Where To Incorporate Event Volunteers

Ten years ago I attended a conference at Willow Creek Community Church outside of Chicago, IL.  The content was stellar, but the memory that always surfaces first when I think about that weekend was the loving service of their volunteer staff.

Volunteers were everywhere in light blue t-shirts with white lettering that spelled out “Volunteer”.  They directed cars in the parking lot, drove shuttles, opened doors in the main building, even smiled and handed out paper towels in the bathrooms.  “It’s Thursday morning and this woman is volunteering to staff a bathroom at her church?” I thought to myself.  I was humbled and encouraged by such a showing of love and kindness.

As an event manager you can use volunteers to encourage and assist your guests, as well as trim the cost of your payroll.

Possible Volunteer Positions/Areas:

  • Greeter
  • Usher
  • Parking Lot Attendant
  • Dining Hall Server
  • Security
  • Gift store/book shop
  • Grounds worker
  • Speaker Assistant
  • Front Desk
  • Set Up/Clean Up
  • Bathroom Attendant
  • Childcare
  • First Aid Station
  • Tech Assistant
  • Golf Cart Driver
  • Prayer Room Attendant

Decide where volunteers would work best at your next event.  Create a document that includes the jobs and a brief description of each.  Include requirements like “must be able to lift ten pounds” or “requires standing for two to three hours”.  Also list hours and time slot information.  “Dining Hall Servers work 6:30 am- 9 am, 10:30-1, or 4:30-7 pm, at least one shift per day is required.”

All volunteers will need orientation or training. Depending on the position some might need special screening or licensure.  For example– childcare workers will need a background check; you might ask that First Aid Station volunteers have some previous medical training.

Create a volunteer application to accompany your list of open positions.  Once you have sorted through your needs, consider hiring a volunteer manager.  You could do it yourself, but it’s incredibly helpful to find a competent, experienced volunteer coordinator to handle training, organization and to field the multitude of questions and small issues volunteers will have.

Make your volunteer positions available online, or include them in the conference material.  You can offer special perks to volunteers like a discount on registration or a special volunteer lounge with free Starbucks coffee and Wi-Fi.  Previous attendees are your best volunteer pool because they are already familiar with the event, and how it was run in the past.

Volunteers can add a wonderful layer of service and joy to your next event, don’t miss out!

Digital Content For Your Event Attendees

When I attend events, I always have my iPad with me to take notes in Evernote, or another note taking app.  It always seem like I miss one important note or two.  Handouts are nice, but in this digital world, I don’t want to leave with paper.  I get stuck wondering where I’m going to store or file the paper.  For the tech savvy in the world, their are easy alternatives that can help deliver this content digitally.

  1. Put notes in Dropbox.  Sharing from Dropbox is very easy, even if you don’t have a Dropbox account.  Send attendees a link to a presentation that is stored in Dropbox for them to download.
  2.  Put presentation slides online.  Some speakers might not want to allow attendees to download their content.  Posting slides to a slide sharing website like SlideShare.net would be a great way for attendees to gain access to what they’ve seen at the event.  Sites like this are great ways for speakers to build their platform.
  3.  Send notes via email.  I attended a conference, and the presenter send his notes to us via email.  This is not only a great way to do that, but to also collect email addresses to market to.  These people have given you permission to talk to them.
  4.  Include in event app.  We’ve talked before about how your event needs an app.  Including these notes from various presenters is a great idea.  (Mini sidebar here: if you’re event includes sermons, the YouVersion Bible App allows you to upload notes directly to the app.  These notes can be found in the live tab of the app.  This is a fantastic way for attendees to follow along, add their own notes and email to themselves.)

Have you used any methods to deliver content digitally?  What has worked for your attendees?

Event Mood and a Maintenance Schedule

I was recently intrigued by a fact I heard about Disney World.  Did you know that they empty all of their trash from below ground?  You’ll never see a person emptying a trash can around Disney World or even carrying a bag to dump it somewhere.  Costuming, utilities, deliveries, even trash transportation, happens in a nine acre system of tunnels created to preserve the “magic” of Disney.

Legend has it that one day Walt Disney saw a Frontierland Cowboy strolling down the streets of Tomorrowland.  He didn’t want his guests confronted with this incongruity — seeing characters out of their own fictional realm.  So a large system of tunnels was constructed for character transportation etc., and the magic was preserved.

Let me ask you, how is the tenor, flavor, or mood being interrupted at your events?  An experienced event planner spends a good deal of time crafting the visual, emotional and cognitive experience of their attendees. They have planned each day down to the smallest detail, so where did that painting crew come from?  An occurrence that might easily slip our notice is necessary routine maintenance that we do not schedule.   A meditative prayer chapel is interrupted by piano tuning; guests are enjoying some down time on the lawn, but they evacuate when the lawn mowers and weed eaters are fired up.

If you are planning an event at an unfamiliar venue be sure to ask about routine maintenance schedules.  When does housekeeping begin freshening up the rooms, when is the lawn mowed, when is the pool cleaned, will any portion of the facilities be unavailable at any time during your stay?  Rooms must be repainted; windows cleaned; roads repaved, but don’t let it be a surprise to you or your guests.

Your guests are trusting you for a certain experience, and I know that you want to honor them by providing one of excellence. So check those maintenance schedules and create a plan that will allow necessary work to be done out of the sight and hearing of your guests.

How Well Do You Know Your Attendees?

Had a crazy thing happen to me the other day at my friendly, neighborhood Starbucks.

I placed my order for my drink, and while that was happening, another barista started making it.  Now before you think, “Yes, Kyle that’s how they do that.”  Let me say the other barista started making the drink before I ordered.  He had seen me in the store before and knew what I was going to order.

This got me thinking about a couple of things as it concerns event planning.

  1. How well do you know your customer/event attendee?  Do you have a good relationship with them?  I’m not for sure you have to know their children’s names and birthdays, but do you know their likes and dislikes?
  2. How can you get to know your customers/event attendees better?  Getting to know your customers/attendees can be done a few ways.  Doing survey’s is a great method, and those can be done either at your event or after.  Another way is just simply talking to them.  Most people will be happy to share their thoughts and opinions.

Getting to know your customer is a great way to also adapt your event.  You could be doing something they love and vice versa.

Getting to know them personally is also a way to stay in contact with them.  Your event could help them celebrate birthdays and celebrations.

One added bonus of knowing your customer makes them want to come back. Back to my Starbucks example.  I can’t wait to go back since they know what I want to drink.  Plus, I expect other members of the team to learn my drink of choice.  Your team should learn as many of the customers as they can.

What methods have you used to get to know your customer/event attendee better?

4 Ways To Run A Crowdsourcing Campaign For Your Event

Kickstarter has been in the news a lot recently.  Just last week a major motion picture was completed funded (to the tune of over $2 million) in less than 24 hours.  One of our artists has recently completed a successful campaign raising money to complete a new recording.

This recent news reminded me of an email I received from a speaker in Australia who was looking to fund his event via crowdsourcing.  He was using IndieGogo, which is similar to Kickstarter with pledges and rewards, except there is an option to receive the money if the goal is not met.  Side note: I found it interesting that none of his rewards featured admittance to his event.  More on rewards below.

How would running a crowdsourcing campaign benefit your event?

Many events have found themselves having a tough time financially.  But at the same time your event serves a purpose, and has a dedicated fan base.

Getting creative with a crowdsourcing campaign could be just the ticket to keep the event going.

How do you run a successful crowdsourcing campaign?  Here are four ways:

  1. Choosing The Right Platform.  As mentioned above, there are two primary crowdsourcing websites: Kickstarter and IndieGogo.  There are a couple of differences between the two like the all-or-nothing money model (Kickstarter) vs. some of the money (IndieGogo.)  Kickstarter seems to be the most popular, but if you have the platform and database, that will be irrelevant to your cause.
  2. Include A Video.  Both of these sites include the ability to upload a video that explains the cause and need.  Taking advantage of that only adds to the cause.  I wouldn’t worry about making this too long (between 2-3 minutes), and I wouldn’t worry about quality.  Shoot from your laptop or whatever works best for you.
  3. Include Interesting And Creative Awards.  Maybe you include signed notes or books from a speaker, or maybe it’s a backstage hang time with a speaker.  All of these things can have different money amounts and limits to availability set as well.  These can and should be as creative as you want to be to attract your audience.
  4. Hit All Of The Social Media Outlets.  Start a social media campaign that includes speakers or other event organizers.  Ask them to blog and post to their networks, and ask your fans to post to their networks as well.  Getting the word out is the name of the game.

I hope this encourages you to try a crowdsourcing campaign for your event.  This campaign could be a great way to get the word out and introduce others to your event.

Have you ran a successful campaign for your event?  What issues have you had in running a similar campaign?

Smart Devices At Events

Our society is more connected than ever before.  I try my hardest but no matter what, I feel like I’m always checking my iDevice for various updates.

Want proof of that first statement?

Have you seen the recent picture of the people at the Vatican in 2005 awaiting word on the new Pope versus the crowd in 2013 awaiting word on the even newer Pope?

If you haven’t here’s the picture.

split-vatican-0314There could be (and I wouldn’t doubt it) a small chance some Photoshop is going on here, but this post is not about that.

As an event planner, I bet you’ve seen the same thing happen at your events.  More people are using their smartphones or tablets to take pictures, record video, etc.

What have you done to embrace this change at your events? 

I hope you’re encouraging people to use their portable devices in whatever way they desire.  Some attendees may be taking pictures and posting to social media networks while others may be taking notes or following along with their Bible app.

What are you doing to encourage this change at your events?

In previous blogs posts, we’ve discussed the addition of hashtags on slides, programs and other marketing materials.  That’s always a great way to encourage event attendees to post to their social media networks.

A local school system has instituted a “bring your own tech to school” policy that has allowed students to bring their own portable devices to schools.  Using a similar approach by encouraging the event or retreat attendees to bring their own devices, is another idea you could implement.

What have you done to incorporate devices into your events?

Have smart devices become a distraction at your events?  How have you incorporated them into your program.  Please take a moment to share your experiences in the comment sections.

Creating An Effective Communications Strategy

My church, ClearView Baptist in Franklin, TN, is in the middle of writing a communications strategy for events from the different ministries in the church.  Our goal with this policy is to “balance the church’s need to speak with the audience’s ability to listen.”

We started by making a list of communication tools that our ministries are using to get the word out.  Those tools were divided into five categories:

  1. Worship Related Tools: Sunday Morning Paper, bulletin inserts, video annoucements.
  2. Campus-Wide Promotion: hallway TV slides, roadside banners, hallway posters.
  3. Off-Campus Promotions: news release, custom mailer.
  4. Website: front page feature, announcement, video story, video announcement.
  5. Email: church-wide eblast, ministry eblast, monthly ministry eblast.
  6. Social Networks: Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc.

We added a timeline for ministries to use when planning their event.  This strategy was not designed to add stress to the different ministries, but to help them clearly assembly a plan for communicating their events.

Walking through this exercise has helped us identify what we’re doing correctly and what areas need improvement.

Communications and marketing go hand-in-hand.  Marketing is communicating your message.  In the case of the readers of this blog, your message is about your event.  Sitting down and spelling out your strategy for communicating your message before you start is the first step to having a successful marketing plan.  Now that you have this strategy down, add the timeline.  I’m always forgetting to put calendar dates down for this timeline, and then the event is a month away, and I’m scrambling to communicate that message.  Don’t forget to add the calendar dates!

The list of tools your event uses maybe different than what ClearView has.  You may also find different areas have better results, and therefore require time, energy and money spent on them.

What tools have been the most effective for communicating your message?

4 Ways To Introduce New Technology At Your Event

The CFO at my office has recently made the change to a MacBook Pro.  She’s been using a Windows machines for many years, and being in her 60’s, the transition has been easier than I expected.

Was this move necessary?  Probably not, but everybody else in the office is using a Mac, which made this a natural transition.

I tell you this story to not only brag on her, but to also encourage you.  If she can make this transition to new technologies, so can your event attendees.

It’s hard to try something new in technology like an app or a social network not knowing what kind of results you might get.  But let’s face it, the majority of our culture is app savvy and social media literate.

In a previous post, we discussed “does your event need an app?[EDITOR: Link to http://ministryservingministry.com/2012/12/17/does-your-event-need-an-app/#.UTa5W6XA6Vg] I think the answer is yes, but I also think there is a bit of education as far as your attendees are concerned.  There may also be some pulling of your audience in to the 2000’s.  Tough?  Yes.  Necessary?  You betcha!

How do you go about this education?

  1. Introduce the new technology early in advertising.  Make it front and center of your marketing campaign.  Keep reminding your attendees of it.
  2. Introduce the new technology early in your event.  Right at the start of your event, mention the new tech.  Keep mentioning often.
  3. Push special content that is only available in the new technology.  If the new tech is an app, put videos in there.  If it’s a social media component, push links to secret pages on your website or secret meetings.
  4. Keep pushing new technology at your event.  Pretty soon you’ll be so forward thinking, your attendees will start to expect the new technology.

Have you used new technologies at your events?  How have you introduced these?  Were your attendees receptive?

How To Take Charge Of Your Childcare Security

Will your upcoming event involve childcare?  Here are five areas you must address to keep children safe.

Hire trained/experienced staff: Childcare workers should have background checks and First Aid/CPR training. Keep copies of training certificates and background checks on file.  Need help finding childcare professionals?  See if you can find someone who already manages childcare workers for another company, and hire them do some freelance work.  They already have a trusted group of people to contact.  If you can’t find someone like this, reach out to local gyms, churches and daycare centers. They will have lists of childcare workers, and if they aren’t willing to share the names, you might be allowed to send out an email or put up a poster asking for workers.

Create a secure and safe location.  Are the room(s) where the children will be cared for safe for them?  A space appropriate for adults is not necessarily safe for children.  Power outlets must be covered, doors secured, furniture checked for stability, and small objects removed.  Unfortunately, we must now also make sure that childcare locations are also secure from outside intruders.  Do windows and doors lock?  Is there a manned desk or check-in station where visitors must pass before entering?

Capture names and allergy information on each child.  With any number of unfamiliar children in attendance, childcare workers need a way to identify and keep track of their charges.  At the very least, write each child’s name and known allergies on a stick-on name tag and secure it to their back.  (Children will peel, exchange, shred or even eat a name tag affixed to the front of their clothing.)

Identify emergency contact information.  Paging systems have mostly been replaced by caregiver cell phones.  When staff check a child in, be sure they ask for an emergency contact number.  Parents can leave their phone on vibrate and receive a call or text from you if necessary.

Establish a workable pick up protocol.  This is what most people think about when they wrestle with childcare security.  Every childcare professional has nightmares about releasing a child into the custody of the wrong person.  There are lots of options available to you for pick up security.  From simple tag systems, to high tech touch screen check in software, systems differ in situational usefulness.  Since you will most likely be providing care for a group of children for only a few days, any system that takes lots of set up time and training for parents is not a good option.  Do a little research and you will find a system that fits your needs well.

Staff, location, child profiles, emergency contact information and pick up protocol are key to ensuring that the children your attendees leave in your care will be safe.  In addition, your attendees will be able to focus more fully on your event when they are sure their children are not only well cared for, but protected.

The Goal Of A Hospitality Rider

There is a famous story of a big rock band who made an odd request in their rider.  They asked for the brown M&M’s to be separated out from the other M&M’s.  An odd request for sure, but they saw this as a way to test a promoter.  If they walked in the backstage area of the venue and the brown M&M’s were in fact separated, they knew the promoter had read and paid attention to the rider.

A typical rider has two sides to it: technical and hospitality.  We’ve spent some time discussing the tech part, but today I would like to look at the hospitality side.

When you get the rider from the artist, speaker or band you’re having at your event, the hospitality section could appear overwhelming or even that the artist is being a little big headed.

The goal of this section is to make the performer as comfortable as possible at your event.  In case you hadn’t heard, artists are wired a little bit different than the rest of us.  And you’ve asked them to bring their talents to your event.  For them to be effective, they prefer conditions to be a certain way.

As an artist manager, we encourage our artists to make their riders as simple as possible.  We understand the importance of ministry, and the last thing we want, is the rider to get in the way.

Along those lines if you have an issue or question on anything on the artist rider, don’t hesitate to bring that up to the booking agent you are working with or the artist’s manager.  I would imagine their attitude will be the same of not letting any issues be a stumbling block.

What is the strangest thing you’ve seen requested in a rider?  How did you handle with the artist?