Summer Series: H2Olympics

While you may have your adult guests occupied with seminars, classes and other sessions, what are you planning with their kids who may accompany them?  Summer conferences are a fun way for families to travel together, but there are times when there may need to be separate activities for the kids.hoseIf you’re looking for a summer afternoon idea for the kids at your conference, water activities are always a hit!  While this will require planning on your part, it’s sure to be an afternoon the kids will remember.  Before you plan this type of activity, make sure your host location has water resources available.  Questions to ask include, “Is there a water source near the assigned playing area?” and “Are there long hoses available to use?”

If you do have access to water, consider planning an H2Olympics, a series of water events where teams of kids compete against each other.  (And, if the whole family wants to get involved and not just the kids, consider pairing families together based on size to compete against each other!)

Here are some events you can incorporate:

  • Fill the Can:  Have a large kiddie pool filled with water.  Each team must transport water from the pool to fill their own buckets using only themselves.
  • Curling:  On a large slip ‘n slide, one member of each team gets pushed on their knees and then slides.  The team member that goes the greatest distance wins.  (Tip:  Cover the slip ‘n slide with baby oil or dish detergent for an extra slippery ride.)
  • Water Balloon Fight:  Each kid gets ten water balloons.  The driest team at the end of the balloon fight wins.
  • Water Balloon Shot Put:  One kid from each team participates to see how far he can throw a water balloon.  The team throwing the farthest distance wins.
  • Balloon Piece Pick-up:  Give each team a trash bag.  The team collecting the most water balloon trash wins.  (As a side note, this is a great way for everyone to help clean up from the water balloon fight without them knowing they are actually “cleaning”.)
  • Soap Shrink:  Give each team two bars of soap.  The first to shrink all bars in their water buckets wins.  (Tip:  Use travel-sized soaps for this activity.)

There are plenty of other water games you can include in your H2Olympics – be creative and utilize supplies and resources you know you will have on hand.  After the games are over the kids can have a free time playing on the slip ‘n slides or running through sprinklers.

If you do plan on having a water day for your guests, make sure to let them know about this before they arrive.  They will want to pack bathing suits, towels and sunscreen for the big event!

Summer Series: Summer Catering Ideas

With the summer season upon us, it’s time to look at a few specific ideas for your upcoming, fun-in-the sun retreats.  Summer is a great time for camps and conferences designed with all ages in mind.

watermelon girl
Looking for a few summer-themed catering ideas for your next event?  Here are a few tried-and-true suggestions you can incorporate.

  1. S’mores:  Nothing says summertime like an evening sitting around a campfire.  However, having a campfire isn’t always ideal in your host location.  A new trend is creating a s’mores bar, something that can be used indoors or outdoors.  To create your bar, use a shallow wooden box or terracotta pots filled with rocks.  Place your flame source (burners or canned heat such as Sterno) in the rocks.  Using wooden skewers, guests can roast their marshmallows directly over these flames.  Think outside the box when creating your s’mores – flavored marshmallows, peanut butter cups or mints as your chocolate and various flavors of graham crackers.  The possibilities are endless!
  2. Watermelon:  When I think of summertime in the South, it’s not complete without watermelon.  Create an evening fellowship enjoying this summer staple.  You can incorporate other fruits, as well, by carving a watermelon as a bowl or basket and filling it with chunks of summertime fruits.  And, if your group is up for it, end the evening with an old-fashioned seed-spitting contest!
  3. Ice Cream Sundaes:  Most everyone loves ice cream!  Offer ice cream in a few different flavors and have guests create their own sundaes with all the toppings.  (If your group is smaller and you have access to ice cream freezers, consider homemade ice cream instead!)
  4. Sno-Cones/Shaved Ice:  Bring out the kid in all of your guests by indulging in summertime sno-cones and shaved ice.  Many party companies have machines available for rent.  Allow your guests to create their sno-cones with an assortment of flavored syrups.  You can buy these at most grocery stores during the summer months.

Summertime provides an opportunity for a lot of fun, outdoor catering events.  Often, they can be very nostalgic in nature, bringing back snacks you enjoyed as a kid on hot, summer nights!

Summer Series: Celebrating the Fourth of July

When it comes to celebrations, the Fourth of July provides a great outlet for an outdoor party as an addition to a retreat or a stand-alone event.  Since this holiday is often celebrated with family, there is an opportunity to have a family-friendly aspect to your retreat, where guests of all ages can come together for a fun-filled afternoon or evening.

july fourth picnicHere are some ideas to consider when planning Fourth of July festivities:

  • Location:  Many people associate the Fourth of July with fireworks.  If possible, plan your event at a location where local fireworks can be easily viewed.  This provides a great finale to your party.  If this is not an option, consider an outdoor place with a lake or pond as a backdrop, as water activities can be an important entertainment aspect of your party.  Regardless of your location, make sure you check on fireworks laws and fishing/boating regulations before purchasing your own fireworks and planning water activities.  (For example, some locations don’t allow fireworks because of county regulations, while others allow certain types of fireworks such as sparklers.)
  • Decorations:  Fourth of July celebrations are easy to decorate.  Simply think red, white and blue.  Flags, stars, festive centerpieces, banners and tablecloths in these colors offer a quick and simple way to enhance your event.  A cute idea for a path to your picnic is to create white stars out of flour.  You can do this by spraying grass with water (even in a spray bottle), using a cardboard star cutout and sifting flour onto the cutout.
  • Food:  Classic picnic fare is always a good choice for Fourth of July festivities.  Hot dogs, hamburgers, barbecue or even a fish fry are great ideas for your holiday meal.  Festive sides and desserts including grilled corn, red/white/blue rice krispie treats cut into star shapes, star shaped fruit and chocolate covered pretzel sticks with red/white/blue sprinkles can add to your meal.  Pinterest is a great resource for picnic food ideas.  If your event is at a conference center, work with their food service department to create a fun atmosphere where food can be a focal point of the party.
  • Activities:  Classic games such as cornhole, horseshoes, potato sack races, three-legged races and croquet are low-maintenance activities that can go on throughout your picnic.  Consider other fun events such as pie-eating contests, water activities (if available) or softball.  Add Fourth of July trivia sheets to your tables for guests to enjoy while they wait for their meal.  Child-friendly things such as sidewalk chalk and bubbles are a fun addition.  If possible, easy to handle fireworks such as sparklers are also a great idea.

Celebrating the Fourth of July with family and friends is something we have been doing for years.  If your event falls during this holiday, don’t forget to incorporate an afternoon or evening to celebrate America.  Creating a family-friendly atmosphere will make your guests feel right at home!

Helpful Hints for Creating Rooming Lists

For some event planners, creating a rooming list can be a daunting task.  Rooming requests, special rooming needs and the desire to please guests with roommate assignments can be the perfect mixture for a stressful situation.  Here are a few helpful hints for your next rooming lists assignments.

  1. Check with your host center location to see if there are specific housing assignment forms you need to use.  If not, an Excel spreadsheet is a very easy way to organize your guests into rooms.
  2. Make sure your guests are up-front about specific rooming needs they may have.  Handicapped rooms, first floor rooms, rooms near exits or adjoining rooms might be requested.  These needs must be shared with the host location, as well, as soon as you are made aware of them.  There is often no guarantee for these specific rooms as there are limited types available, but if you make them aware early, the chances for meeting these requests are greater.
  3. Know what room types you have and clearly communicate this with your guests.  Four guests to a room could mean a number of different configurations – two sets of bunkbeds, two queen beds, four single beds, etc.  Women and senior adults typically do not want to use a top bunk.  Men often prefer a bed to themselves.  Know your audience and adjust your room assignments accordingly.  If someone is adamant about having a room to himself or herself, offer this to them if there is availability at an increased cost to cover the remainder of the room.
  4. Honor roommate requests when you can, especially if the person attending is a guest of another.  It’s always best if both participants request each other, rather than one person requesting another person without that person knowing.  You can also limit the number of room requests each participant has.  Use your discretion.
  5. Decide before your event how you will handle room changes.  Can guests switch on their own?  Do they need to come to you to make changes?  Are changes allowed?

In order to eliminate extra headaches when working through rooming assignments, select one person (other than yourself) to take charge of housing.  All requests and changes should go directly through this person.  Communicate this clearly to your guests.  By taking this off your very full event plate, you can concentrate on planning details rather than ever-changing rooming list spreadsheets.

Rainy Day Ideas

How often has this scenario come to life in your student event planning?

You’ve planned a perfect afternoon of outdoor camp activities.  You’ve got everything set up and are just waiting for your group to come and enjoy the festivities.  And then, the thunder rolls, the lightning strikes and the rain begins to fall.  Your perfect outdoor activities are rained out.

Child Rainy DayWhat do you do when your camp activities are cancelled due to rain?  As much as you watch the weather forecast and even pray for a dry day, there is one thing that will always be certain…weather is unpredictable.  Storms can arise when we least expect them.  As an event planner, you should be prepared for the unexpected, especially when it comes to rainy day activities.  Here are a few ideas you can have on hand when the weather might alter your plans.

•    Board Games – Bring an assortment of board games to the retreat for a relaxed afternoon of indoor fun.  These could also be placed in a lobby for late night game time.
•    Movie Day – One of the easiest things to do on a rainy day is to show a movie.  Make sure to have a movie that is appropriate for all guests.
•    Local Attractions – If there are indoor, local attractions such as museums, shopping centers or family-fun centers, you could spend a rainy afternoon here.  Keep in mind there may be an added cost for some of these places.
•    Rainy Day Games – A list of games to play indoors is great to have on hand when your outdoor activity might be delayed but not completely cancelled due to weather.  These could include an indoor scavenger hunt, large group games or team-building activities.  A great online resource can be found at Ultimate Camp Resource.
•    Crafts – Indoor activities such as making jewelry, scrapbooking or painting stones can offer a low-key rainy day alternative for your more crafty guests.
•    Play in the Rain – Not all of your outdoor activities have to be cancelled just because it is raining.  Consider going forth with your outdoor plans if the activity will still be safe for all those participating.

Rain doesn’t have to ruin your retreat!  Be prepared with a few alternative ideas for your guests just in case weather forces you to change your plans.  And, rain isn’t the only type of weather that might make you alter your plans.  Excessive cold or heat can also be a factor in your outdoor plans.

What rainy day activities do you like to provide for your guests when inclement weather arises?  Comment in the section below!

Ideas for Your Next Themed Meal

Tired of the same old meals served in the same old fashion at your event?  Consider having a themed meal (or meals) during your next retreat if your venue allows for the ability to change things up a bit!  Themed meals provide a fun environment to do what your guests will be doing anyway – eating!  They give you, as an event planner, a chance to showcase a creative side, hopefully creating an evening that will long be question markHere are a few ideas for a themed meal you can incorporate in your next event or as a stand-alone evening:

  1. Western Night – Pull out the hay bales, bandanas and cowboy hats as your guests dine on cuisine such as barbeque, ribs, chicken and all the fixings.  Decorate tables with checkered tablecloths, using Western themed items for centerpieces.  Have country music streaming in the background.  If you plan on making an evening out of it, consider hiring a square dance caller to give your guests a truly Western experience!  As an added touch, create invitations in the form of “Most Wanted” posters to hand out in the packet given to guests when they check-in for the retreat.
  2. Hawaiian Night – A luau is a relaxed way to experience dinner.  Decorations include colorful tablecloths, flowers, leis and grass skirts.  Hawaiian music can fill the background as your guests dine on chicken, pasta salads, fruit and other tropical treats.
  3. Italian Night – A pasta bar is the focal point of a night dedicated to Italian food.  Small café type tables can set the ambiance of an Italian restaurant.  Table decorations can include checkered tablecloths and large containers of dry pasta.
  4. Holiday Meals – If your event is in a month other than November or December, your guests could be in for a big surprise if they enter a dining room decorated for a holiday such as Christmas.  Decorations can be as detailed as putting up a tree and lights or as simple as holiday tablecloths and Christmas carols playing.  A home-cooked meal of turkey, ham, dressing and all the sides can add to the feel of the holiday meal.  If you want to give your guests something they can take home, create an ornament commemorating the event to give to each guest.

These are just a few ideas you could implement in your next event.  There are many activities you could add to make an entire evening of your meal.  You might want to inform your guests of your themes before your event if you want them to dress in certain attire for the meal.

Have you had themed meals at one of your events?  If so, comment in the section below with your ideas!

Creating A Prayer Station Experience

Guided prayer can be a great addition to a variety of worship events.  It can take on a lot of different forms.  One such idea is utilizing prayer stations.  Prayer stations are “stops” in a guided prayer experience in which people are asked to pray in a certain way or for a specific request.  These can be very intimate times of worship for participants.
Praying HandsOver the years, I have enjoyed creating prayer station experiences that are tactile in nature, asking participants to create as they pray.  Here are a few of my favorite station ideas compiled from different events and websites.  At each station (these could be different areas in a room or separate rooms entirely), post signs with instructions on how to complete each activity.

  • The Call to Confess:  In preparation for this station, fill bowls with sand and place them on a table.  Write a word or symbol in the sand in front of you representing something you need to confess.  Confess your sin to God.  As you pray, pass your hand through the sand, obliterating these words or symbols as a sign of accepting God’s forgiveness.
  • The Call to Share:  In preparation for this station, hang a clothesline in the room.  Write the name or initials of someone you know who needs a relationship with God on an index card.  Hang this name from the clothesline.  Pray, asking God to give you the strength to share Jesus with this person.
  • The Call to Intercede:  Take pipe cleaners and craft something you are praying for.  As you spend time making this, pray for God to work in this situation.  When you are finished, take your creation and lay it at the foot of the cross.  (Have a wooden cross in the corner of this station.)
  • The Call to Surrender:  In preparation for this station, post a large piece of butcher paper on the wall with the words “I Surrender” on it.  Write something you need to surrender to God on a post-it note.  Stick this note on the “I Surrender…” wall.  While you post your note, spend time praying for a few others you see, as well.
  • The Call to Adore:  On a board or large piece of paper hanging on the wall, write words describing who God is and how He has revealed Himself to you.  Spend a few moments praising God that He is all these things written on the wall – and so much more!

These are just a few prayer stations you can adapt for your next event.  Have you used prayer stations?  If so, what are some of your favorite stops in this type of guided prayer experience?  Share in the comments section below.

Online Media Resources

Some churches and organizations are blessed with a staff member designated to media, someone who can create videos, still backgrounds, motion backgrounds, countdowns and other graphics.  For those groups who might not have these people right down the hall to create media for their next service or event, there are a number of online resources specializing in these exact things.  Here are a few you can look at when preparing for your next event.

  1. Igniter Media – Igniter Media offers mini-movies, as well as stills and motions including countdowns, backgrounds, title graphics and multi-screen options.  You can subscribe as a monthly or yearly member to download great media options.
  2. Worship House Media – Worship House Media offers many of the same projects as Igniter Media.  Here you can download media a la carte from their website.
  3. Floodgate Productions – Floodgate Productions, like Igniter Media and Worship House Media, offers mini-movies and various motion options.  They offer a pay-per-video option or a yearly subscription service.  For smaller churches of 30 to 75 adults, they offer a discount in order to get videos/media into churches who might not be able to otherwise afford it.
  4. The Skit Guys – The Skit Guys offer their own comedic videos plus additional videos and motions at their website.
  5. Wing Clips – Wing Clips is an online resource offering movie clips you might need to help illustrate your theme or message.  You can search by movie title, Scripture, movie category or theme on their website.

One of the great things about each of these websites is you can preview videos before you buy them.  Doing this can often spark ideas for ways to incorporate your theme or message into other parts of your event, as well.

It is important to note there are licensing agreements you must adhere to with each different online company you use to download media.  These can be found on their websites, along with help sections to assist you in downloading your media content.

What online sources do you use to download media for your events?  Share them with us in the comments section below!

Creating an Unforgettable Photo Booth

Retro Photo BoothChances are, if you’ve looked at Facebook or Instagram, you’ve seen pictures from a photo booth set up at a wedding or other celebration.  Let’s face it:  photo booths are a lot of fun!  They allow people to relax, smile and capture a fun memory or two. Whether you are planning an adult retreat, a youth event or a family night, photo booths can be implemented in a variety of ways.  Here are a few tips when planning a photo booth:

  1. Backdrop – Backdrops can be as simple or elaborate as you want.  The easiest backdrop to utilize is a plain wall if one is available.  A colorful sheet or large paper background (such as wrapping paper or butcher paper) are simple ways to create a basic backdrop.  For those wanting something more, walls of streamers, balloons or other festive decorations provide great backgrounds.  (If a photo booth is a large attraction at your event, you can hire companies to come in and take pictures in front of a green screen and add numerous backgrounds to these later.)
  2. Props – Props are a must for a photo booth!  These can include hats, costume jewelry, sunglasses, large frames, chalkboards to write messages on, etc.    If the event is themed, create props reflecting that theme to add a more relevant approach to your booth.
  3. Taking Photos – Photo booths don’t usually need a lot of manpower to run.  As an event planner, you need to decide if you will take pictures and post them, if guests will use their own smartphones/cameras to snap pictures or if you will have a combination of both.  Even if your guests will take their own pictures, have a few volunteers on standby to assist guests in taking pictures.  (Don’t let this be another time when one family member or friend has to miss being in the picture because he or she is taking the picture.)
  4. Posting Photos – If you are taking photos at the booth, provide a way for these pictures to be printed at your event.  You can do this with photo printers, or you can outsource this to companies who provide Instagram print stations.  Make sure all pictures posted by guests have the event hashtag associated with them. You can also scroll pictures taken on screens while guests are gathering for a session.

If you’re looking for something out of the ordinary, some companies now even offer Slow Motion Video Booths.  Instead of taking a still picture, these booths capture video of you and your group and set it in slow motion.  Though this comes with a larger price tag, this will be something your group will be talking about for some time.

Just because photo booths have been around for awhile doesn’t mean they aren’t still fun.  Think of ways to add creative elements to your booth to make it different from other photo booths done before!

The Power of a Smile

A few years ago I had the privilege of attending a conference at the Broadmoor Hotel in Colorado Springs, Colorado.  The Broadmoor is a beautiful hotel with luxurious accommodations.  However, while I enjoyed the chocolate on my pillow each night, the amazing holiday decorations and the beautiful grounds, these weren’t the first things I told my husband about after I returned.  The one thing, above all else, I remember about the Broadmoor is the staff.  Every staff member, no matter his or her employment position, spoke to me and smiled.  It didn’t matter how busy they were or where they were headed – each person was trained to speak to guests and offer a warm smile.  They had great customer service.golden leaderDave Ramsey recently tweeted, “If you are happy notify your face. Others around you will be glad you did.”  I can’t imagine every employee at the Broadmoor was happy the entire time I was there.  However, I never saw a side of them that showed otherwise.  They were consistent in their attitudes towards guests.

I have often thought back to that conference, especially when preparing for an event or in the midst of hosting a conference.  Here are a few questions I now ask myself before, during and after the event:

  1. Am I truly happy to be a part of this event?  (If not, why am I spending my time planning, directing, hosting, evaluating, etc?)
  2. Do my guests visibly see my excitement for this event?  (If not, how can I adjust my attitudes and actions to reflect my enthusiasm?)
  3. Is my positive attitude reflected in other event staff and volunteers?  (If not, what type of environment am I fostering for my team?  Am I creating a contagious mood of excitement?)
  4. When plans don’t go as expected, is my reaction met with a smile and a sense of calm?  (If not, how can I better prepare for the unexpected?)

How are you reflecting your attitudes about the conferences and events you are planning?  Others will sense your feelings and most likely emulate them.   Choose today to make a conscious effort to smile and say a nice word to all of your guests at your next event.  From registration to meal times to large group sessions, instill a sense of excitement among your event team.  I guarantee your guests will notice!