Our events were good, but we wanted more for our attendees, our guests, and our organization. We wanted to take our events to another level. This demanding process required strategy, patience, and energy. It also required teamwork, brainstorming, and listening to others. Finally, it required balancing deadlines with philosophical conversation about the purpose of our events. The following steps assisted our events in moving from “good to great.”

  1. Name your event. A name offers identity. It may also pique potential attendees' curiosity and attention. Remember, 70 percent of people who see the event's name should understand who the event is for and what will be done.

  2. Survey your stakeholders. Offer opportunities for stakeholders to explore the various components that are typical to your event and ask for their priorities. Listen to your stakeholders. You work for them. It is their event. Our organization did an online survey offering the 15 components typical of our events. We were pleased to get responses from so many pastors, and they were pleased to be asked for their input.

  3. Use the survey results to develop values for the event. Review the survey results for nuggets. Our organization was pleased to hear that our stakeholders' top three priorities are: 1) being together; 2) hearing the vision of the organization and making decisions that shaped its ministries; and 3) equipping by speakers. This is exciting because we can build on these as key strategies.

  4. Communicate with your stakeholders. Everyone likes to be heard. Write a news release that provides information about the survey, what you heard from it, and the values that will be filters for everything you do at your next event. Plan all event promotion — advertising, news releases, and registration forms — so that it builds momentum and inspires people to attend.

  5. Develop a team. Find staff and volunteer leaders who will take on key strategic leadership roles. Be clear about these roles, including responsibility and authority. Great leaders delegate, spreading out the work. This also creates opportunity for greater effectiveness and buy-in from your staff and volunteers. Invite, encourage, and empower each volunteer or staff member to bring his best to the table. It is more fun to work together than to work alone. Remember to share the glory with your team when things go well and to take the blame together when they don't.

  6. Develop goals for your volunteers, staff, and planning team. Goals are the behaviors that are expected from each person. How are we going to do this together? The goals for our team were to bring your best to the table, to be in good and right relationship with each other, to overserve our attendees, to pray for each other, to work together to create raving fans of our organization, and to have fun.

  7. Use your goals and values as filters for every new idea that comes up. If it doesn't pass through the grid, it doesn't happen.

  8. Cast vision, values, and goals for the event with your planning team, staff, and volunteers regularly. Bill Hybels suggests that “vision leaks” and that people need to be reminded and re-energized with the vision. Paint the vision clearly and often.

  9. Evaluate every event. Taking events from good to great is an ongoing process. Invite attendees to complete an evaluation. Debrief the event with volunteers, staff, and the planning team. By creating an opportunity for honest feedback, you hope to learn from what was done and to improve the event next time. Clear, objectified data will allow for better planning, better decision-making, and the ability to evaluate better. Listen to the evaluation facts. What are you hearing? What will you do differently next time? What did you and your team learn?

  10. Celebrate! There are plenty of things to celebrate after an event. Celebrate that you all survived. Celebrate the goals you achieved. Celebrate together with your volunteers, staff, and planning team.

Michelle Penner works for the Canadian Conference of MB Churches and PLAN-it Events.