By Lisa Kraus
It’s all well and good to encourage people to play to their strengths, but how do you reinforce that message as a conference theme through attendee education and experiences?
For GaMPI’s Summer Educational Alliance (SEA), the answer lay in the details. As soon as I got off the airport transfer shuttle, I was handed a refreshingly cool towel (I must admit it, I was hot!), a delicious glass of Jamaican rum punch, and offered a complimentary chair massage from the Secrets St. James Montego Bay‘s full-service spa staff. Ah …
It was quite easy to get swept away by the tropical goodness. The beautiful surroundings definitely enhanced my ability to relax and be receptive to the new people, ideas and experiences in store for me. After spending the first evening unwinding on the private island that is part of the Sandals Royal Caribbean Resort, I felt refreshed, recharged and ready to tackle the next morning’s educational sessions.
Devon Harris, three time Olympian and original member of the Jamaican bobsled team, (@DevonDHarris) opened with a motivational speech about making the commitment to win. I was transfixed (and it wasn’t just because of his charming Jamaican accent).
“As human beings, we’re all plagued with a plethora of shortcomings and weaknesses, but we all have our strengths that far supercede any trials we may face,” Harris said. “These are our convictions and commitments. They require us to draw on our talents and skills. Vision, motivation, faith and persistence are the things winners apply to their lives to transform from mediocre to outstanding.” He continued by reminding us that “true motivation comes from within … The most successful ones among us work on discipline every day until it becomes one of their biggest strengths. Adopt an attitude of ‘how I can’ instead of ‘why I can’t’.” After the speech, I felt strong enough to tackle anything.
Next, I attended a session presented by Kate Lastinger, CMM, CMP, on taking our strategic meeting management programs (SMMP) to the next level. SMM has always been a confusing topic for me. Too much to wrap my head around, I guess. But, Kate Lastinger managed to break it down plainly, yet effectively.
She reminded us that the process of strategic meetings management is constantly evolving; that on average, attendees only remember 10-15 percent of a meeting’s content and apply less than three percent of it. “The adult learning process is most effective in a live setting,” Lastinger said. “Live meetings save time, increase sales and marketing initiatives.” But, the image of meetings is tarnished, she added. In addition to asking if the meeting supports the goals of the organization, defining the meeting objectives and determining if the benefits outweigh the costs, she said, planners should track four elements of strategic value (portfolio management, meeting design, advance logistics, and ROI measurement). To reinforce what we were learning, Lastinger then opened the session up for discussion before giving us an outline for developing a SMMP of our own. She reminded us to do the following: integrate the effectiveness of the meeting, strategize to engage a commitment from management, develop a policy for objective-driven planning, and establish evaluation reporting and analysis guidelines.
She ended the session with something that I believe is simply brilliant: “You can save your way to success, but you can plan your way to prosperity.” I felt positively empowered to make a difference with my company’s events.
Our afternoons and evenings were filled with site visits to additional Jamaican resorts (Coming soon: a Jamaica destination guide —Ed.), which all included delicious food and live entertainment. Even the occasional rain (okay, one day there was really a tropical thunder shower) couldn’t keep our group from having a great time.
Although I had a blast meeting new friends, and reconnecting with several acquaintances, I have to admit that the closing general session on the last day had the biggest impact on me.
Presenter Brian Biro – “America’s Breakthrough Coach” – spoke about possessing an unstoppable spirit. His session included simple, yet eye-opening, exercises that challenged us to awaken potential we didn’t even know we had.
“Our job is to let people we lead and serve know that they’re important,” Biro said. “Be fully present with everyone you are with. Presence is the secret to balance. Being present is not a technique, it’s a choice.”
After giving us a mini-tutorial on how to break a board with your hand (my first experience with the martial arts), Biro randomly selected two ladies from our group to come onstage and do it. Our team definitely had unstoppable spirit as we cheered them on (“Erica! Erica! Miranda! Miranda!”). Imagine how awe-struck we were when not one, but both of them sent their hands through their respective boards on their first attempts!
There was another aspect of SEA which I thought helped attendees discover their strengths. Prior to the conference, we were asked to bring in school supplies for Jamaican children in need. At the very end of the closing session, two luggage carts were wheeled into the conference room. They were overflowing with donated items attendees had brought. After we were told the school supplies would be donated to the Garland Hall Children’s Home for Orphans, a group of children from the home entered the room, dressed in their school uniforms. As they began singing Bob Marley’s “Three Little Birds,” there wasn’t a dry eye in the house. If I close my eyes, I can still hear them sing: “Don’t worry ’bout a thing. Every little thing is gonna be alright.”
Lisa Kraus is the Director of Marketing & Audience Development and a contributing writer for Plan Your Meetings. She enjoys traveling, music, reading, and is an avid cat lover. She is currently working on writing her first book, a business guide for customer service and employee management.