STRONG & COURAGEOUS: Day Two Recap

Since yesterday was just a day of registration and settling in, today was the first official day of STRONG & COURAGEOUS, our National Conference in San Diego, California.

Today has been a whirlwind of greeting old friends, making some new ones, and diving into the conference! With Head Start Workshops running all day today, participants got the chance to squeeze in even more learning and networking.

The afternoon brought regional gatherings, but since there are only 75 Canadians in total here at the conference, we met all together. It was great to see some familiar faces, and meet some new people who are our brothers and sisters in the amazing ministry of Christian camping in Canada. At the gathering, we discussed our journey since 2010 — and there certainly have been a lot of changes to CCI/Canada since then. Between moving the National Office across the country to Alberta and a complete turnover of staff, we sure have had some challenges. But we are happy to report many successes: from simple things like never failing to deliver a quality e-newsletter on the first of every month to huge things like dramatically reducing our deficit. And we are so grateful to be here serving you all.

After the regional gatherings, everyone was treated to an amazing Mexican fiesta, complete with a real Mariachi band, dancers and amazing Mexican food. The outdoor courtyard was filled with lights, balloons, and the sounds of eight hundred camp professionals enjoying themselves!

The Mariachi band and dancers led everyone back into the main ballroom for a general session that began with CCCA President Gregg Hunter and CCI/Canada National Director Sharon Fraess bursting out of a pinata and pulling confetti from their mouths! After than spectacle, the session began with lively worship from Danny Oertli. Gregg Hunter gave the evening’s keynote speech, and was followed by a quick word from Sheri Rose Shepherd. In the end, the Mariachi band started up again and led us all to the Grand Exhibit Hall, which was jam-packed with excellent camp-centered exhibitors and home to our Member Services Area. Here at the Canadian booth, I’m giving away tote bags, sticky notes, luggage tags and Red Rose tea. And we’re serving Tim Hortons Coffee and poutine in the Exhibit Hall! Just doing what we can to make our Canadian camp members feel at home!

Tomorrow will bring so much opportunity for education. From all-day Institutes to Intensives and Electives, there is literally something for everyone. We’ll keep you posted on how everything goes!

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STRONG & COURAGEOUS: Day One

Our National Conference, STRONG & COURAGEOUS is officially underway!

As I type this, I’m sitting behind the Registration & Information Desk in the Atlas Foyer of the beautiful Town and Country Resort Hotel in San Diego, California. The conference is a joint effort between CCI/Canada and our U.S. counterparts, the Christian Camp & Conference Association. It has been a pleasure to meet our Canadian members as they begin to register today. What a wonderful community we have!

This year’s conference theme comes from the first chapter of Joshua. Here’s verse nine:

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

The command to “be strong and courageous” appears four times in this chapter. God truly desired to equip Joshua with the tools and courage necessary to accomplish great things — just as He wants to encourage you to face challenges within your camp ministry with the strength and courage of Joshua.

Just as God provided Joshua with what he needed to be a strong leader to bring God’s people into the promised land, He will give you what you need to lead your ministry. That’s why this conference is so jam-packed with educational opportunities. We’ve got conference-long workshops, two- to four-hour intensives, and traditional seminars with dozens of topics to choose from. There is so much to learn from some really excellent, well-informed instructors and speakers.

Today is just a registration day, but I will keep you all posted on the goings-on of the conference each day! Watch for more posts, and hopefully some photos!

How to promote your summer camp at Trade Shows

Does your camp attend trade shows in your area? Trade Shows can be a great way to market your camp face-to-face with potential clients. Many trade shows run through the winter to market your camp to rental groups like schools or churches, but you can also use trade shows to promote your summer camp program and boost your registrations as well!

Here are some handy trade show tips:

Before the Show

Create a little buzz

It’s always a good idea to create a buzz about your booth a couple of weeks before the show. Let your Facebook fans and Twitter followers know where and when to find you. If it’s within your budget, promise a little giveaway to get people to come out. It can be as simple as promising the first ten people to come to your booth and say they heard you’d be there on Facebook (or Twitter) a free t-shirt! Think about being willing to offer a special discount on camp registration to people who sign their kids up at the trade show.

Research the venue

Find out what the venue offers so that you know what you can feasibly bring. Questions to ask might be:

  • Will there be WiFi?
  • Will there be a nearby electrical outlet?
  • How big is the booth?
  • Are you allowed to sell products?

These questions will help you plan your booth. You’ll know how big it is, so you’ll know what kind of signage or props you can bring. You might consider bringing a laptop or two to run a PowerPoint presentation about your program, have a photo slide show, or have your website open for people to browse, so you’ll need Internet access and electricity. If you’ve got a lot of camp merch left over from last year (t-shirts, hats, etc.), this might be a great way to get rid of some by selling them at discounted prices at your booth.

Plan your staffing

Do you have the staff to man the booth, or will you need to recruit volunteers? Either way, it’s nice to have a few of them. No one wants to sit at a booth alone, and it’s great to have another person greeting new people while you’re busy chatting and answering questions. It’s also important to plan enough staff or volunteers so that those manning the booth can have shorter shifts and frequent breaks. This will keep your staff energetic, friendly, and eager to make an impression on potential clients.

If whoever you’re sending isn’t familiar with your program or details about your camp, make sure you give them enough information to go on. Send a FAQ sheet with them for them to consult, and make sure you’ve told them the most important things you want visitors to your booth to know about your camp.

During the Show

What to bring

At the very least, you’ll need to bring along these items:

  • A stand-alone presentation board, preferable with your camp name and logo on it. This board should display what you do as a camp, and include lots of pictures of real kids enjoying the activities.
  • A tablecloth that compliments your logo/signage.
  • A large sign for your logo and camp name, if you haven’t included this on your presentation board (but you can always do both).
  • Informational material. Make sure you’ve got lots of brochures and business cards ready to hand out.

Other things to consider bringing:

  • A laptop (or two, or three). You can use them to let people look at your website, view a PowerPoint presentation about your camp, or just to have a constant slide show full of fun pictures from your summer programs.
  • Props to make your booth interesting. If you have room in your booth, the possibilities are endless — but pick items that speak to your camp’s program, like a western saddle, or climbing equipment, or beach toys.
  • Some greenery. Nothing lives up a drab-looking booth quite like live plants or flowers.

Make your booth engaging

There are lots of ways to draw interest to your booth! Rather than just silently sitting in a chair, hoping someone will come by, try a few of these fun tricks:

  • Play some music! People will be drawn to the sound and eager to find out what’s going on at your booth.
  • Have some swag to give away. People like free stuff, even if it’s something small like a carabiner with your camp’s name on it, or even a pen. Once they’re there checking out what you’re offering for free, you’ll have the chance to talk to them a bit. Even if it’s just to ask, “Have you ever heard about Camp XYZ before?” to break the ice.
  • Have a draw for a cool prize. Depending on what you’re willing to part with, you could offer anything from as big as a free week of camp to as small as a camp hoodie. Have them fill out a piece of paper with their contact information including email address and drop it in a container or box. Now you have lots of email addresses! You can inform the winner(s) by email and send some follow-up information about your camp to everyone who entered.
  • Update your social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.) frequently during the show with engaging material, such as: “Lots of names entered in our draw for a FREE week of camp! Will you be the winner?” While you’re making this trade show sound like the funnest event ever, keep inviting people to come out and see, while offering swag and hyping your raffle. If you’re offering discounts to parents who register their kids for camp right at your booth, remind everyone of this fact to encourage them to come on down.

Inspire people to donate

If your camp has a specific area of need or is trying to accomplish a particular project, you might want to make a display for it and ask for donations. Tell people what you’re trying to do, and engage them in a conversation. If you don’t ask, you won’t receive!

After the Show

The show’s over. If you think your job is done, think again! You need to follow up with all of those people you met, chatted with, and took contact information from before they forget about their experience at their booth. Here’s your post-trade-show-routine:

  • Use social media to thank everyone for coming out and visiting your booth.
  • Thank your staff for manning the booth.
  • If you haven’t already, upload a few photos of the trade show to Facebook.
  • Send an email to winner of your draw.
  • Send a follow-up email to those who gave you their contact information thanking them for visiting the booth and informing them more about your camp program. Don’t send this the day of — it’s best to wait 2 or 3 days so as not to seem over-eager, but don’t wait too long, or they’ll have forgotten that they ever talked to you or saw your booth!
  • If you felt it was a positive and worthwhile experience, book yourself in for next year’s show.

Oftentimes the chance to talk to potential customers face-to-face is overlooked in marketing plans. People go to trade shows to find businesses like yours — use that fact! Just make sure your booth is engaging, that your staff take the time to chat with visitors, and that you follow up afterwards to remind everyone that you were there!

Camp changes lives all over the world! News from the CCI Worldwide Summit:

Over the past few days, Pinos Reales, Spain saw leaders from Christian camping associations all over the world converge for a time of sharing, networking and growth at the CCI Worldwide Summit. The Summit proved to be a very positive time, confirming the fact that we truly are better together.

Here’s a highlight reel of the Summit’s events:

April 19, 2012

Participants arrived at Pinos Reales from all over the world, and although weary from travel, everyone was excited atthe opportunity for this unique gathering of leaders in camp ministry. The group shared a time of devotionals as the board met to solidify plans for the week.

April 20, 2012

Summit participants spent some time getting to know one another by enjoying a guided tour of Segovia, Spain. This time was an opportunity to see the sights, learn more about each other, and connect with the Creator in this beautiful part of the world. At the end of the day, the group sat down for a traditional Spanish meal. Eating together is one of the best acts of fellowship, and this time together was precious.

April 21, 2012

As the Summit truly got down to business, participants heard reports from the Regional Representatives, as well as from Dan Bolin, CCI International Director. We were proud to share how God is moving and working in Christian camps in Canada.

Did you know that over 10,600,000 campers attended a CCI camp somewhere in the world in the last year? That number is amazing! What a great affirmation that camp ministry reaches kids and affects lives.

The morning concluded with a worship service where all of the participants lifted their voices in at least 10 different languages to sing “Open the Eyes of My Heart.” As everyone joined to sing santo, santo, santo (holy, holy, holy), the purpose of the summit rang clear: that we, as followers of Christ and leaders in camp ministry, can be unified so perfectly by Christ.

April 22, 2012

Today CCI Japan shared a special update about the state of their nation following the devastating earthquake and tsunami last year. We ask that you continue to join us in prayer for their country: that God will equip CCI Japan to share God’s love and meet the needs of others in the new context of an environment threatened by disaster.

April 23, 2012

As the summit rolled along, participants continued to learn and grow in key areas of association management with the common goal of increasing the positive impact of Christian camping in all 20 member associations.

Bruce Dunning, fellow Canadian, offered all participants a free copy of his book, God of Adventure. God teaches through adventure, and so can we! The book is a great resource for camp professionals that connects Biblical principals with real adventure experiences.

April 24, 2012

It is truly exciting how all of us in Christian camping can be unified in purpose. No matter the language, environment or resources, camp ministry is about showing kids Christ’s love in an exciting, nurturing and fun setting!

The summit drew to a close with a special night. Everyone participated in the Lord’s Supper, where CCI Worldwide honoured Lorimer Gray as he completed 12 years of service as the Chairman of CCI Worldwide.

At last, everyone packed their bags to head back to their own parts of the world. The summit left everyone with fresh ideas, words of encouragement, and a spirit of camaraderie with which to face any challenges ahead.

February Featured Video: Ranger Lake Bible Camp takes it!

Well, it’s February. As I look out the window at a herd of very shaggy horses standing in their snow-covered corral, I’m wondering: where in the world did January go? And I’m also wondering: when will summer ever get here?!

If you’re jonesing for some summer camp reminiscence, I’ve got the perfect thing for you. It’s a great summer camp video by Ranger Lake Bible Camp. It just happens to be our Featured Video of the month!

If potential parents or campers were wondering what’s in store for a week of camp at Ranger Lake Bible Camp, this video should clear it up — lots of fun activities, the chance to make friends and the opportunity to encounter God! This video made me wish I could go to camp!

And speaking of Ranger Lake: their website is pretty spiffy, too. I really like the design, and it’s really functional. They’ve included new things for 2012, which is a great way to promote their summer program and encourage registrations. You should check it out.

Is your camp putting together a promotional video for the 2012 camp season? If so, I want to see it! It could be our March Featured Video, which means a ton of exposure for your camp. Send it to me (Deanna) at communicate@cci-canada.ca!

“8 Small Busines Social Media Tips from the Pros” – a great resource for camps, too!

This morning, I took a break from sifting through the MANY emails about our new website (glad you’re all logging on and checking things out, by the way… I hope you like what you see!) to read this great little article from the Social Media Examiner on how to create an engaging social media page (be it Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube) for your small business — or in most of your cases, for your camp.

You know I’ve been harping on all of you to get into social networking more. Summer camp is built on young people. They’re your campers and they’re your staff. Chances are, they want to stay connected with you, and newsletters through the mail might not be the best way to reach this audience.

Social media can be a powerful tool to generate support for your camp. And it can be really easy. Feel free to contact me if you need any help!

Birch Bay Ranch: CCI/Canada’s Camp Video Contest Winner – December!

Congratulations, Birch Bay Ranch! Your winter wonderland video was the winner of this month’s video contest!

Check out the video in all its festive glory:

Most kids who attend camp have no clue what happens at camp over the wintertime. They don’t know what it looks like or what kinds of activities are offered. A video like this can help connect your camp to its supporters all winter long.

We loved the rustic scenes shown in this video: a wintry barnyard complete with an assortment of farmyard animals, sleigh rides, a lodge all decorated for Christmas banquets and parties, a crackling fire… doesn’t it just make you want to drink hot cocoa and listen to Christmas carols?

We still want to see more winter camp videos! Your video can be as simple as a little tour of your facilities in wintertime. If your camp is on, say, the West Coast of British Columbia, where there’s little to no snow, your video can be tongue-in-cheek!

Send all video submissions to Deanna at communicate@cci-canada.ca!