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Planning Tips

Tips for Effective Event Planning at Kettunen Center

Whether you're an experienced professional or planning your first meeting, you need to ask the right questions to make the right decisions. We have provided some guidance to assist you in the steps of planning a fabulous event.

Define your goals and objectives. Set your goals and objectives for the meeting and all components involved. Stating the purpose goes a long way to "focusing in" on what needs to happen at the event. You should have an overall set of goals and objectives for your meeting, but then apply the same process within each segment — entertainment, audio-visual and food & beverage. Don't forget to survey your attendees either before or during your meeting (it is advisable to survey after the meeting to make sure your goals and objectives were met).

Create a Dream Team. Form a design team to help you accomplish your goals. Appoint people who have special gifts or talents in certain areas to coordinate different aspects of the retreat. You could appoint people to plan break outs, snacks, ice breaker activities, welcoming participants, information packets, decorations, games for free time, or small groups. These people not only make your job easier; they also add enthusiasm and special touches.

Plan early. At Kettunen Center, we accept reservations years in advance. Keep in mind that weekends are the most popular time, so they fill up fast. Have several dates in mind that might work for your group when you book your event.

Consult for scheduling conflicts. Check with your organization’s master calendar and note when other big projects or events will be taking place. Also consider holidays and school calendars.

Know Your Attendees. Why are people attending your event? Obviously, there is a need to be cost-effective, but knowing what your attendees are expecting and will find relevant will help you have a successful meeting. Who is your target audience? What are they looking to get out of the meeting? Do they earn continuing education credits (CEUs) for attending?

Determine Budget. Budget, budget, budget. Are you going to break-even, make a profit, or conduct the meeting at a loss? This should be determined by your leadership, your by-laws or committees. Each meeting will have its own unique budget restrictions and expectations. Knowing what those are from the beginning will make the whole process run smoother.

Be realistic with your attendance numbers. If this is the first time you have planned a meeting it is better to be able to fill up all the space you reserve and have a waiting list for next year, than to overestimate and have to pay for unused space. At Kettunen Center you can adjust your original reservation 90 days out without a penalty.

Ask lots of questions. The conference center has its own unique features and benefits. You need to know if you are sleeping in bunk beds or in a hotel-style room. Are linens provided? What are the meal times? We have a Conference Center Professional on staff to guide each group through the conference planning and implementation process.

Stay in touch with us. The plans we make for each retreat or conference are only as good as the details you provide to Kettunen Center. We want your group to have a quality experience. Please keep us updated on any changes. Please do not wait until the day before to call with a number of requests; it may be too late to make arrangements.

Read your contract! Kettunen Center must utilize good business practices in order to be good stewards of the facility. Know how much your deposit will be. Is it refundable? What is the final date changes can be made? What are the check in and check out times? What is or is not allowed. Share these details with your group.

Charge appropriately! If this is a retreat or conference that individuals pay their own way, you should get a financial commitment from each person to match the commitment you made with the facility. If you have add-on services such as recreation, snacks or additional refreshments, make sure you add those to the amount each person pays. If an organization is paying for your retreat, make sure the appropriate person or department writing the check understands the financial arrangements with the facility.

Pay your bill on time! Kettunen Center has expenses that must be paid in order to provide quality services to your group as well as others. It is essential that payment is received in a timely manner. Also, if you feel adjustments should be made to your bill, ask to talk with someone before you leave the facility or at least ask for someone to call you.

Arrange for speakers or special guests! If your retreat or conference requires that you have a special speaker or musician, please determine if they require special set ups or needs before they arrive. Then relay that to the center. Remember, for a successful event; schedule your speaker or entertainers well in advance as well. Consider the cost of your speaker, including travel expenses. Make sure to figure this cost into the price of the event. We also have a resource list of speakers or entertainers that can be recommended to you if you are having difficulty scheduling one.

Promote your retreat or conference! Make sure the targeted attendees know of your retreat or conference and the scheduled dates. State the specific purpose and details. The more informed your group is the more likely they will attend. The more ways you communicate the details the event, the greater the possibility of success. It is never enough to have one announcement in a bulletin or newsletter. Notes, email, posters, personal recruiting committees, post cards, and phone calls are all great ways to get the information out.

Arrive early! The planning team should plan to arrive at the center in advance of the other participants. A member of the planning team can greet the participants and help them find their accommodations. Be enthusiastic! If you are having a good time, chances are your participants will too!

Use Nametags. If there is even just one person in your group who might not know the name of someone else, plan to use nametags. This can be used as an icebreaker, with participants making creative tags out of a variety of materials. Other icebreaker ideas include having a puzzle that early arrivals can work on, playing games related to the theme of your event, or setting up a refreshment area.

Communicate Changes. Always check with the center staff when making a change in your schedule that involves the facilities. For example, if you know a session will run late and your group will arrive late to a meal, let the kitchen staff know in advance so they can be prepared to keep the food hot.
If you don’t know, ask. Don’t hesitate to call the center staff with any questions that you have.

Evaluate your event!  The most successful retreats or conferences are those that are planned well from start to finish. It is always important to check up on an event afterwards to see 'how you did.' You should evaluate as a team what was right, what was wrong, what could have been better, etc. Kettunen also would like to know how we served you and in what ways we can improve.

Rebook for next year! If you know that you are planning to repeat your retreat or conference check on available dates before you leave the facility. If possible go ahead and make a tentative reservation.


Kettunen Center is committed to making your event the best ever. All of our planning ideas and expertise in events are at your disposal.

Sample Planning Timetable