandise they may sell.
  • Ask people on your team to seek out people they may know that can donate items.  It’s surprising to find out who people might have connections with among your team.
  • Suggest to donors that their business or organization will be advertised as you give their prizes away.  You can include this in a “thanks to our donors” section of your conference information and from the stage as winners are announced.
  • If individuals or organizations donate money, use this to purchase larger prizes such as an iPad.
  • Have an idea of what you might want someone to donate, but don’t be discouraged if the donation does not match your expectation.  On the other hand, you might be surprised at what some places are willing to donate.  (For example, I once called a chain restaurant for donations, and they gave 100 $10 gift cards to their restaurants for prizes!)
  • Always, always, always send thank you notes after you receive their donations!

As I have been told all of my life, “You never know unless you ask!”  What’s the worst that could happen?  Someone might say “no”, and then you move on!

4 New Ways to Ensure Attendee Happiness

Planning an event or conference is all about you and your company, right? Wrong! Making sure the attendee is happy and satisfied is your main goal, and you need to plan the whole event around that fact. If your guests aren’t enjoying the event, they won’t learn anything, and they surely won’t be loyal to your company. What’s the point of a conference if it doesn’t benefit your guests?

So, how do you plan for the attendee? Think about your favorite parts of past conferences you ran or attended. What made you feel like the planner really put the guests first while planning? Were there moments where you said, “Oh wow this was a great idea!”? Add those into your next event. If you can’t think of any, here are 4 to get you started.

  1. Make sure everyone involved is passionate and knowledgable. When choosing employees and volunteers to help with this conference, there should be a few deciding factors. First, are they truly passionate about the work being done? If not, they might still be great people, but not the right fit for this event. Second, make sure they are knowledgable about the whole event, company, speaker, venue, etc. Having passionate and knowledgable workers will help each attendee feel more welcome and much happier because it will be oh so easy for them, and they’ll respect you as a company knowing you hired qualified people as your staff and volunteers.
  2. Have discounts, a loyalty program, raffles, etc. Who doesn’t love a random gift of discount? Most conferences I’ve been do have some kind of raffle or free giveaway during breaks or at the end of the conference, and it’s just a silly way to get everyone excited! You can also have a loyalty program or discounts for repeat customers/attendees and give them 20% off their ticket, half price for a friend, a special name tag that shows they’re a repeat customer, or even a free meal if they attend. Get creative with how you can give back to your guests and they’ll feel extra appreciated.
  3. Have kids friendly activities. If this is a family conference, you must make sure the children have something to do. Are the speakers kid friendly? If not, hire a few volunteers to plan fun kids activities, or even hire a speaker specifically for the kids. If they are, make sure to hand out crayons and paper to these kids, and tell the parents in advance where to go if their children need a break.
  4. Make sure it’s easy for them. Give them all the information up front. Give them to the point emails about dates, times, and locations, and separate emails with venue amenities, suggested packing ideas, and even their food options. Your attendees will appreciate everything you do for them that seems “out of the way” or “extra.” Don’t email too often or give too much information, because then you’ll seem spammy or downright annoying. Give them as much information as you would want if you were attending as a guest. Remember, put yourself in their shoes, and you will do great!

Do you have any other suggestions for making attendees happy at an event?

Don’t Let Your Event Attendees Get Bored During Free Time!

You know how conferences need to have free time in between activities and speakers? Well, they also need to have free time elsewhere. If you plan too much, your attendees could feel overwhelmed and are even more likely to skip an activity or simply not pay attention to a speaker. Here are some tips on how to give them the free time they need to focus, enjoy the conference, and simply stay awake.

First, you need to make sure you actually leave some free time. This can be done in a variety of ways. You can start every day at noon to give your guests all morning to relax and explore the conference center or town. You can end one day a little early to give them a night free to try a different restaurant. You can even give them a long lunch one day to pray or hike. Some of this will depend on what activities you have planned, what the weather is like, and what part of the world you are in.

To go along with that, check out what there is to do in the area, and give them an easy-to-read, organized, and extensive list or brochure of the cool activities, noteworthy restaurants, and distinctive places in town (and even at your own venue) to check out. You can learn what’s around by simply calling the site and asking a customer service representative. You can also check out some websites (even their own) to see what’s in town.

What else can you do to help? Provide local transportation information (taxi numbers, bus schedules, etc.), local area maps, prices of each restaurant and activity, directions and addresses to suggested destinations, and any other insider or “local” tips that the venue’s customer service can give you. While some attendees might want to stay in their rooms during free time, encourage them to take advantage of the situation. Your guests will thank you for the hospitality.

What else do you do to help attendees enjoy free time at a conference?

Are You Considering The 2 “Why’s” When Planning Your Event?

I hope you’ve been keeping up with our series on the Who, What, Where, When, and Why of planning an event. Today’s post, “Why”, is the 5th and final question in the series. Are you ready?

There are two giant questions in this post which may seem very similar, but are, in fact, quite different.

1.  Why are you having this meeting/retreat/event? Is it to feel closer to God?  Is it a staff retreat with 30 of your coworkers? Is it to learn a specific skill, trait, or idea? Is it an annual conference? Or is it because you were able to book a big-time speaker and are focusing the whole event around them?

Whatever the reason, you will need to consider it throughout the other four key elements of organizing this event. If you want to have a small event where everyone gets close to one another, you won’t want to invite everyone on the Internet and rent a giant lecture hall. If you’re focusing on one key subject like writing or painting?  You must make sure to advertise to people who are interested in the topic. Keep your central theme in mind throughout the whole planning process so you don’t lose focus on what’s really important.

2.  Why are your attendees coming to this event? To learn? To grow? They have to? Whatever the reasons are, it’s critical this issue be addressed throughout the planning process. Once you determine why you’re having the event, you need to think of why your potential attendees would sign up and actually show up. Make it worth their while. Whatever your theme may be, make sure your attendees will leave the conference with a greater knowledge about the topic. Making your attendees happy should be your number one goal, so keep that on your mind at all times!

In my opinion, I think you should know who is speaking, what the conference is about, and why you’re really having this event before you start figuring out where and when. That way, you know exactly how you want the event to be, which will help you find the perfect place to hold the conference. Oh, and remember to be a little bit flexible on everything, because something always happens differently than you originally planned.

I hope this series has been helpful to you and let us know if you’d like to see a series on any other topics, we’re here to serve.

5 Ways to Save Money When Planning Your Next Conference

When planning an event, what do you consider the most important aspects? Having fun? Learning? Growing? Okay, all true, but what’s another significant part? How about saving money and staying within your budget?

Chances are if it’s not you, then someone else in your organization sees saving money and hitting your event budget as pretty important. Therefore it’s something you should probably spend some time focusing on. To help, here are 5 things you can do to save a little cash:

  1. Plan early. Actually, plan earlier than you think you should. Not only is it usually easier to get better deals when you plan early, it’s also easier to get what you want, when you want. If you leave it all to the last minute, you run the very real risk that everything might already be booked and/or more expensive. Think ahead.
  2. Be flexible. If your dates and times are flexible, it will be much easier to save money. The venue you’re booking might be cheaper during the week than on the weekends, or if you check-in on a Sunday night, or if you book for four days instead of three, etc. Don’t be afraid to ask the hotel or conference center for their best deals throughout the year and inquire about their least expensive times of year when booking. If you’re wanting to hold your event during high demand times be prepared to pay top dollar. Flexibility to take a lower demand date will definitely help you to save money.
  3. Do your research. It is usually easier to save money if you explore multiple options instead of just booking the first one you find. Submit RFP’s (requests for proposals) to multiple hotels/conference centers, entertainment companies, catering companies, etc and then compare to see who has what you want at the price you’re looking to spend.
  4. Use connections. If you have a friend in the DJ business, see if he or she can hook you up with a deal, instead of hiring a stranger. This concept goes for anything from caterers to party planning companies to audio/visual equipment vendors to, again, venues. Friends, friends of friends, and old business associates are much more likely to charge you a fair rate, or even give you a discount. Don’t be afraid to ask.
  5. Focus on the budget. Really look at your budget at all times. Once you create your event’s expense budget, try everything possible not to spend money on something you did not budget for. This will, to no surprise, help you stay within your (probably tight) budget.

What other money saving tips have you found to be helpful? Let us know by commenting below!

4 Fundamental Steps for Budgeting an Event

One of the most critical steps in planning an event is creating a budget. Whether your organization is paying for the event, or you’re looking to cover the costs by charging a registration fee, a detailed budget is a must for ensuring good stewardship. Plan and hold an event without a budget and I can pretty much guarantee you will end up spending way more money than you could have imagined. Not good!

While budgeting for an event might seem overwhelming at first,  following these 4 budget planning steps should help to keep your stress level to a minimum:

  1. Make a list of everything you need to hold the event – Budgeting an event is similar to packing for your vacation…inevitably you always forget something and end up paying more to replace it than if you would have packed it to begin with. The same is true with an event…it’s the things you forget that end up blowing your budget! Create a list outlining all the possible cost centers for your event and then add bullet points to each main category. (click here for a sample list of categories) Now that you have your list, it’s time to move on to #2…
  2. Determine costs for all the items on your list – After doing your research, determine how much money you need to spend on each aspect of the event. Also, be sure put some money in an “emergency/contigency” category to help cover anything you might have forgotten. This will make it a little easier to stay under or at budget.
  3. Determine your program/registration fee – Whether you are planning a break-even church retreat, or a profit-generating event, determining how much to charge for the event is very similar. Simply take the total amount of expenses from step #2 and divide by the number of people you realistically expect to attend the event. (Example, $10,000 in expenses divided by 100 expected attendees equals a $100/person program fee.) In my example, the $100/person program fee would allow the event to break-even (cover it’s costs)…if expenses remained at $10,000 or less and at least 100 people paid to attend.
  4. Under promise, over deliver – You’re probably more accustomed to seeing this phrase applied to customer service, but I believe it also applies to event budgeting…just in a little different way. Instead of under promising and over delivering, focus on under estimating your attendees and over estimating your expenses. If you do this and can still show a break-even budget, chances are pretty good your event will end up in the black and not the red!

Hopefully this was helpful to you? Let us know by leaving a comment below!

Are You Considering The 3 “What’s” When Planning Your Event?

Hopefully you read our last blog about planning a great event, entitled, “Are You Considering The 3 “Who’s” When Planning Your Event?” If you didn’t, I suggest you do that ASAP here.

Now, we’re going to focus on the 3 “what’s” of planning. They are:

  • What is the conference going to be about? Obviously, when you’re thinking of who is speaking and who you’re inviting, you’re simultaneously thinking about what the speakers will be talking about. Having some sort of continuity is important at an event, and having the exact idea in your mind at all times will help you stay on target. You won’t know how to advertise or, well, plan the whole event if you don’t know what it’s going to be about!
  • What kind of “vibe” do you want to create? Knowing the overall “feel” or “vibe” of the event will help things run smoothly. For example, if you’re having a serious event, then party balloons, juice boxes, and a cake with sprinkles might not be the best ideas, right? You want this event to be memorable, and you want the attendees to have fun and learn something, so plan accordingly!
  • What important aspects might I be forgetting? Is your event going to have lectures, speaker panels, group work, and/or workshops? Is half of the event outside, with team-building strategies and networking built into the schedule? Will the conference center provide food, or do you need to get the event catered? How many days and how many hours per day are you going to have meetings? Are there enough snacks? Is each presenter going to have a PowerPoint presentation and need a microphone? Is there going to be a dress code? Are you going to allow laptops in the conference room for note taking purposes? Seriously, are there enough snacks? This list may seem overwhelming, and none of these are actually “what” questions, but these are just a few of the vital questions you should ask yourself when you’re thinking, “What?”

Once you know exactly what the conference is about, who is speaking and attending (which we talked about last week), what topics will be covered, what kind of “vibe” you’re aiming for, and the “little” things like if you’re providing notebooks for attendees or not, you’ll be even closer to having a great event!

Can you think of other “what” questions I may be missing?

Are You Considering The 3 "Who's" When Planning Your Event?

Whether it’s your first time to plan an event, or you’ve been event planning for many years, there are 5 W’s that need to be well defined in order to put together a quality event. The 5 W’s to be defined are Who, What, Where, When and Why and it’s critical to address all of them during your planning process. Shortchanging even one can leave you with an event that is less than what it could have been. Over the next several weeks we are going to address each one of these W’s individually and hopefully provide you with a very helpful roadmap to use when planning any future event.

The first W we’ll cover is Who. When it comes to the Who, here are the 3 Who’s you need to consider when planning:

  • Who will be attending? Answering this question really sets the stage for everything else when it comes to planning an event. Many times it may seem like a no-brainer. After all, it’s a women’s retreat Byron. Who do you think’s going to attend? True enough, but don’t stop there. Give serious thought to exactly which women will be there. Single women, single mom’s, mom’s with young children, empty nesters…women from all these groups could be attending and they all have different needs. Going deeper on exactly who will be attending makes it easier to plan everything else.
  • Who will be speaking? Once you know who your audience will be, you can then focus on who will be speaking and/or teaching at your event. It could be multiple professional speakers teaching your attendees about a certain topic… maybe a youth retreat with a main speaker, worship band and a bunch of volunteers teaching the Bible studies…or anywhere in between. A key item to also consider when answering this “who” is cost. Selecting a “famous name” speaker could help boost attendance, but it can also drive up your cost and make it more difficult to not lose money on your event.
  • Who will be working/volunteering? The final “who” to consider is who will be working at the event? When it comes to event workers/volunteers, all I want to say is do not understaff! Much better to have too many workers or volunteers than realize you need four more hands the first day of the conference. Think about all the tasks that need to happen. Tasks such as taking up tickets, helping the speakers, coordinating food, passing out programs and maybe even be a liaison with the host facility. Save yourself a lot of stress during the event and make sure you have enough help.

Any other “who’s” you consider when planning your events?