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event decorating

Our daughters Leah & Heather, part of my team

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! ¬†ūüôā 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. ūüôā

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 or leaving your comments below.