Help! How Do I Do This?

At Ridgecrest and Glorieta we are privileged to host hundreds of groups each year. While most of the larger events are planned by experienced meeting planners, many of the smaller events are not. Typically they are planned by a lay person who volunteers. Or, in some cases, makes the mistake of leaving the room at the wrong time! Has that ever happened to you?

Either way, the person charged with planning the event doesn’t have much experience and that can be pretty intimidating. Here at MinistryServingMinistry, our desire is to try and help relieve a little of that stress.

With that in mind, I asked two of our event coordinators at Ridgecrest (Lindsay and Stephanie) to share with us five tips for the first time meeting planner. Here’s what they had to say:

  • Do a site visit – If at all possible, go visit the place where you will be holding your event or retreat. There is simply no substitute for actually walking the ground where you’ll be meeting. This one thing will go a long way in eliminating much of the stress for a first time planner.
  • Be prepared for the unexpected – A pretty good rule of thumb for just about any event is that not everything will go exactly as planned. What happens if it rains/snows? What if something happens to one of your speakers? Just a couple of the questions you need to think about during your planning.
  • Know your attendees and their expectations – Remember, you’re not planning this event/retreat for you. It’s for those you want to attend. Make sure you have a good idea of what they need and expect to come away with.
  • Give yourself plenty of time to plan the event/retreat – Too often first time planners will underestimate the time it takes to plan a successful event/retreat. We suggest at least 6-12 months.
  • Utilize the property’s event coordinator – They are the professionals. Don’t be afraid to ask them for help!

Would love to get some additional help from our readers. What tips would you give a first time retreat planner?

Taxing Tourists To Promote Tourism?

Promote tourism, pay for new stadiums, make up for budget shortfalls… All of these are reasons more and more state and local governments are raising taxes on those who come to visit.

Taxing the tourist is not a new concept. Whether it be hotel taxes, rental car surcharges, or an additional 1% restaurant tax, governments have longed used these taxes as a way to pay for a multitude of projects. As long as they could somehow connect the project to bringing in more visitors, they could usually get the taxes approved. After all, impact was primarily on visitors, not their constituents.

What has changed now is governments are starting to look at tourism taxes to help make up for general budget shortfalls. This should be of significant concern to meeting planners as these new, or increased taxes, will only drive up the cost of meetings. Below are a couple of articles that are worth reading on the subject of tourism taxes.

Cities That Tax Tourists the Most/Least

Cities Raise Travel Taxes to Bridge Budget Shortfalls

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention one way you can reduce or eliminate the impact of these taxes on your church or Christian group…hold your meeting, conference or retreat at a Christian conference center. Depending on the size of your event, this could be a significant savings to both your church/organization, as well as to the individual attendees.

10 Viewpoints On Hotel Outlooks

As much as we would love for all of you to have all your retreats, conferences and events at Ridgecrest and Glorieta, we know that’s not possible. Many of you plan events in cities and towns all across the country. With that in mind, I will try to periodically post articles dealing with hotel trends around the country.

Today’s post is an article with comments on the current state of their hotel market from 10 different hotel professionals. Hope you find it helpful.

10 Viewpoints On Hotel Outlooks

Go-Go's, Slow-Go's or No-Go's?

At Ridgecrest and Glorieta, we host a significant number of senior adult groups each year. In addition, we also plan and host several of our own senior adult events. As a result, we have an opportunity to interact with a great number of senior adults and senior adult ministry leaders.

The following post was written by Ron Pratt. Ron is our national event planner and has more experience working with churches and helping them with their ministry they he sometimes cares to admit. I recently asked Ron to write an article on the changing face of senior adult ministry. The following is the first part of what he sent me.

 

If your ministry is working with senior adults, then I want to thank you for what you do. The most exciting days of senior adult ministry are yet ahead and I’m looking forward to them. I am one! And, so is my 84 year old mother who is very involved with a great group of senior adults in her church. Their Senior Adult ministry has made a world of difference in her life, especially since the passing away of my father just over two years ago.

Where to begin? As you are probably aware, today’s senior adults bring incredible blessings and challenges to ministry. In a humorous way, I have always talked about senior adults in three different categories. There are the “go-go’s”, the “slow-go’s” and the “no-go’s”.

There are those senior adults who are incredibly active, yet they have no desire to sit in a rocking chair or get on a bus for a long trip. They are physically active and want to do ministry that they can get involved in physically, spiritually and even financially. They are the “go-go’s”.

Next are the “slow-go’s”. These are the senior adults who can’t wait to get on the bus, anywhere, anytime as long as they can play their card games, eat their home-made goodies and stop at some interesting points along the way. They love “going”, just as long as someone else is driving or coordinating the trip and they have rest stops along the way.

Finally, the “no-go’s” are those senior adults who are mostly (or totally) home-bound, yet want and need to stay connected to their friends and their church.

In future posts, Ron will share some strategies churches can use to reach each of these 3 groups. Please feel free to share your thoughts or comments with us here on the blog, or you can email Ron directly at ron.pratt@lifeway.com.

A Pot Of Coffee Is How Much?

When it comes to catering prices at most hotels and conference centers, sticker shock is not an uncommon reaction among Christian meeting planners. This is especially true for first time planners, or those who are looking to move an event from the church to an off-site location. The cost of an urn of coffee at the hotel down the street is just a tad more than what it costs to brew one in the church’s kitchen!

While there are legitimate reasons (cost of labor, meeting space, banquet equipment, food cost, etc.), one of the primary reasons behind the higher costs is that they can. Once you’ve selected a hotel or conference center for your event, price competition is out the window and you become a captive audience. (A way to avoid this is to include catering pricing in your RFP. This way you can factor catering costs into your overall selection process.)

Since very few, if any hotels/conference centers, will allow you to bring in food or beverages, your only real option in controlling your catering costs is to make good, cost-effective choices. With that in mind, here are some suggestions for things you can watch out for to help keep your catering costs down.

  • Depending on the size of your group, compare the costs and time savings for eating a meal in a private section of the dining room versus having a catered meal.
  • Focus on getting your guarantees as accurate as possible. Typically guarantees are due 48-72 hours prior to the beginning of the event. Be sure to get your guarantee dates in writing so there’s no confusion.
  • Specify the “overset” (the # of people beyond the guarantee # for which the facility will set tables and chairs. Usually varies from 0-5%, with 3% the industry average) in your contract. The higher your “overset” is, the more conservative you can be with your guarantee.
  • Typically you will be billed for the guaranteed number or the number actually served, whichever is greater.
  • Be sure to have a good understanding of the service charges and taxes that will be added to the price of the meal/catering. In most locations, these costs will add 25% or more to the cost of the meal. (Note – Due to our religious non-profit status, neither Ridgecrest of Glorieta add tax or service charges to the cost of our catering.)
  • Don’t compromise on quality due to budget constraints. Instead, consider reducing the number of catered functions for your event.

No doubt there are other things you can do to help control catering costs. Please feel free to share steps you have implemented to help keep your catering costs down.

"What's A Hollow Square?"

In my 30 years in the hospitality industry, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard that question. Truth be told, I’m sure I asked it myself when I was first getting started in my hotel management career.

As in any industry, hotels and conference centers sometimes have a language all their own. This can be pretty frustrating for folks trying to plan a meeting or retreat, especially for those who don’t do it very often. With that in mind, today’s post on meeting room setup will be the first of several dealing with hospitality terminology and operations

  • Hollow square and conference – Tables are set up in a large square, or rectangle. This setup is excellent for interactive discussions and extensive note-taking for groups of 25 or less. Most hotels and conference centers, including Ridgecrest and Glorieta, will have dedicated executive boardrooms for 10-16 people that are ideal for small group meetings.
  • U-shape, T-shape, E-shape – Just as it sounds, tables are set up in a configuration that is similar to the letter. These setups are good for groups of 40 or less where the primary interaction will be with a leader seated at the head of the setup. Seating is typically set on the outside, but seats could also be set on the inside to accommodate more people.
  • Classroom/Schoolroom – Tables are set in rows facing the presenter. This is the most popular setup for medium to large-size lectures. Having participants seated at tables gives them room to spread out and be able to easily take notes. Downside is that it requires a large space. Tables are typically 18″x72″ and will have 3 chairs per table. For large gatherings using a classroom setup, would definitely recommend utilizing staging for the presenter(s) so as to improve sight lines.
  • Theater – Chairs only, set in rows facing presenter. Ideal for large sessions, this setup maximizes the number of people that can fit in the space being used. It’s also a good setup to use before breaking out into discussion groups as the chairs can be easily moved.
  • Rounds – Room is set with round tables (5′ or 6′) and chairs. Generally used for meals and sessions involving small group discussion. Typically, 5′ tables will be set with 8 chairs and 6′ tables with 10 chairs.

This covers the primary room setup terms. Have we missed any? If so, please let us know and we’ll update the post.

Our New Websites Are Live!

We normally don’t post promotional info on this blog, but we are so excited about our new Ridgecrest and Glorieta websites that I’ve made an exception. The sites have been under development for the past 4-6 months and a lot of thought went into trying to make them as user friendly as possible for our meeting planner audience. We tried to put ourselves in your shoes and create simple navigation to help you quickly find the information you might be looking for.

For instance, under the “Facility Rental” tab we’ve created planner personas (meeting planner, church staff, youth leader, etc.) to help you easily find the information you need, based on the type of meeting you’re planning. Under each persona we also offer contact information for all of our sales and event staff, as well as an RFP form and a PDF of our policies.

A new area of the website we think you will find very helpful, also under Facility Rental, is the “Resources” section. In this area you will find our extensive meeting planner guide, as well as a campus map and a property brochure, all in a printable PDF format. In addition, there is also a library of high resolution photos that are available for you to use to help promote your event at Ridgecrest or Glorieta.

Again, these websites were designed with you, our customer, in mind. I encourage you to take a few minutes and surf the site and then tell us what you think. In particular we’d love to hear suggestions you may have for additions to the “Resources” section.

Thanks, in advance, for your feedback!

Oops…almost forgot to mention. The sites now have new, easier to remember, URL’s. Here they are:

An Event Planning Timeline

iStock_Checklist.jpg

Before you begin planning your event, you need to ask, what do you want people to ‘go away with’ when the event is over?  You must start with your outcome and work backwards.  If you don’t know your outcome, how will you know if the event has been a success?

GENERAL TIMELINE –

SIX MONTHS TO A YEAR AHEAD

  • Decide on a location
  • Determine the purpose, format, and feasibility of the event
  • Create an estimated budget and get approval
  • Select the date, but before confirming it clear the date with important participants
  • Sign contract with facility
  • Select the theme
  • Confirm a master of ceremonies and the faculty
  • Plan marketing, promotion and publicity
  • Begin promotion

THREE TO SIX MONTHS AHEAD

  • Write copy, design and get approval of printed materials
  • Decide on how you will use the space (general sessions/break-outs/meals/etc.)
  • Select menus and submit them for approval
  • Make contact with faculty and
  • o    Gather their biographical information
  • o    Request a hi-res photo for publicity and programs
  • Prepare and get all necessary signatures on faculty agreements
  • Finalize the audiovisual presentations
  • Begin publicity

TWO MONTHS AHEAD

  • Finalize facility arrangements
  • Mail an itinerary to faculty along with any travel arrangement requirements
  • Make direction and welcome signs
  • Write and print the program
  • Continue promotion and publicity on schedule
  • Recruit volunteers to staff registration or assist as escorts and greeters, etc.

TWO TO FOUR WEEKS AHEAD

  • Prepare registration packets
  • Send detailed instructions to all faculty
  • Finalize details with facility
  • Ask Facility to schedule a pre-conference meeting

ONE WEEK AHEAD

  • Finish name tags
  • Brief the greeters, escorts and volunteers on their duties
  • Plan an arrival briefing for VIPs if necessary
  • Deliver prepared introductions, speeches to those who will read them
  • Make catering guarantees
  • Prepare your event box with any supplies, such as tape, zip ties, staplers, clip boards, baskets, etc. you may need

THE BIG DAY

  • Arrive early
  • Bring the logistical outline, instructions, directions, phone numbers, banquet orders, name tags,  guest lists, and the event supply box with you
  • Check all facilities.
  • Conduct sound and equipment checks
  • Set up registration.

AFTER

  • Ask Facility to schedule a post-convention meeting
  • Finalize billing and prepare final budget
  • Send thank you notes to staff, volunteers and vendors
  • Conduct event debriefing to determine success or ways to improve in the future
  • Survey attendees, if appropriate.

What Should My RFP Include?

In a previous post (read here), I discussed why anyone planning an off-site meeting or event should utilize an RFP (request for proposal) process. Using an RFP process will result in more competitive and complete bids, less telephone tag, smoother negotiations and no big surprises.

The best way to achieve these positive results is by creating your own RFP. Should you choose to do this, here is a list of items you will want to consider including in your RFP:

  • Name/address of sponsoring organization
  • Your contact information
  • Preferred method of response (mail, fax, email, phone, etc)
  • Deadline for RFP submission and schedule for decision making process
  • Title of the meeting/event
  • Brief description of meeting goals, objectives and/or purpose
  • Meeting history for the past 3 years, if possible
  • Overview of attendee demographics
  • Preferred city or region
  • Possible meeting dates, including days of the week meeting is held and whether or not dates are flexible
  • Type of property preferred (i.e. downtown, airport, resort, Christian facility, etc.)
  • Projected sleeping room block, including info on arrival/departure patterns and estimate of single, double, triple, quad occupancy, etc.
  • Desired room rate range (this will help hotels know if they can be competitive or not)
  • Meeting space requirements, including size of rooms, registration area, staff area, 24-hour holds, etc.
  • Meeting schedule for each day
  • Exhibit information (i.e. # of booths, type of booths, set up and tear down times), if applicable
  • Food and beverage needs (i.e. breaks, catered meals, dietary requirements, etc.)
  • Expectations related to waived meeting room rental and complimentary rooms
  • Any other information that will help make your group more attractive to the hotel or conference center

While this may seem like a lengthy list, it’s not all inclusive. What other information do you include in your RFP’s?

Event attendance and the Under-40 Crowd

I read this great article and thought I would share it with you.

How do young professionals view meetings and exhibitions, and what can meeting professionals do to attract them? Those were the central questions explored in a study by the Center for Exhibition Industry Research, called “The Power of Exhibitions in the 21st Century: Identify, Discover, and Embrace Change from the Point of View of Young Professionals.”

A key finding of the study is that about 87 percent of professionals under 40 plan to attend at least one exhibition in the next two years. But to keep them coming back for more, the report says, organizers need to know what they like, what they don’t like, and what makes them tick.

Generational Differences
The report differentiates between Generation X attendees (ages 28 to 39) and the younger Millennials (ages 18 to 27). For example, Generation X is considered the Family First Generation and the toughest sell when it comes to exhibitions. They do not want to become workaholics whose work hours intrude into their personal lives, especially their time with their children, the report states.

Millennial attendees, on the other hand, tend to be more like Baby Boomers (ages 40 to 63), driven in their careers and passionate about their contributions to society. Exhibitions represent a good vehicle to exercise that passion, the report states. While Millennials can be more easily won over than Gen Xers, their tendency toward instant gratification means they could also be lost if not satisfied.

In summary, Gen Xers are the challenge facing the exhibitions and events industry, while Millennials are the opportunity, the report states.

Convenience and Relevance
The researchers found that 84 percent of respondents had attended one or more exhibitions in the past three years. On average, respondents had the opportunity to attend 7.6 events related to their careers during that period and attended 2.8 of them. Typically, Millennials attended a higher percentage of meetings available to them than Gen Xers.

Both Gen Xers and Millennials ranked convenience and the relevance of the event’s theme as critical factors when deciding whether to attend an event. Gen Xers also considered the cost of the event to be a top factor, while Millennials did not.

Further, 73 percent of respondents created a must see list of exhibitors they wanted to visit, and two out of three said they had the authority to make buying recommendations at their companies. However, many said they felt ignored by exhibitors because of their age. This mistake can cost an exhibitor future sales and also impacts the young attendee in a negative way that influences his perception of the value of exhibitions, states the report.

Lectures, Not Workshops
Approximately 90 percent of those surveyed attend educational sessions at conferences. However, only 54 percent said those sessions have met their expectations.

Interestingly, about 47 percent said their first choice for the session format is a one-hour lecture followed by a 15-minute question-and-answer session. One-quarter said their first choice is a hands-on workshop, and just 15 percent said they would prefer an open discussion with the speaker seeking feedback from the audience.

Social Networking and Socializing
Young professionals make intensive use of the Internet for information and networking. About 88 percent use a social networking Web site regularly. Facebook is the most popular for respondents, followed by YouTube and LinkedIn. In addition, 78 percent get exhibition information from Web sites, while just 60 percent get it from publications and journals. Overwhelmingly, they prefer to be reached and marketed to via e-mail.

When it comes to face-to-face interaction, 35 percent said they attend exhibitions with the primary goal of networking, while 45 percent said that social functions are the most important part of the exhibition. Most said they would participate in first-time attendee programs, if offered.

The study is based on interviews with more than 300 individuals between the ages of 20 and 39 at 10 exhibitions in 10 different industry sectors that took place in 2008 and 2009. Data was also culled from an online survey of young professionals who had attended an exhibition within the last three years.