What I Learned

Last week I was fortunate enough to participate in three separate sports-related meetings.  The first was as a speaker at the Texas Association of CVBs.  The second was as a teacher of a two-day seminar on sports tourism for the Southeast Tourism Society.  The third was as the facilitator of a strategic planning session for a non-profit in our area, the Phoenix Sports Women’s Association.  These events were as educational for me as I hope they were for the attendees.  In reviewing the week’s activities, I may have had the greatest takeaway of them all.

In nearly all of our speaking/facilitating engagements, at the end of the session we borrow a page from sportscaster Dan Patrick’s playbook and ask our participants, “What They Learned.”  The responses range from the content presented, to new ideas they garnered, or involve solutions they can take home to solve their organization challenges.  From my experiences this past week, I myself learned something critical for our team to use in the future. 

The three events this past week had similarities.  Each put me in a leading/speaking role, our team had to generate content drivers for each meeting, and the events were all sports related.   However, while appearing similar on the surface, these gatherings were far more different that they were the same.

1.      Attendees – Each audience came from a different area of the sports industry.  One meeting was populated with convention bureau leaders.  One was a mix of executives from chambers of commerce, CVBs, a parks and recreation department, and even included a couple of consultants.  The last group was a professionally diverse group of Phoenix-area volunteers that made up the board of a non-profit. 

2.      Purpose – The focus of each gathering was different.  One was to learn about best and worst practices of sports tourism.  One was all about professional development.  The last was to strategically develop an improved organizational structure for a community non-profit.

3.      Role – The expectations for my involvement was different in each case.  The first, I was to serve as a speaker.  The second, I was a teacher.  The third, I was asked to be a facilitator.

These three programs involved vastly different roles for me and for my team.  Each role/event had to be addressed with different preparations and engagement approaches.  Speakers need to develop the content and present it to the attendees, in this case a one hour session.  Teachers are to develop an engaging thought process between the students and the subject matter, in this instance a two-day seminar.  Facilitators are to lead the discussion through a structured process, for this event a six-hour retreat.

So what I learned was this….  When you are asked to participate in a conference, speak to a local Rotary Club, or plan out an organizational retreat, take a step back.  Ask yourself who the audience is.  Think about what their goals are.  Discuss with others what your role is to be, and what the expectations are.  Then go to work on a game plan for success.

So often we get the call to participate in a speaking role, and immediately search our hard drive for a boiler plate power point document.  Change the cover sheet, and voila!  Well, not so fast.  We are all better than that.  Think through what the end game is for the participants, and work backwards from there.  The people that attend the event you are leading are the end customer.  To hit a home run for them, stand back, ask the right questions, and ditch the old power point.