Planning a live event? Things I learned from planning, organizing, and hosting the conference

Planning a live event? Things I learned from planning, organizing, and hosting the conference
RELEASED Women's Conference attendees during worship
RELEASED Women’s Conference attendees during worship

A speaker/author friend of mine plans to write a book this year on event planning, and yesterday she asked if I’d be willing to contribute content to it since I just finished planning, organizing, and hosting the RELEASED! Women’s Conference in the Kansas City, MO, area, which 39 women attended.

This conference was my 3rd live event and the biggest one I’ve ever done, with hiring a worship leader, four speakers, a caterer, a florist, and doing radio and newspaper advertising.

As always, God teaches me new things when I do something for Him. He deals with my heart.

He also shows me areas where I lack knowledge or my mistakes and helps me to learn from them, to improve for next time (if there is a next time…right now, I just want to rest and relax after our move into a new rental home this week).

I learned 14 things from this conference, and wanted to share a few of them with you for helpful tips, especially if you are planning your own live (or even virtual) event:

1. Sponsorship  and vendors are the key to covering event expenses.

Some of our sponsors' door prizes
Some of our sponsors’ door prizes

I’ve never had a sponsor before. I’d heard of popular bloggers on the web and other speakers who had sponsors, but wasn’t sure I’d be able to get one or even sure how to go about it. My Speaking business is not a 501c3 not-for-profit organization and I didn’t think I’d be able to get a sponsor.

I approached my Speaker/Author friend Tony Robinson of Well-Watered Woman Ministries who had gotten sponsors for the Women of Destiny conference where  I spoke on a cruise to the Bahamas. Her answer was, “You just ask!”

I did this for my conference and we winded up with 21 door prizes and items donated for the women’s goody bags! Over half the women at the conference received a door prize.

How did I get these incredible sponsors like Eden’s Touch Bread Company and Unwind Massage? I went to family and friends who I knew and told them about the conference, asking them if they had anything they’d like to donate as sponsors – books they’d written or ebooks, a downloadable mp3 audio, a Bible study guide, jewelry, a salon service, etc.

Trish Jones-Paul, one of our conference sponsors
Trish Jones-Paul, one of our conference sponsors

To my surprise and delight, everyone who I approached said YES! I even had other people ask me first if I’d like them to donate something for the conference! I felt the sponsors’ generosity was God’s way of confirming that this conference was HIS idea!

I was NOT able to get a big sponsor(s) for the conference for the major expenses, I believe primarily due to not being able to plan this conference way in advance. If you want the major expenses covered (such as the speakers’ fees) and not to come out of your personal finances  you’ll need a major sponsor or several big sponsors.

Sponsors are out there, eager to help you because it promotes their businesses! You can learn more about writing a sponsor letter by clicking here at Shannon Cherry’s blog.

If you think you’ll be able to cover expenses simply by charging a registration fee and through love offerings, I encourage you to have a Plan B! You may not have as many people as you think will attend and the offering may be less than you need.

This happened to a woman I know, who was depending on the registration fees and the offerings to cover her speakers’ expenses. She was extremely embarrassed when she couldn’t pay her speakers what she had promised because the offering amount was much less than she anticipated. 

Also, event expenses add up quickly, even when you’re doing your best to be frugal.

Sponsorship and vendors are THE key to paying for expenses for your live event!

2. No more than 2 (or 3 at the most) speakers for a one-day event.

RELEASED Women's Conference team
RELEASED Women’s Conference team

I had 4 amazing speakers at the RELEASED! Women’s Conference and each one of them spoke an anointed, rhema word straight to my heart, personally ministering to me. I  have no regret asking all of them to speak at the conference and am so HONORED they said yes!

But if I could do things differently, I would’ve spread out this event over 2 days or even over a weekend to give our worship/praise leader Naima Johnston-Bush more worship time, and for the attendees to talk with each other and get more personal prayer/ministry time.

Make sure when you choose your venue, that you will not have strict time restraints or it will add a lot of stress and pressure to your event!

Having 4 speakers for a one-day event was just too much due to our time restraints. Our schedule was packed with little breathing room. Be sure that when you plan your event, you leave plenty of time for the attendees to connect, network, and to receive prayer/ministry time.

3. Have a committed team of helpers.

Initially, after I spoke in Canada and Doreen Penner mentioned visiting me in America and us having a conference here, I resisted and didn’t want to do it!

I knew it’d be a lot of hard work, stress, and expense – and that I’d be the one doing most of the work and it’d likely come out of Ray’s and my pockets!

After God told me to do it and Ray encouraged me to, I became excited.  Yet I knew this was bigger than me. I am one woman. I was going to need help. I had to have a team!

Our daughters Leah & Heather, part of my team
Our daughters Leah & Heather, part of my team

You want people who are committed and will show up. Life happens sometimes, so have a back-up plan for various roles. I recommend having the following teams for your live event:

  • First, a team of intercessors who will faithfully pray for you, your family, and this event from the moment you begin planning to after the conference. In December of 2012, God told me that I (and my business) would be going to a new level in 2013, and that I needed to have a team of intercessors covering me and my family. I now have a team of 7 intercessors praying faithfully for me, my family, and my business. They prayed the entire 6 months for this conference. The most important work of your event is PRAYER!
  • A team of people who will physically help you with setting up at the venue. My daughters Heather, Leah and I loaded two cars filled with items for set-up at the conference;
  • A team of people who will help you with the different roles – the registration table, serving drinks/food, making coffee and/or desserts for the afternoon, door prize give-aways, filling goody bags, photography/videography, an Emcee saying the welcome and introducing the worship leader/speakers, etc. I’m so thankful to all my friends who helped me and love you!
  • A decorating team. If you’re like me, you love decorating. It’s my favorite part when planning a party. But God has called and anointed me to speak, write, and travel for His glory. I can’t do everything myself and neither can you. Hire a decorating team to help you! You have to let Jesus take the wheel and let go of control! The decorating for this conference looked beautiful and exactly the way I wanted, and I was so thankful for Heather and Leah helping me so much. I couldn’t have done it without their hard work! But I should’ve let Heather, Leah and others do the decorating FOR me.
  • A final tip would be a finance team or a board of directors to make the major decisions. I didn’t have this for the conference. My husband Ray and I were the finance team, although I did seek input and suggestions from others about costs. But a finance team or a board can be a good idea for major events. One of my friends has a 501c3, not-for-profit ministry organization which offers hope for marriages and families. They only have 3 people on their board of directors, but that is sufficient. You don’t need or want 10 or 20 people on your board or you’ll never be able to move forward. This team needs to have unity.  Pray and ask God for liberal wisdom about who will be on the finance team or board of directors. You want people  on the team or board gifted in knowledge and wisdom to help you make sound (and quick!) decisions for the expenses, who have caught your vision. You definitely don’t want someone on this team or board who is controlling and stingy with money. Nor do you want someone who would give the farm away.

4. Study leadership, finances, the personalities, the spiritual gifts, event planning, and other self-improvement topics.

International Speaker Beth Jones
International Speaker Beth Jones

People need and want leadership. If they are being indecisive, you need to just make a decision and lead them so they will follow. I am called to be a leader of women. I need to study leadership more. It’s also a good idea to study other topics before planning your event such as finances, the different types of personalities, the spiritual gifts, event planning, etc.

In having a live event, you’re going to be working with people who have very different personalities from your own and you’ll need to walk in understanding. Two great books that I recommend on this are Personality Plus by Florence Littauer and Wired That Way by her daughter Marita Littauer. I also recommend signing up for John Maxwell’s leadership “A Minute with Maxwell” tips and to check into any resources by Zig Ziglar and Brian Tracy.

5. I am the one who needs to be transformed and to be freed like the butterfly.

The logo for the RELEASED! Women’s Conference was a yellow butterfly, drawn by our daughter Leah. It represented release from any limits and freedom – the transformation from the caterpillar in the confining cocoon to the beautiful butterfly, free to fly and to be what God made it to be.

As always when God tells me to do something and I step out in faith, God teaches me new things and deals with my own heart. Sometimes my friends think I’m being too hard on myself, but I know that I have a high calling from God and “to whom much is given, much is required.” (Luke 12:48)

Some people call God’s heart dealings “taking you to the woodshed.”  Whatever you call it, its purpose is to draw you nearer to God and to repentance. He is the Potter and I am the clay. (Jeremiah 18:1) There’s a difference between conviction and condemnation. God chastens those He loves ~ and He loves me A LOT!  🙂 Certain things happened with this conference that revealed my heart. Yes,  I’m the one who needs to be transformed and freed!

May we all experience transformation this year, to be formed into the image of Jesus Christ.

This was an AMAZING, POWERFUL conference – I LOVED it and we’ve had incredible, positive feedback from the attendees, one of them being, “When is your next one?!”

I’m so thankful to God, my husband Ray, our daughters Heather, Eden, and Leah, the conference team, my intercessor team and team of personal assistants, and the attendees for this wonderful time!!!

I’m also grateful that God opens my eyes, ears, and heart to teach me new things so I can improve. 🙂

Daffodil & Butterfly. Copyright 2013 Leah Jones
Daffodil & butterfly.
Copyright 2013 Leah Jones

I hope these were helpful tips for you. May you have a beautiful, empowering, anointed event that is greatly blessed by God. I’d love for you to write me and tell me about it by emailing me at elizabethdjones@gmail.com or leaving your comments below.

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Open your mouth wide; Stepping Out to Obey God

Open your mouth wide; Stepping Out to Obey God

Woman holding megaphoneFor it was I, the Lord your God, who rescued you from the land of Egypt. Open your mouth wide and I will fill it with good things. – Psalm 81:10, NLT

I was sharing with someone the other day about how my Public Speaking business/ministry got started. It wasn’t my idea; it was God’s. 🙂

An unexpected opportunity came when I was working as a volunteer counselor at Your Life Choice Center in Harrisonville, MO. The center’s founder, Wauthena Neely, was approached by a friend, who directed her church’s women’s Hearts At Home Bible study. They needed someone to speak at an upcoming study.

Wauthena knew my testimony of having had three abortions, and she recommended me to this woman and asked me if I’d share my powerful story. I’d never publicly given my testimony and was terrified, but Ray encouraged me to do it and God spoke to my heart to do it.

Turning things around 180 degrees

When I stood before that group of women, I felt like Daniel in the lions’ den. I was so afraid of judgment and rejection. My knees were also knocking, speaking in front of people.

The board members of the Hearts At Home study had bathed this day in prayer. They expected a stampede of women to rush to the front of the room when I invited women at the end of my testimony to come forward for prayer for forgiveness or healing about their abortions.

Not a soul did. The room was silent. I thought I was going to die!

What they hadn’t anticipated was that so many post-abortive women are bound in fear, shame, and condemnation as I’d been years before.

Despite my own roller-coaster emotions, I recognized what was happening. No one asked for prayer, but I knew that statistically, it was very likely that at least one woman was in the audience, who was suffering with the painful aftermath of abortion. And she was too scared to tell anyone.

My prayer is that somehow my testimony ministered hope and comfort to her about God’s unconditional love and forgiveness. Abortion is not the unforgiveable sin. God will forgive you for abortion and heal you when you come to Him.

Then He can even turn that situation around 180 to use you to minister to other women who have had one, as I can testify. While I was working at the pregnancy center, my story saved at least two babies from being aborted.

I’ve also shared my testimony many times since then and often have women come up to me afterward thanking me for sharing about God’s forgiveness, telling me their stories.

Your story can make a difference in someone’s life.

God’s sense of humor

That special day marked a new beginning for me: the launch of my Speaking career.

I was so scared to speak in front of that group of women. As I spoke, I was profusely sweating, physically shaking, and my voice quivered. It was one of the most terrifying things I’d ever done.

I wasn’t alone in my fear. Fear of public speaking is the number 2 fear of Americans, under fear of snakes according to a recent Gallup poll (other surveys show fear of heights or fear of disease is the no. 1 fear, but public speaking remains consistently the no. 2 fear. Most Americans are scared of speaking in front of an audience.)

God has a big sense of humor. I was the most unlikely of people to ever speak publicly. I’ve always been a shy, reserved introvert. My whole life, I’ve struggled with various fears, and talking in front of a group was one of the biggest one.

I related to the passage in the Bible where Moses was trying to convince God to send someone else to do the job.

“But Moses pleaded with the Lord, “O Lord, I’m not very good with words. I never have been, and I’m not now, even though you have spoken to me. I get tongue-tied, and my words get tangled.”

God then reminds Moses He made his mouth. “Then the LORD asked Moses, “Who makes a person’s mouth? Who decides whether people speak or do not speak, hear or do not hear, see or do not see? Is it not I, the LORD?”

When God calls, He equips

When I worked as a secretary years ago, I couldn’t even call a client on the phone in front of my boss, because it made me so nervous for him to hear what I would say. (God has done a lot of healing in me in the last 20 years!)

In high school, one of the required courses was Communication, and during that course we had to speak in front of the class. I’d shake and sweat and literally feel like I was going to faint. The other students would snicker at me.  My teacher was wonderful, though, and she greatly encouraged me that I could do this.

Years later, my pastor, Al Ridge, told me that he believed I had spiritual gifts I’d never used, and that he saw me speaking in front of a lot of people. I laughed, telling him there was no way I was going to do that. (God had the last laugh!)

I’m so thankful to God for putting uplifting, positive people like that in my path. I look back on these things now, smiling, realizing even then God was preparing me for what I do today.

Open doors

Obedience brings God’s blessing and favor. After I spoke at the Hearts At Home Bible study, God began to open other doors for me to speak. Originally, this was certainly nothing I sought out. I was so scared to speak in front of people, and I resisted and begged God not to make me do it. But God wouldn’t let me go. 🙂

My heart desired to obey Him, and Ray kept encouraging me to do it. Ray told me that I could conquer this fear and that the more I did it, the less nervous I would become. He was so right!

After awhile, I began to relax more when I was speaking and actually began to like doing it. Then I began to LOVE it!

God then spoke to my heart to begin speaking, sharing my story and His words of truth.

I attended CLASServices professional speakers/writers training in Saint Louis, MO, and Upper CLASS in Connecticut, with Tammy Bennett, Marita Littauer, and being critiqued by legend speaker Florence Littauer for my speaking. I joined Toastmasters.

And I said a big “Yes” to God.

The call

Years before that first speaking event at the Hearts At Home Bible study, I lay on my bed in Olathe, Kansas, crying in a suicidal depression, and God gave me Isaiah 61 as my life chapter and verse.

“Beth, this is what I have called you to do and to be,” He spoke quietly to my heart as I opened my Bible to desperately search for a reason to live. It landed on that page.

At the time, it seemed impossible. Me set captives free when I was the mess I was?

God began to heal me from the pain of my past, and restore me. He turned my mess into a message.

God does it!

Every single speaking engagement I’ve ever received, God has sovereignly opened the door. I’ve never had to ask for one; they’ve approached me to ask me to speak at their women’s event.

I’ve spoken twice at Women’s Aglow in Kansas City. I was one of the keynote speakers at Norma Washington’s conference in Phoenix, Arizona. I’ve put on two women’s retreats to speak there and also had other women speakers joining me.

Last year God sent me on a cruise to the Bahamas to speak as one of the keynote speakers at Tony Robinson’s women’s conference. Then He sent me to Canada to speak as one of the keynote speakers at Doreen Penner’s women’s retreat.

This year I spoke as the keynote speaker at the PAUMCS Life and Leadership conference. I’ve spoken many other places the last two years. My next speaking engagement is April 13 at a ladies’ tea. I’m also hosting the RELEASED! Women’s Conference in Belton, MO, on April 27. (Are you signed up yet?!!!)

Today I love speaking in front of live audiences. It thrills and energizes me. It makes me happy. I want to go all over the world, traveling and speaking, encouraging women.

Today I’m living out my calling and purpose from God. Are you?

I am deeply aware that I don’t deserve for God to use me like this. It humbles and amazes me. That is why I always give Jesus Christ the glory, and always will. He is my everything. “In Him I live and move and have my being.” (Acts 17:28)

I do it for God’s glory and to encourage women’s hearts with God’s powerful words of truth to help set them free and to exhort them to use the great gifts God has given them for His glory.  God’s word is truly coming to pass in my life.

Open your mouth wide. God will fill it with good things. Step out and obey, and just see what God will do.

***

Are you an event planner? Check out my Speaking page here.

 

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RELEASED! Women’s Conference on April 27

RELEASED! Women’s Conference on April 27
Daffodil & Butterfly. Copyright 2013 Leah Jones
Daffodil & butterfly.
Copyright 2013 Leah Jones

Do you want a life-changing transformation in 2013?

Are you ready to move from fears, failures, and frustrations to FREEDOM?

Is it time for you to break out of your limiting cocoon and FLY, becoming the beautiful creation God made you to be?

Then join us for our RELEASED! Women’s Conference on Saturday, April 27, 2013, at Belton Wellness Center in Belton, MO (outside the Kansas City area)!

Here’s what you’ll experience at this anointed all-day event:

  • Four separate sessions from anointed speakers across the U.S. and Canada
  • Powerful worship
  • A catered delicious Italian lunch
  • A chance to make great new friends and do business networking
  • Your opportunity to unwind and get away from it all
  • Door prizes and fun
  • Your goody bag to take home
  • And more!

I am so excited about this and can’t wait. We’d LOVE to see you there. Early Bird Pricing until February 23, 2013 for $35. After February 23, the price goes up to $50.

This conference is LIMITED TO JUST 50 WOMEN.

Will YOU be one of the 50 women FREED BY GOD’S LOVE, TRANSFORMED BY HIS POWER?

To learn more, just click here.

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