We talk a lot about communication. Mostly because it’s hard to do well, and it helps to keep stakeholders on the same page. But there’s something else that motivates us.
Identifying the audience is one of the biggest challenges we face in communicating well. Who needs to hear a message? What do they need to know? When do they need to know it?
Communication influences how an audience perceives a project or event.
How and when you present a message is as important as the words or images you choose to share. Apply empathy and take time to figure out what your audience needs to know.
Like many of you, we’ve taken these last days of 2021 to plan for 2022. No, we don’t have a list of resolutions for the new year, but we do have some goals – and even a list of some dreams (fingers-double-crossed!).
As we look forward, we find it’s helpful to look back. We know from 20 years of experience and the uncertainty of the past two years that being nimble and reflective can lead us to a better future.
So, in that spirit, here are three posts from the past year that we think will inspire, or at least give you something to think about, as we move into the new one.
May you enjoy the holiday season!
This year, Reach Partners celebrates 20 years.
That’s countless hours of coordinating events, gathering people in conversation, helping work get done, communicating key messages, training volunteers, facilitating meetings, pushing and encouraging, staying within budget, outlining the scope, staying up late, waking up early, making mistakes, asking forgiveness, and making right the mistakes we made.
As we celebrate this milestone, we recognize that we are who we are largely because of the values that we uphold and practice. We are intentional about how we do our work and who we do it with. This has led us to the best partners a business could ask for and we are immensely grateful for that.
So, in honor of our anniversary, we want to reflect on a few moments from the past two decades that speak to our values. Of course, there are so many more moments than we have space for, but here is a sampling:
I’ve always enjoyed reading, and I’ve become a better reader thanks to my book club. Armed with their encouragement and suggestions, I read a larger array of genres. I’ve also learned that I like to listen to audible books checked out through the library, a habit that recently led me to listen to Matthew McConaughey’s book, Greenlights.
It was okay, maybe even good. I listened to the book at normal speed the entire time, which is telling. That’s usually how I start an audiobook, but not how I end it. I either speed it up, wanting it to end soon or slow the tempo, wanting to bask in a text’s poetic beauty.
Still, let’s face it, it wasn’t a bad deal to have Matthew talk to me during drive time. Memoirs are not my favorite genre but I have found that I don’t get bored if it doesn’t follow a chronological order of the person’s life but tells stories centered around themes.
But the part of the book that sticks with me is when McConaughey shared this observation: “If you know how, and when, to deal with life’s challenges – how to get relative with the inevitable – you can enjoy a state of success I call ‘catching greenlights.’”
I hate puzzles.
Maybe it’s because I’ve always been frustrated by them.
I remember once, as a child, trying to finish the puzzle of a hot air balloon. It was beautiful: a brilliant blue sky and the balloon was distinguished with bright colors of the rainbow. But it took forever to complete. The puzzle sat on the dining room table and I heard my mom tell more than one guest that they needed to place a piece before they left.
I might have passed on my dislike of puzzles to my kids. One Christmas, I had a photo of the two of them turned into a puzzle. The pieces sat in a box for nearly two years before I made myself put it together. The puzzle wasn’t complicated; it was 25 pieces. But it wasn’t easy and certainly not fun. I threw it away.
During the pandemic, I watched friends on Facebook safely exchange puzzles as their families used time together to puzzle (is puzzle even a verb?!). Yuck. Not me. Not my family.
And yet, I solve puzzles at work all the time. Every time I piece together details of an event or a project, it’s a puzzle. Only recently did I figure out the difference.
We at Reach Partners are big Priya Parker fans. We devoured her book “The Art of Gathering” and even attended an event curated by her.
So when Parker penned an opinion column that ran in The New York Time before Thanksgiving, we paid attention. Titled “Abandon Your Thanksgiving Script,” the column addressed the need to think differently about holiday traditions during a year when nothing has been normal.
Parker challenged her readers to think imaginatively: “That begins with shifting our attitudes from fighting the current constraints to taking inspiration from them.”
As someone who studies and designs gatherings, she most often sees two responses to constraints on gathering: cancellation and rebellion. She encourages a third option: improv.
We’ve seen this play out in our own work and experiences over the last year.
As we were working on conference details for a client, something didn’t feel quite right. I knew there was something that the client wanted to change from the previous year’s event. Unfortunately, I couldn’t remember exactly what it was. (In my defense, it had been over a year since we had planned that particular conference. That’s a long time to remember things!)
Thankfully, I knew exactly where I could find what I needed. The detail was included in our post activity report, also known as the PAR.
This won’t be a big surprise to many of you, but we love conferences and big events.
Yes, it’s true that we enjoy organizing them. We also enjoy attending them.
After all, you can gather information by watching online videos or reading about the latest industry trends via article or book. However, nothing replaces the face-to-face interactions that happen when people gather for a specific purpose.
When you attend a shared event or conference, you have opportunities to connect with others. You may gather new insight or hear a different perspective. When done right, conferences are energizing. You will walk away with at least a few tips that can make your personal or professional life stronger.
That said, every successful conference requires you to put forth some effort.
Here’s how you can make the most out of your time at a large event or gathering.
My family and I recently spent a week together on vacation.
We hiked, toasted marshmallows for s’mores, and explored one of Minnesota’s lakes by boat. That said, it wouldn’t have mattered what we did.
We were together; we were present. Mostly.
If you’ve ever planned a large event, you know how hard it is to determine how many volunteers or staff you’ll need to make the event run smoothly. So, you turn to your good friend Google and find out that the general recommendation is one (1) staff member per 50 to 100 attendees.
Great. But, that’s a broad generalization, and it’s critical that you get the number right. After all, if you understaff an event, your attendees will suffer. And if you over-staff, it will cost you money or sour a valuable relationship. You don’t want your volunteers feeling unappreciated because they’re standing around doing nothing.