It's All In The Schedule

Ever been to a conference or retreat that seemed to drag on forever? Where you spent way too much time sitting in a chair listening to a speaker drone on and on and not enough time interacting with other participants? Where you thought one part of the schedule was too long and another too short? I know I have…and it drives me crazy!

Much of the success of an event has to do with the schedule. A well balanced schedule helps to ensure your attendees stay alert and engaged, while a poorly scheduled event will lead to one or more of the examples noted above. Definitely not what you want to have happen! To help ensure a well balanced event, here are 3 principles to keep in mind when creating the schedule:

  • Schedule ample breaks – Bathroom breaks. Food breaks. Stretch your arms breaks. Your guests need these so they can stay focused. Constantly sitting, with minimum breaks, will lead to attendees who are tired, bored, and restless. Circumstances that make it very difficult to pay attention and learn. I discovered early in my training career that the mind can only absorb what the rear end can endure. Something you should always remember!
  • Schedule ample networking time – In between speakers and/or activities, give your attendees networking time to build relationships. This networking time can include some icebreakers, guided questions, or just be free time. I’ve always found that at least half the benefit I get from attending a conference or retreat comes from the discussions I have outside the meeting room. Sometimes people go to conferences just to build new relationships. Be sure to give them plenty of opportunities.
  • Don’t start too early or end too late. – Every year the world and technology and life get bigger, our attention spans get smaller. Starting a conference at 8am and ending it at 9pm, with each speaker speaking for 90 minutes, isn’t appealing to most people (unless a lot of breaks and networking time are scheduled in!). Keep things to the point and don’t jam pack the schedule; leaving a little breathing room will calm everyone down, including you.

What other scheduling tips have worked for you? Please share below.


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.

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?