Ever see a registration fee for a dance or worship arts conference and wonder why? There are several factors that go into determining whether an event can be hosted free of charge or if registration fees are necessary. I want to share with you a little bit of the happenings behind the scenes to get a better understanding of the charges...
FREE CONFERENCES AND EVENTS
It is easier to host free events when the facility, speakers, and sponsors are able to support or eliminate any financial expenses tied to the event. For my first three dance conferences, I hosted the gathering free of charge (to attendees), but the truth is, I paid for them out of my own pocket as a love offering to the dance community.
For my very first conference in 2003, the church donated the building, although we returned 10 percent of the offering back to the church. The food was donated by members of the church and all of the teachers (three of us) donated their time to teach the participants. For the evening dance concert, we received a freewill offering. What may not have been as obvious were the other expenses that went into preparing: administrative costs (printing, postage, ink), and hotel accommodations (I lived outside of the immediate area and the event started early in the morning). Unfortunately, many of the participants were not big "givers" so there was no profit derived from this conference (and I operated it at a natural loss, but a spiritual gain!)
My second conference moved to a larger facility. Though the church was donated again, we still gave a love offering for participation. In addition, I had to pay for the food to feed the participants myself. Expenses also increased. I now had a website, more printing costs (brochures and registrations forms), postal expenses (mailing out information), decorating fees, and gave the janitor a cleaning fee. We again received a love offering for the conference, but it did not cover the expenditures of the event.
The third conference proved even more challenging. The location that was donated before now came with a rental fee. The conference was still free for participants, food was still included, and administrative costs continued to grow. Since I was working a full-time, well-paying job, this was not an undue burden. To make things even more interesting, I moved to Las Vegas and still hosted this conference in Los Angeles, CA. This meant that I had to travel to get there for meetings and for the conference. (Do you see where this is going?).
PAID CONFERENCES AND EVENTS
After relocating to Las Vegas, the ballgame changed completely for my 4th event. Venue rentals for hotels, churches, and community centers proved to be expensive in this city. Since most people visit Vegas for vacation, I decided to host the event at a hotel. Many hotels have large food and beverage minimums or require hefty fees for meeting room rental space. In addition, bringing speakers from out of town entails flights, hotel arrangements, and love offerings. This did not include sound, decor, administrative costs, or transportation! All of this had to be factored in and a registration fee was charged. Although the experience was phenomenal, the expense far outweighed the return! I learned to make adjustments for the future.
By my 5th conference, I'd learned how to budget more carefully. I scaled down the size of the venue, looked for cheaper meeting room space, and narrowed down the list of invited speakers. I raised registration rates that included food served by the hotel and offered a better conference overall. We ended up being able to meet all budgetary needs for the conference!
I will be hosting my 6th conference in two weeks. Over the years, I have learned that it takes an army of supporters behind the scenes to move into success. Although ministry costs when delivering on a level of excellence, the return on investment always outweighs the natural expenses. There are some hosts who are able to "sponsor" their own conferences and workshops. As value increases, others may buy ad space, make donations, or provide in-kind gifts that will reduce the overall cost of the gathering.
Next time you consider attending a conference based on price, consider all that takes place behind the scenes. There is great value to be found in gatherings of all levels. The key is to consult God concerning which events to attend and seeking Him for the provision. As is is often said, "Where God guides, He provides."
Join us at "Worship, Incorporated," National Worship and Dance Conference August 11th-13th in Las Vegas, NV.
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