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How to Plan a Great Event


Originally featured at Christianmommies.org, April 2006
Interviewed by: Rachel @ Christian Mommies

Q: What is your experience in planning events?

Cyndi McConnell: Our ladies ministry team (W.O.V.E.N. - Women of the Vine, Encouraging, Nurturing) has bi-monthly informal suppers. I have planned some of these on my own, but since I am part of a team, for the most part we share in the planning. We do have a ladies banquet that is held annually. This requires planning from several ladies since it is very formal. We also have an annual Fall Retreat that we do. Sometimes we try to plan a weekend away at a retreat area. This past year the event was held at the church. (Personally, I believe the get-away weekend works better for many reasons).

Dana Neal: I have planned 2 fashion shows (before I was a Christian these were held in really secular places), 1 business networking event, 2 small business bridal expos, and 1 church fashion show with children.

Kimberly Henrie: I have been planning and participating in events for well over 10 years. My experience includes corporate trade shows, radio station promotional events, American Cancer Society Relay For Life events and local & regional ministry events. I have served in every aspect, from marketing to planning to selling tickets to emceeing to booking talent to everything in between.

Q: What are the "highlights" of your event planning experience? What made those experiences that much more special?

Cyndi McConnell: I love coming up with a theme and working the decorations, devotional/speaker, and meal around that theme. I am not that experienced in thinking of themes, but God works through me to give me the theme He wants.

Dana Neal: I got engaged at the end of my 1st fashion show. It was not the traditional show where throughout the show, the models came from all of the hall. (e.g. the audience, the back of the room, the front of the room, etc.) Another highlight is meeting people that want to help you because they see the dream in your eyes.

Kimberly Henrie: The best feeling in the world is when someone communicates to you that they were profoundly touched by what you provided. At my latest event I booked a musical team that I'd never worked with before and had never heard. There was much prayer surrounding that decision and the outcome was amazing. I'd have to say that it was one of the best music/worship services I've ever encountered.

I also really enjoy a "fun and unique" experience.

Cyndi McConnell: For this question, I will talk about our annual ladies banquet, that coincidentally was held this past Thursday night. Enlisting the help of other church ladies really does enlighten the evening. The ladies who agreed to host a table for the meal were to use their best china and set the table up as they would for a formal meal. Since everyone has different tastes, you can imagine the beauty of the dining area. The fellowship between the ladies at this event was just amazing. It is a wonderful time to get to know other ladies from your church. The meal was catered, which left the ladies to fellowship with each other instead of worrying about the kitchen. The theme for the evening was "Women-God's Unique Creation". The speaker spoke on that theme as well.

Q: Were any mistakes made when you first worked on events? Any problems women considering this task could side-step?

Cyndi McConnell: I can't recall any. I'm sure there were some, but I am sort of a perfectionist when it comes to things like that. The only thing that I can really say here is to Keep It Simple and don't worry and don't panic. Trust God and everything will work out.

Dana Neal: Mistakes!!! Oh yes!!! Don't plan 3 mos. in advance: plan, plan, plan! If I could have taken a class I would have. Market! Know your market! Use a budget, but don't be afraid of what your charges may be. When you develop a cost analysis, use it. If you need help ask for it.

Kimberly Henrie: There are always mistakes and continue to be. Most recently, I planned a regional church event in an area 5+ hours away from where I live. I learned of an event being held in one of the local churches that conflicted with my event. Because that conflicting event in my area doesn't draw much of a crowd, I didn't think it would be a problem. WRONG! I failed to take into account the local culture. That conflicting event was huge and caused our event to flop, with only 12 attendees.

Lesson #1: Be aware of the local culture and conflicting events. Consult with the locals and work with them to create something that they will attend.

Tip #1: When things do go wrong, and they will, remain calm. If you start hyperventilating, grab a paper sack and move on. It'll pass.

Q: What advice would you give to women wanting to plan an event at their church?

Cyndi McConnell: First and foremost - PRAY! God is the ultimate planner. Listen to God and He will direct you and give you the details. I wasn't with the ladies ministry group for the first 2 years of inception, but those first 2 years were spent in prayer for the ladies ministry and also for the ladies of the church before anything was planned. Also, listen to the other women of the church and if possible, send out a survey asking for their opinions and suggestions.

Dana Neal: When planning an event for church PRAY 1ST. Get ideas together for the event that give God the glory and edify the church, whatever the event or theme. If you offer door prizes or gifts ask area stores (or businesses rep'd in the church) if they will donate for the event.

Kimberly Henrie: Pray. Always pray. Secondly, communicate. Find out if the audience you are going for is even interested in what you are planning. Get into the perspective of giving your audience something they want and can relate to, rather than something you think they need. Nobody likes to be spoon fed information.

Q: Do you have any favourite speakers, entertainment, or favourite event themes?

Cyndi McConnell: We usually have local speakers or church members (ladies of course) who feel led to give their testimony. We usually have a singer at the larger events and if anyone feels led to sing at the other events, they are welcome to. Mrs. Suzanne Grigsby of Memphis TN has been our speaker at the past 2 Fall Retreats and she is an awesome lady. Her and her husband are fairly well-known for their pastoral weekends.

As for the themes, anything that gears towards women. In January our supper's theme was "Snowflakes from Heaven" and we talked about how everyone might share some of the same characteristics, but we are all different and unique, just like the snowflake. We have done beach themes, cafe-like themes, etc.

Kimberly Henrie: My latest musical find is Joyful Sounds (Dan & Karen Brownlee) out of Grand Junction, CO. I can't say enough about their prayerful consideration of our needs and the power with which they pulled off a last minute event. I'd invite them back anytime.

Others that I love: Songwriter/singer Kim McLean, Christian/Comedian/Speaker/Author Andy Andrews, Christian Author Barb Boswell.

Favourite event themes: hmmmm, well, I do a regional series through my church called "R, R & R: Refresh, Refine & Reach Out"

Thank you's to:

Cyndi McConnell, Independent Watkins Associate

Dana Neal, Partylite

Kimberly Henrie

Special Touches

"Just full of good stuff!" is how Today Show Host, Pat Evans describes Marnie Swedberg. Whether you are planning a Mother-Daughter Tea, a Weekend Retreat, an Annual Convention, or a birthday party for five squirmy six-year olds, Marnie Swedberg can help. At her hub site, EventPlannersFriend.com, you will find a free Women's Ministry Guide, interactive event promotion templates, information about over 1,000 Christian Women Speakers, plus much more. Be sure to visit EventPlannersFriend.com today!

 

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