As winter fades and the warm weather returns, event planners start to realize that a summer camp or conference would be great for their youth and family ministries. As they start the treacherous planning process many planners realize they should have started this 6 months ago. Yes it's true...most successful off-site events are planned 9-18 months out BUT that doesn't mean those short term events can't be a success too. So for those event planners that are having an event in the next couple months, and haven't booked anything, no need to fear for our blog tips are here!
First the event needs to be tailored for a very specific group. Often an event planned on a short timeline is born from a group saying something to the tune of 'we should take a retreat'. Taking an established group that already has a desire to attend/hold an event can eliminate the 'building interest' aka marketing phase of the planning process. This can be the most tedious and lengthy part of the whole process.
Keep it simple. The process to sign-up, pay a deposit, sign liability, etc. should be as simple as possible. No need for complicated forms or a big to-do online. Keep it simple, but be careful putting yourself at finanical risk! Have a deposit accompany the registration; this helps financially and keeps your head count real. An event planner doesn't want to be personally responsible for the bill just because people said they were going to attend and then did not. The biggest way to avoid this financial trouble is to use an all-inclusive facility. These facilities offer per person pacakges that include lodging, meals, recreation, and meeting space. These packages not just help financially, but also make life very easy for a planner to coordinate physical needs (shelter, food, beverage, etc.) and spend more time on meeting the goals for holding the event.
Focus on meeting a need. Focus your energy towards the content of the event. People say things like 'we should take a retreat' because they desire a deeper sense of community and want to study a specific topic. Again, all inclusive packages allow the event planners to shift their main focus from event details to event content.
Don't 'go with the flow'. There are significant dangers to showing up without a plan. Deviating from the plan because a great speaker went long or the group felt they wanted to add in another prayer time is great! But when you show up to your off-site event and tell your attendees to just 'do whatever', you won't get a great response. People don't want to spend their time and money to just hang-out.
Skip anything that isn't essential. If your host provides free AV equipment let them setup the sound system for you. Don't cart anything along that you don't need to. Many Christian Conference Centers offer a number of value added services with very little/if none mark-up; things like coffee service, snack trays, etc. In the end a few extra dollars towards a tray of cookies from your property instead of running to the store 10 miles away will save you time and stress!
Some things just need one retreat or one meeting to answer the need, so these short term events are great! It can also be said that these short term events can be a catalyst for somthing greater to grow from. However, more times than not these short term events usually don't stand the test of time. In order to hold an event (no matter the size) each year with great success, an event planner or event planning team needs to start their planning early. After all, the saying goes...the early bird gets the worm!