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.
All it takes are five simple ingredients to add creamy flavor to fried potatoes and punch to baked salmon. Those same five ingredients can serve as a base for a scrummy potato salad and the unsung heroes of a BLT sandwich.
When you combine garlic, mustard, egg, oil and lemon, you get an unforgettable garlicky mayonnaise, also known as aioli. Those individual ingredients are certainly tasty, but they become magical when combined. By slowly adding oil while whipping the other ingredients, the liquids emulsify and create a custard-like spread. Yum!
Like mayo, the ingredients for a planning process are simple. Yet they form something new when combined. When blended, purpose, people, time, communication, and action become key ingredients to projects, events and collaborations we deem successful.
We know that projects take time and effort. We expect to spend hours on project timelines, project budgets, and project deliverables whether we’re planning an event, constructing a building, or installing public art.
At Reach Partners, we do this well. We are, after all, project managers.
That said, the term “project management” doesn’t completely describe our work.
Every project we do involves or affects people. After all, without their input and responses, our projects are meaningless. An event doesn’t happen without presenters, attendees, organizers, and vendors. Buildings aren’t constructed without engineers, architects, funders, and those who occupy its spaces.
And public art without an artist and viewers? Well . . .
Truth be told, project management is as much about people management and relationship building as it is about shuffling plans, timelines, and budgets. We spend a considerable amount of our time working with stakeholders and keeping them engaged in the work.
As project managers, Anita and I have a reputation for being super organized.
Once upon a time a friend even introduced me as “super organized, down to the minute.” The way she said it made it seem as though it was my super power, a skill set I was granted at birth and now sprinkled upon every project I managed.
I’m not going to lie, those words certainly warmed my project-manager heart. But, something gets lost when we look at “being organized” as a skill in and of itself. Because here’s the deal: I’m only super organized because I communicate clearly or at least try to. Being organized means nothing if one can’t communicate what’s needed and what’s happening to themselves and to someone else.
At some point, nearly every organization needs to hire an outside vendor or consultant.
Maybe you need help with accounting or a website redesign. Maybe you need someone to help you organize an upcoming event; or maybe you need someone to lead your team training.
Whatever you need, be sure to seek a partner – and not just a vendor or a consultant.
What’s the difference?
It starts with intent.
There is one thing I never want to experience on the day of an event I’m managing: unnecessary stress.
Of course, there are ALWAYS last-minute issues that come up (hi, global pandemic!), but I’d rather pace stress over the many weeks and months of a planning period and not have to make 25,000 decisions when people are standing around not knowing where to go, what to do, or even why they’re there.
This is one reason why Reach Partners establishes an event strategy document for every event or conference or workshop we manage.
My days are filled with communication distractions. Like many of you, I’m bombarded by messages via email, text, and phone. Even spoken conversations are often focused on a quick exchange of information before moving on to the next scheduled thing.
These experiences have motivated me to dig deeper for a better way of engaging with others: In a world full of noise, how do we invite meaningful conversations, the conversations that matter? And the follow-up question: Why are these types of conversations important? For human connection? For getting things done? For leading through social complexity?
I think the answers to the latter is yes, yes, and yes.
When the City of Fargo decided to replace an old tank with a new water tower in north Fargo, it hoped the tower would serve as more than mere infrastructure. It also wanted the structure to serve as a canvas for public art.
The goal was to support community-based design, something created with people rather than for them. During a competitive process, the city’s Arts and Culture Commission selected Reach Partners to facilitate the community outreach component of the project. Black Ink Creative Partners was selected to render the design.
We want to be the best human beings we can be. We strive to be transformed, so we read.
We read books about leadership, personal growth, and business. We appreciate lovely fiction and poetry. We read because it’s one way we can grow and empathize with others, to see the world and our actions from a different point of view.
Essentially, we read to be better human beings who will do good work with other good humans.
The murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis and the Black Lives Matter protests against police brutality and systemic racism (which we’ve benefited from) remind us that there is still much more we need to learn and understand. More than ever, we need to keep listening and learning from our Black friends, partners and neighbors.
Whenever we plan an event, an in-depth meeting, a social gathering, or virtual experience Reach Partners will always argue for the same thing. Every time.
This thing is the most important detail for every planned interaction. It is the life blood of our work and what drives us to do better every day. Most importantly it’s the power, the energy that fuels the work at hand.
How do you tap into this energy? How do you make it work for you? Draw the right audience? Craft the right marketing activities? Align stakeholders? Create value?
You start by defining purpose.