What I learned while doing something I know how to do, really well.

I shouldn’t be here right now, but I really like this space, so I’m sneaking in a few minutes while away at a conference.  I should be sleeping { seriously! }, or  putting the finishing touches on my presentation for the conference, but it was just too tempting so here I am.  Hi!

Wednesday night was mega event at work. We spend all year planning, organizing, coordinating – for one night. It takes a team of us to manage everything from signs, to name tags, what to eat, colors of napkins, writing the script, invitations, photos, program, where everyone sits, preparing numerous slide presentation, and on and on and on. It’s all to recognize our outstanding students and their crazy amazing accomplishments. I usually leave this event feeling a little smaller than I do when I walk in. Last night was no exception; we honored students who overcame language and cultural obstacles to pursue an education; students who have 4.0 GPAs, young men and women who speak 6 languages; ones who are first in their family to graduate from college and amazing students who balance work, school, families and are actively engaged in their campus and community. Wow. I mean wow.

They say an old dog cannot learn new tricks, but in  my 11th year of co-chairing this event, I found myself making some observations during the set up and prep yesterday. I was reflecting on some things I know but they sort of crystallized while in the midst of it all. And I found it fun to learn something new while doing something I know how to do, really well.

Make it fun

During set up; we had several student volunteers on hand and while staying on track; I made sure to have some fun with them. Teasing, sarcasm, hiding behind curtains and using the microphones to ‘page them to the white courtesy phone” are just a few examples.  One of the catering staff and I realized we were wearing the same color scheme and we decided that we ‘had this thing going on; and the joke just played itself out throughout the evening.  While rushing  to put out one of the many mini fires that popped up, she and I approached each other, we  looked each other in the eye and as I passed her, I whispered, “you and me, we got this thing!” and we both just smiled.  That was fun.

Uh, oh, Houston, we have a problem.

Which leads me to my next observation. Problems are just gonna happen. They just are.  So.  Be. Ready. With a smile.  It’s a lot easier to solve a dilemma with a smile on your face; the competence it exudes eases a disgruntled guest, helps you maintain some sanity and it’s easier to move on and let the water roll off your back like a duck.

Go macro

Take care of the big stuff first!  Our event is large in scale, large in volume, large in space.  Without thinking about it; I found myself unloading our stockpile of event materials in categories, making things efficient and organized for other volunteers to be able to execute the smaller more time consuming details.  I have a mini obsession with efficiency [ok, maybe not so mini] so I realized this is second nature to me; to eliminate repetition as much as possible. Saves time; saves energy, and most importantly, leaves more time for fun, creativity and playing with the microphone.  🙂

Ask for Help and then make it worth their while

I mentioned that we had some great student volunteers. They were great; and a few of them were the ones being recognized that night;  it was their party.  When I decided to put out the call to my students to see who might be able to help for bit I wasn’t sure what to expect.  Several replied right away and sure enough they showed up and were ready to work!  They carried out the most mundane tasks with care and precision and the best of attitudes. I realized this was a good strategy and wondered why I hadn’t done this before. As they were leaving, when everything was ready to go, one student said, “thanks for letting me help set up today” and without thinking, I replied out of habit, “you are welcome”. That’s what you say when someone says thank you. Right? But wait, I was the one who needed to be saying thank you!  One of our staff who handled the decor on the awards table thanked me for giving her a job where she shines in her creativity.  I tell ya, people, ask for help. We all need to feel valued and needed.

Think on your feet and bring flip flops

With 500+ people in one room; things are bound to go a little haywire.  Thinking on your feet is a must; you just gotta be able to roll.  Some key people didn’t show up; I had to reassign duties; someone got seated at the wrong table; I had to reseat them; there were some typos in the slide presentation, and I just closed my eyes till the next slide.  An award presenter was ill and couldn’t be there;  I found a willing person to play the role.  I forgot to print instructions for some of the folks; they figured it out!  And no one was the wiser. As someone left for the evening, she said, ‘everything was so great; not a hitch or a glitch tonight.” I just smiled. If she only knew. Oh, the most important piece of advice? After thinking on your feet all night, make sure you have a pair of flip flops on hand! Your feet will say, thank  you.

Just be nice

The event manager on our campus is UH-MAZING.  When she walks in, my whole self just relaxes, it’s like mama just came in and said, ‘everything is gonna be alright”. She approaches each dilemma as if it were merely a misplaced strand of hair. Her competence and confidence, paired with her generous spirit and smile are the foundation of what makes her so successful in her profession.  I learn from her every time I do an event and I always tell her how GLAD I am when she walks in the room. And it’s not just because she makes sure to have the really good wine on hand for me! 🙂 She is nice, in the bestest truest way possible and I love that our success is her success.

Let Yourself Be Appreciated

At the end of it all, when the relief settles in make room for satisfaction in a job well done.  Gracefully accept the appreciation extended and share it generously with those most deserving.  The number of students  who expressed their gratitude for such a great event that celebrates their success makes all the hard work and extra grey hairs so worth it. And chocolate always helps too.

Bubble Gum Fresh

And this last is just a tiny bit of advice. When gathering your items to have on hand to get ready for the big event; these details are important too.  I was dashing to get my outfit, shoes, and make up ready to go; and grabbed a toothbrush and toothpaste to freshen up with. Without realizing it, I grabbed my kiddo’s toothpaste and not until I was scrub a dubbing my pearly whites did I realize I had bubble gum flavored toothpaste!  The upside of this was that that I was bubble gum fresh and the surprise helped ease some of my worry and I started the evening off with my own little grin.

{ from the friendly skies, wishing you a bubble gum fresh kind of day! }


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