Organising events has always been a huge part of my life… the adrenaline, dynamics, unpredicted problems, excitement, new people. This has always been something that made my heart beat faster. When I joined Toastmasters, from the very first moment I knew that it’s the place where event management will happen a lot for me, all those special meetings, contests, conferences, workshops, things that make our community special. And Toastmasters is the place where you can organise them all and so I did, taking every opportunity to conduct an event, at first only for my club, but with time aiming for more.
In December 2017, one of my dreams started to happen, I received an opportunity to organise the biggest Polish National Toastmasters Conference called The Toastmasters Effect. I have never been the one to say NO, so I gladly took it. Back then, I was sure that I can easily organise an event for 250 people. I assumed that with hard work and commitment I will be able to do it. And guess what? I did it! But it was definitely a long and hard way to create it and if I’d done just a couple things differently my experience would have been much easier and more enjoyable. Let me share with you the things I learned organising The Toastmasters Effect and the things you can use organising any event you want.
Have a team before you say yes!
When we are given the opportunity to fulfil our goal, usually the emotions take over the thinking process, we want to agree right away because we can see our dream just around the corner. In such moments it is crucial to let the mind not the heart do the job. Honestly speaking, I have always been a huge advocate of the life approach that says: “First say yes, then figure out how to do it! This has been my life motto and in this case I landed in a minefield just because I committed to doing something without having the needed resources which, in this case, was a team of engaged people.
A team is the one and only thing you need to do an event like this, the most essential thing. Everything else you can figure out later, but a team has to be with you from the beginning. Let me explain why:
Succeeding in organising a conference this big is not possible on your own, if you want your attendees to have a great personal experience -you need people. When you have a vision of the project in your head and you start getting team members after already having everything figured out in your mind you need employees and not equal team participants. When people participate in the project from the beginning they become part of the whole experience, people will feel it is their project too, they will be more engaged and committed therefore, they are less likely to quit and believe there will be moments where you all think it’s too much. Having people that share your values and ideas on a team of volunteers is a must-have. At Toastmasters you don’t have any material motivation, you can only make people feel part of something bigger, if you want them to stay with you.
Trust but always know the status!
Whenever you are working on something, you want people to trust that you can do your job well. And they expect the same. Trust is the easiest thing for me, to be honest. Since I can remember, I have always believed that people will do what they told you they will do. Unfortunately, it’s not always the case, because life happens. Toastmasters will always come second to your family and a paid job, people will get promoted, have a sick child, start something new in their life and they might simply lose the interest in the thing they are doing with you. This is why you always need to know what happens in every area of your project. As the leader of a team, woken up at 2 AM you have to be able to tell the current status of the work for every person that you work with. Don’t get me wrong, it is not about constant control or asking hundreds of questions about the progress. It is about you knowing what is going on. Be subtle about it but always show people that you are genuinely interested in what happens not because it is your project but because you all care about it. When you know the status you can always tell if they need any help or assistance and you react immediately. This is very important because even though you trust people you work with, you are still responsible for the whole outcome. Make sure to show people the trust and in return they will trust you. And always remember to be there when something bad happens so they can rely on you.
Yes, you can do everything but… you don’t have to!
And the last and the hardest thing for me, personally. Has anyone ever told you that if you want something to be done right, you have to do it yourself? Well, they did tell me that and that is the biggest lie you will ever hear. The secret with delegation is delegating the right tasks to the right people. Of course, you will probably feel like you could do everything, but the best thing about having a team is using the skills people have. What is the point of working on a team, if not sharing responsibilities. And it’s not about the fact that you are not able to succeed in something, because you can. It is all about the fact that people have different experiences and skills. The specific task can be done in many ways. Your team will surprise you quite often, they will show you different approaches and the outcome might be amazing. So why not give them a chance? Besides when you are the leader of the team, you will have many things on your shoulders anyways, delegating gives you the freedom to take care of the ones that really needs to be done by you. During the conference that I was organising, we had so many unpredictable problems that happened on the day of the event, that it would have been impossible to try and solve them all by myself. And believe me, I tried… and failed. If you, like me have, a problem with delegation, try asking yourself a question: What can I gain if I give this job to someone else? And be honest answering it, because your own answers might genuinely surprise you.
Organising The Toastmasters Effect conference was an extraordinary experience and it definitely left a long lasting effect on me, one that I will never forget. Even though there were many moments of exhaustion, disappointment, moments that I cursed myself for saying yes in the first place, I will never regret taking this opportunity. The things I learned about myself, my weaknesses and strengths made me a better person than I was at the beginning of the project. They also made me aware of the things I still need to learn. If you want to experience it too, there are many small and big events waiting to be organised, so get up, find your team and say YES to one of the best adventures of your life!
Author: Małgorzata Trojanowska, D108 Administration Manager 2018-2019