This weekend I led what was at least my 15th Fall Festival. I am a fan of big events and getting the whole church mobilized around the same thing. I love throwing a big party for our community. Our church is situated right in the middle of neighborhoods, so it is a perfect venue to have a Halloween event for families to stop by as they have their Halloween night.
Over the years, however, the whole idea of how to best do registration at events such as this has bugged me.
I totally see the value in collecting information so that we have the opportunity to connect with those who are unchurched or might be interested in learning more about the church. At the same time, the vast majority of people who come are really just wanting their kids to get candy. I always felt a little funny about creating long lines of parents filling out our cards so that we would admit them to the event, while their kiddos were pulling on them and whining to just go play. It seemed a little disingenuous to invite the community to come play, but require that they give us personal info to do so. Additionally (and quite honestly), it is always a huge challenge to effectively follow up with that many names. Without a good follow-up plan, we were going to a lot of trouble, inconveniencing a lot of people, and collecting a lot of personal information without a lot of results.
So this year we tried something new in an effort to still collect info but in a way that was more natural for families.
As families entered the event, staff greeted them warmly and handed them a card. One side had our church information and service times. The other side advertised that they could register to win a $100 Toys ‘R Us shopping spree (which will be a gift card) and listed multiple spots within the fall fest where they could register. We identified 6 sites where parents would be hanging out or waiting in line anyway: bounce house, cake walk, photo booth, food area, face painting, etc. We placed some of our very best, friendly, and engaging volunteers at those sites with registration forms and pens.
Here’s what we saw:
– Families walked up to these areas asking to register.
– Our volunteers were able to more effectively connect with families and have real conversations, rather than just herding them through a line.
– I have a hunch that we got better info because we were catching parents at more relaxed and natural times.
– We collected a lot of cards. Granted, we probably did not catch every single family who came to the fall fest. But, we collected a lot and plenty to follow up on. And, in my opinion, fewer names that we made better connections with and impressions on is of greater value that more names that were just on cards.
I would love to hear what you do for registration for big events. Even more, I would love to hear what you have learned about how to best follow up with the mass of names and contact information.