Cherry On Top: 7 Extras For Your Next Event

When I plan an event I’m aiming for a particular sweet spot of experience for my attendees. I want to carefully weave what they need to take away from the event with personal care.  Often event planners focus so much on what they want from their event attendees, they forget to care for them as people.  How might you tend to those who come to your next event?  Here are a few ideas.

  1. Enclose a prayer guide for the weekend in their registration materials.  If applicable give them directions to an area (chapel, garden, overlook) that would lend itself to quiet reflection and prayer.
  2. Provide running routes.  Many people love to run or walk outdoors.  Giving people a few scenic and safe routes helps them fit in some healthy activity while away from home.
  3. Compile a list of area restaurants and shops.  Ask locals where they’d send their family while in town.  Type up a short list of proven spots, including a short description and mileage to each.
  4. Hire a masseur.  Invite one or several professionals to offer chair massages during event free time.  You can pay them, or they can charge a reasonable rate. Goodbye tense travel shoulders, hello relaxation.
  5. Make a van available.  Is there a local attraction that many people hope to visit?  What if you provided a van and driver for a quick visit one afternoon or evening? This eliminates travel stress and allows some group bonding.
  6. Specialty Coffee. Oh, how people love their tall caramel double macchiatos. Hire a barista and watch a long line form.
  7. Advertise an exercise class.  Consider your facilities and then find a professional to lead a yoga, spin or interval fitness class.  Your attendees can let go of stress and have some fun.

These are just a few ways you can help your attendees take care of themselves.  Giving them some time to exercise and relax will energize the listless and give you healthier, better focused attendees.

Food Trucks At Your Next Event

There’s a new phenomenon that is sweeping the nation.  It’s not “Gangnam Style” or the “Harlem Shake.”  Nope.

It’s Food Trucks.


You know what I’m talking about.  They are trucks that sell, well, food.  They are all the rage here in Nashville, and they’ve become a culinary delight and movement on four wheels.  These food trucks have grown in popularity so much that several of them have formed an association.

These Food Trucks can be a tremendous asset to your event.  How?  Well, let me share with you four ideas on how to use the Food Trucks:

  1. Optional meal choice.  One night instead of the regular cafeteria food, you could work in some food trucks to vary up what people are eating.  This meal time could also be a great time of fellowship and mingling as people discuss and debate their choice of Food Truck.
  2. Celebration.  There is a huge fascination with Food Trucks.  For some reason people really like buying food out of a truck.  I haven’t quite figured it out, but it’s a big deal around good ole Nashville.  Working these trucks into your event, could be a way to celebrate a big achievement your company has completed.
  3. Advertisement for your event.  Churches in the Nashville area have started hosting a Food Truck night as an outreach event for the community.  Is there a place you could host a Food Truck night to help spread the word about your event?
  4. Fun factor.  Imagine the attendees at your event coming out for dinner or a break and seeing these trucks all lined up.  Seeing those faces is almost like seeing my 2 year old on Christmas morning.

Why not have Food Trucks at your event?  Those trucks love the publicity, to make money and will come to you.  Most of these Food Trucks are active in social media, and post where they are, which is more great publicity for your event.

It Can’t All Be Vegetables: Let Laughter and Levity Sweeten Your Event

We plan events for many reasons, but our goals often include education, networking, and training.  Giving guests time to relax and unwind, regardless of your primary purpose, will allow a needed pause in the midst of an intense time of focus and concentration.  How can you add laughter and levity to your next event?

1) Hire a comedian or magician.  Be sure to vet this person well beforehand.  This might include listening to portions of his/her routine, discussing expectations on topics that should be avoided, and seeing a video of this person performing.  At one women’s retreat I hosted we wanted to encourage a time of laughter, but didn’t have a budget for hiring a live entertainer.  Instead,  I did some research and found a video of a popular Christian comedian.  I bought the DVD and showed it to the small group, accompanied by brownies and hot chocolate, and it was a huge hit! Be sure to consider licensing and permissions restrictions before you show a recorded performance to a group.

2) Host a movie night.  Turn your large group meeting area into a theater, add couches and tube lighting down the isles.  Pin up movie posters and serve hot popcorn for $1.  If the weather allows, plan an outdoor movie just after dark.  This is a fun family option!  Movies can be broadcast onto the side of a building, or you can create your own big screen with pvc pipe and a white tarp.  Contact Christian Video Licensing International : to obtain the license you need to show a movie to a large group.  When choosing a flick, consider the entire audience who will be viewing it, and be sure to watch it all the way through before you air it on movie night.

3) Sponsor a tour.  Is your event just a few minutes away from a nice tourist attraction?  Would it be fun and interesting for your attendees?  Obtain tickets for your group and shuttle them there and back.  Be clear about pickup times!  Perhaps you know of a gorgeous overlook or monument in the area; plan a picnic lunch and pack Frisbees and blankets.  Don’t plan a hike or long walk unless you are sure all of your attendees would be able to join you.

4) Add some music.  Outdoor summer concerts are popular all over our country.  Why?  Because people enjoy experiencing music, listening, humming or singing along. It’s pleasurable and relaxing.  Hire a band that can play a variety of familiar music for your crowd.  The type of music will be very different depending on the age and tastes of your group.  Have the the musicians set up in a pavilion or outdoor setting and invite guests to enjoy.  Make sure the music is appropriately loud. Blaring music will scare away (most) crowds and prevent visiting among guests.

To add another layer to your planning, consider how your entertainment might complement your event purpose.  Could a movie be fun and bring up a theme for guests to consider and discuss at a later session?  Might a comedian cover topics with insight and humor that the main speaker has discussed during his teaching sessions?  Laughter and relaxation can bond a group and relieve tension created by intense study and group experiences.  Enjoy planning some times of fun and laughter for your event participants!

Setting The Stage…

Event planners often wear many hats. They may be interior decorator, graphic artist, chauffeur, and customer service representative within the span of a few hours. The interior design aspect of this job – preparing the stage and other meeting areas to be visually appealing, may or may not be an area of strength for you. Here are a few tips to help you grow.

Red Stage Curtain

  1. Learn something new. Take a floral design class at a community college, subscribe to a food magazine, tour other event facilities in your area. Designate a spiral binder or even a folder on your phone or computer and collect photos you think you could use later. A rush of new ideas can feed you for months.
  2. Something borrowed. When I was a newly graduated college student, working as a discipleship assistant in my church, we planned several retreats each year. Always on a rather tight budget. Once the food and location were paid for, we rarely had any money left for “frills” and this is when I learned the art of borrowing. I had close connections to a high school theater group, and they allowed us to use all sorts of props, from pillars to entire sets. As long as we picked them up and returned them in good working order they were ours for the taking. These added tasteful interest to stages and meeting rooms. We also borrowed plants, from a local garden center. We knew the owner and promised to replace anything we damaged. For one womenʼs retreat we borrowed thirty ferns and several large blooming plants. These gave the stage a lush appearance, and filled the room with a light but sweet scent.  We also placed a small couch, an end table and a lamp on the stage, taken right out of someoneʼs living room. Women couldnʼt stop commenting on the beauty and uniqueness of the stage and it hadnʼt cost us anything but a few man hours and some gas for the truck. What might you borrow to enhance your next event?
  3. Donʼt forget lights. Lighting can make or ruin a stage. Consider the difference between a candle-lit dinner, and one eaten under the harsh glare of a halogen bulb. What types of lighting do you have access to at the facility? Will you use different effects for different portions of the group meeting? Large groups of candles have become more popular in worship settings in the last ten years. They can add an air of intimacy and worship, but can also bring risks and sometimes the need for regulation. Check with the facility to see what their policies are on open flames.

Consider and plan lighting ahead of time so that it works with your goals. Creating an aesthetic atmosphere in your large group meetings that supports your goals takes planning and creativity. What can you do this week to invest in this area of your role as an event planner?

Christian Meeting Planning Resources – November Update

Here are some great articles we’ve read in November, I hope you find something useful as your making plans for your upcoming meetings and events.

I hope you find these helpful and remember we have many more that might interest you  in the Meeting Planner Resources section of the blog.


Island Grilled Chicken w/Mango Salsa

As I mentioned in last month’s recipe post (read here), I love it when Ridgecrest gets to host LifeWay’s trustees. Not only are they some great men and women to hang out with, we get to eat a lot of really great food!

Today’s recipe is another trustee favorite. This was the second year in a row that we have served this entree at the outdoor banquet at Camp Ridgecrest. This chicken (along with the orange ginger shrimp wraps) was a big hit. Hopefully after you try it out at home you will agree!


Island Grilled Chicken

  • 8 – 6oz boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 2 cups Knorr Caribbean Jerk marinade and sauce
  • Marinate chicken breasts in 1 cup of marinade for 36-48 hours
  • Remove chicken from marinade and grill (high heat) for 1-2 minutes on each side
  • Preheat oven to 400F
  • Transfer chicken to a broiler pan and brush both sides with remaining cup of marinade
  • Bake in oven until done (internal temp of 160F)
  • Remove, top with cold mango salsa and serve

Mango Salsa (combine following ingredients and refrigerate 3-4 hours)

  • 2 cups pineapple chunks
  • 2 cups mango chunks
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1/2 cup diced red onion
  • 1/2 cup lime juice
  • 1/4 cup diced jalapeno

Plated or Buffet: Which Is Better For Your Event?

Buffet style and plated dinners are the two main choices when planning a dinner at an event. The differences between the two are obvious, but which is best for your event?

We’re going to have a little competition between the two right now. Which choice wins?

Formal: Plated
This is the most obvious benefit of a plated dinner. While some people don’t think buffets are informal, most will agree that the plated version of dinner is a bit classier. Having waiters bring out already created dishes gives attendees less work and more time to relax, eat, and network.

Budget-Friendly: Tie
Although pricing varies with every catering company.  A good rule of thum is if you are hiring outside caterers, buffets can be much cheaper. Why? Because the wait staff is extremely minimal with buffets, so you’re basically paying for food and delivery. With inside catering, generally a buffet is more expensive because there’s more food with a larger variety so plated is the way to go.

Food Options: Buffet
Depending on the size of the event and your caterer, there’s the chance that the buffet style has many more options of meats and sides than the plated option. Even if the menu is exactly the same for both options, if you have a buffet, picky eaters have the choice to take a little more potatoes and less meat, or no meat at all and a whole lot of veggies. If you decide to go with a plated dinner, there might be three choices and you get what’s in that choice with little alterations available.

Networking: Tie
While buffets let everyone mingle with each other while they’re getting their food, people might just chat with their friends or coworkers, then sit with them out of convenience. The plated option is usually assigned seating, where strangers are pushed to network with each other. That’s why they both tie in the networking category.

According to my test, it’s a tie.

Do you have an opinion on which is the better choice?  Why?

Ridgecrest Recipes – Orange Ginger Shrimp Wraps

For the past several years Ridgecrest has had the honor of hosting the fall meeting of our LifeWay Trustees. It’s a great opportunity for our trustees and senior LifeWay leadership to experience all that Ridgecrest has to offer.

During this year’s meeting, our catering team once again did an awesome job with the food. In fact, I believe we all ate way too much! Today’s recipe was served the first night at a dinner reception held over at Camp Ridgecrest it was delicious. The recipe actually came to us via our food service manager’s son. If he’s got any more as good as this one, sure hope he passes them along to dear old dad!


  • 2 pounds large peeled/deveined raw shrimp
  • 1/2 cup orange marmalade
  • 3 teaspoons soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
  • 3 cups shredded cabbage
  • 12 8″ flour tortillas


  • Mix orange marmalade, soy sauce and ginger. Marinate shrimp in mixture for 4-6 hours.
  • Toss shredded cabbage in 1 cup white cilantro sauce (recipe below) and store in refrigerator.
  • Saute shrimp until just done (as soon as they turn pink).
  • Arrange 4-6 shrimp and 2 tablespoons of cabbage in flour tortilla and wrap.
  • Serve with remaining white cilantro sauce.

White Cilantro Sauce

  • 1 cup plain yogurt
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • 1/2 cup fresh chopped cilantro
  • 1/4 teaspoon each cumin, chili powder, cayenne pepper, salt and pepper
  • Mix all ingredients and chill for at least 2 hours

After trying this one out, be sure and let us know what you think!



Ridgecrest's Oreo Pie

If you spend any time at all around me, you will quickly learn that I love pretty much any dessert with chocolate in it. Fortunately, or unfortunately you might say, my wife is the same way. In fact, we try to keep a bag of Hershey dark chocolate nuggets with almonds around the house just to stave off our chocolate cravings after dinner. Things can actually get pretty crazy when the Hershey bag is empty. Lynn has been know to pop open a bag of chocolate chips just to satisfy those chocolate cravings!

Since we don’t want anyone else having to stoop to such desperate measures, I thought a good chocolate dessert recipe was in order for this month’s Ridgecrest Recipe. Of course this is not just any chocolate dessert, it’s a recipe for Oreo Pie! Don’t know about you, but I love Oreo’s. So much so that I’ve started packing a bag of Oreo’s to take with me on mission trips. Trust me, nothing like a couple Oreo’s after dinner when you’re 6,000 miles away from home!


  • 2 cups Oreo crumbs
  • 2 cups chocolate pudding
  • 2 cups whipped topping
  • 16 oz. softened cream cheese
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 cup milk


  • Whip together cream cheese, sugar and milk
  • Layer Oreo crumbs, cream cheese mixture and chocolate pudding in an 8″x8″ casserole dish
  • Top with whipped topping and sprinkle with Oreo crumbs
  • Chill, serve and enjoy!

Be sure to let us know how you liked it!


Ridgecrest Recipes – Grilled Teriyaki Chicken

Personally, I am not a big fan of Oriental food. This is something my family gives me a hard time about and my co-workers politely tolerate. When someone asks me “where do you want to go for lunch”, my standard reply is “anything but Chinese”. I know, I know, I’m a picky eater…but it’s just the way I am…

That being said, you’re probably wondering why I’m writing a post about teriyaki chicken. Well…simple reason. This is good stuff! Next time you’re looking a for a little different way to prepare chicken for the family, give this one a try:



  • (6) 4-6 oz. boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 2 cups La Choy Teriyaki Sauce
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 2 cups pineapple juice
  • 1/4 cup Kitchen Bouquet
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 cups fresh pineapple chunks
  • 2 green bell peppers (sliced)
  • 1/4 cup lime juice


  • Mix teriyaki sauce, brown sugar, pineapple juice, Kitchen Bouquet, water and lime juice together. Marinate chicken overnight in 1/4 of the sauce mixture. Reserve remaining sauce.
  • Grill chicken on open flame grill until 3/4 done.
  • Layer chicken in casserole dish.
  • Add pineapple chunks and sliced bell peppers to remainder of sauce and bring to a boil over medium heat.
  • Top chicken with sauce, cover and bake at 400 degrees until internal temp of 160 degrees is reached.
  • Remove from oven and serve!

Just a quick warning. Don’t take the easy way out and only use plain teriyaki sauce. It’s all the other stuff that helps give it the great flavor!

Bon appetite!