Thursday, June 18, 2009

How Would You Rate It?

There is a science to conference planning and event management. It may be exciting to think of potential speakers, class topics, dates, and locations, but if we do not plan for the reality of the business side of ministry, we may be headed for failure. Although we all need to hear from God in terms of what He specifically wants us to do, we can use Godly wisdom and expertise when planning events.

One issue that is often debated are registration costs for ministry conferences. In many cases, registration does not cover the complete cost of the event expenses. Because event hosts do not want conference cost to be out of reach, additional fundraising efforts are put in place. Many factors go into determining the price of admission. If the price is set too low, the burden of meeting the financial obligations falls on the event host. If the price is too high, attendance may be low and goals may not be met.

If the event is being hosted at a hotel, there are often costs associated with booking the meeting room space. Meeting room space is often determined by the amount of food & beverage purchased. In the case of most dance conferences, there is little to no F&B, so meeting room space is often charged to the organization by a daily rate. Depending on the size of the room, this could cost thousands of dollars! When purchasing food & beverage, the hotel will usually offset the costs of the meeting space by the amount of food purchased. If a pre-determined minimum is met, this will often result in low-cost to no-cost meeting room space.

Upon signing a contract with the hotel, an initial deposit is usually required, ranging from several hundred dollars to several thousand depending upon where the event is hosted and the projected total cost. Since this money is needed up front, event hosts may run an "Early Bird" Registration Rate to raise enough capital to cover these costs. As the event draws closer, several payments can be made to the venue, with payments usually due in full a few days before the event.

When dealing with hotels, we must be careful not to overestimate our attendance or amount of rooms needed, as this may end up costing us BIG BUCKS! Looking to cancel less than 30 days before a scheduled event? Be prepared to pay the piper. We may want to run the contract by a lawyer or other experienced event planner so that we do not run into any potentially devastating financial surprises. Even churches are charging facility usage fees that require a signed contract. Let's be sure to count the cost before building.

If using speakers from outside of the event area, there are often travel costs associated with hosting them. Although some conferences encourage speakers to cover their own travel costs, many others provide travel arrangements and sleeping rooms for out of town guests at the expense of the ministry.

If the event is planned far enough in advance, we can save money on airfare and book our guests during optimal flight times or preferred airline carriers (all carriers are not created equal!). Hotel rooms may also be booked on behalf of the speakers, and in some instances, speakers may share rooms. Be sure to obtain permission before pairing up a speaker with a roommate.

Hotels charge a nightly rate for sleeping rooms, with payment in full due at check-out. If the event runs more than 2 days and several speakers are involved, this could also cost thousands of dollars. If you are not covering room service and incidentals, be sure to inform your speakers that these charges will be their responsibility. Regular Registration Rates may cover these costs, as well as go toward any related F&B.

In many cases, there are other areas that event hosts must spend money. Need a conference logo? Planning to send out flyers? Handing out registration bags? Printing conference booklets? Hiring someone to design the location atmosphere? Hosting a dinner for speakers? Need a 1-800 number? Need a website? Shall I go on?

Conference extras can be the saving grace or the destruction of our ministry events. Little amounts can add up to much if we are not prepared for them. We must pray to determine if we really want or need something when it comes to our plans. What is not necessary is an expendable item. Let's make sure to have the needs in place before purchasing the optional items. Late Registration Rates may cover the printing of conference materials, but flyers and other promotional materials may need to take place earlier.

We will not get into whether we agree or disagree with honorariums vs. love offerings. The reality is that bringing in speakers costs. Registrations and fundraising efforts can help offset the costs of these. If possible, we should try to have checks ready in advance and in envelopes so that we handle business with the greatest level of care and discretion.

Speakers may need transportation to and from the airport. If a car, van, or limo rental is needed, this is a cost the organization usually incurs. Gift baskets and welcome packets are other nice items to include for special guests. If we are providing meals for speakers or other allowances, we should factor this into our projected budgets. At-the-Door Registrations may provide some petty cash or money to help settle the final hotel bill.

If we do not give people incentive to register early, we may not have the funds we need in time to meet our obligations. For many conferences, Group Registrations are offered discounts for booking a certain minimum number of registrations. Many people wait until the last minute to pay for registrations. If the majority of delegates did this, the event may be in jeopardy of cancellation.

Running a successful event takes more than faith. Our faith must have works to go along with it. We must pray and seek God and exercise good judgment when planning events. When we find out what works, we know that God will be pleased with our stewardship.

New King James Version

1 Chronicles 28:19
“All this,” said David, “the LORD made me understand in writing, by His hand upon me, all the works of these plans.”

Psalm 127:1
Unless the LORD builds the house, they labor in vain who build it; Unless the LORD guards the city, the watchman stays awake in vain.

Luke 6:48
He is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when the flood arose, the stream beat vehemently against that house, and could not shake it, for it was founded on the rock.

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