Conferences: Moving from Casual to Formal

During the summer, most campsites are very informal places where kids can run around and play without fear of anything being destroyed.  But as the summer winds down, campsites move into retreat and conference season.  With this season comes greater variety in clientele, and this variety can require a more formal setting.  Pastor’s conferences and weddings need to have a different setting than youth retreats. You need to find ways to make your campsite into a more formal location.  And usually, you need to find ways to do this easily and at minimal cost.  Here are a few tips to make the transition easier and more practical for your organization:

White linens.

Table cloths, hand towels, and crisp sheets all add to the elegance of a gathering.  You want to use fabrics that can take wear and tear, but are also sophisticated and classic.  White is a great choice because it can be bleached, is interchangeable, and almost any fabric will work and still be formal.  White linens are also something that can be slowly integrated into your campsite as funds become available.


China is the term most often used, but in reality any ‘real’ dishes will work to add a more formal atmosphere.  Take away the camp trays and mis-matched plastic plates that are used all summer and replace them with simple white dishes.  If your campsite cannot handle the dish load and is accustomed to disposable, be sure to buy the higher quality disposable dishes.  Try to find recyclable or compostable disposables; your guest are likely to appreciate the attempt at being earth-friendly.

Simple furniture.

Skip the trendy colors and cheap materials (unless you budget to replace your furniture every few years).  Furniture is one of the areas that most quickly dates your campsite and makes it look cheap.  Automatically give your campsite a more formal feel by choosing pieces that are timeless, simple, and will last.  Stick to neutral colors when possible, natural fibers that resist wear, and simple wood stains.

Property Upkeep.

Often times, campsites have difficulty transitioning successfully from summer to retreat season because so much work needs to be done.  The campsite has taken a beating throughout the summer, and basic maintenance needs to be accomplished before any thought can be given to preparing the camp for more sophisticated guest groups.  ‘Basic maintenance’ can take hundreds of hours in total. By the time the campsite has been repaired from the summer, time has run out.  If at all possible, find ways to keep the property up throughout each season so large chunks of time do not need to  be dedicated to the task later on. If this isn’t possible, have someone go through and list the easiest ways to make big changes in overall appearance and get those done as quickly after the summer season as possible.

Great detail.

Just as with great conferences, great transitions from casual to formal are all about the details.  Cloth napkins or quality toilet paper are small details that signal this transition.  Lotions in the bathrooms and lemons in the water are other tiny details that let people know you’ve thought about their needs and are doing what you can, within your possibilities, to give them a more sophisticated experience.

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