This is the eighth day I have worked continuously from 9am to 6pm and I have to admit, I am feeling really tired. Which probably explains my inability to focus, to understand what I am reading and to express my thoughts clearly, among other things. God is wise in decreeing rest on the seventh day!
Having just started work in a new organisation and handling a totally new job scope two weeks ago, I burnt my entire weekend helping my new colleagues in small ways to run a 2-day seminar for about 5,000 people. I wasn’t in the planning committee from the start so my role was pretty minimal but it afforded me perspectives I would have otherwise missed.
My only responsibility instructed during a very short briefing was to ensure that the videographer and photographer captured all the important moments and that the videos were good enough to be published as webcasts on our website. Easy enough except that I know nuts about audio-visuals.
First learning point – any event is only as good as its weakest link.
We hear it again and again but when it comes to actual execution, people tend to forget this important truth. We give our utmost attention to things that are immediately obvious to us and to those who will be judging. I was surprised that I was asked to mend the videography of the whole event as if it wasn’t important at all in the grand scheme of things.
Let me ask you – when all the hoo-ha is over and done with, what is the one thing that will remind people that such an event took place? Photos and videos! There is no retentive value if important speeches and seminars are not captured well enough to be reused and recycled.
As I was totally clueless on what to expect, I simply did as told and literally attached myself to the videographer. I stood next to him during the entire 4-hour event and learnt as much as I could about the video production industry and all its technical terms and gadgets ya da ya da.
So I was only supposed to manage the videos right? But somehow seminar participants didn’t think so. Over the two days, I ended up becoming de-facto customer service as well, answering questions about the seminar events, goodie bag items and location of toilets. Many of which I wasn’t briefed about. Nonetheless, I did my best to smile despite my nervousness and to answer all their queries, taking the initiative to learn whatever that would help participants even though it was not part of my responsibility.
Second learning point – everyone is first an ambassador of the organisation he/she works for regardless of duties during the event.
On the second day, I felt much more at ease, becoming more familiar with my roles and less intimidated by the sheer numbers so I ventured to wander around a bit more when I was sure the videographer knew his job. The great thing about working on something this intense is that it inadvertently opens colleagues up to you because of a bond made stronger by a common goal.
It also unfortunately reveals their ability to handle pressure when the going gets tough. I noted with much disappointment how the team fractured when certain unpopular decisions were made by the event coordinator, which made me ponder about how this could be better handled in the future.
Third learning point – coordinators and leaders have to earn the respect and trust of their followers.
It is inevitable despite all the planning that certain situations were not accounted for. (Of course this could be minimised with experience.) When that happens, crucial decisions have to be made by key persons who can choose to do that based on his/her own guts or in consultation with colleagues. Either way, once a decision is made, it is final and support is unquestionable.
I can only think of several scenarios when support is not given. The decision made is morally wrong. For obvious reasons, you don’t follow blindly. The second possible reason is that the leader has not earned the trust or respect from followers. Everyone makes errant judgement, what more someone who is very new to event coordination, so we don’t expect leaders to be faultless.
But to simply walk away from the decision suggests that patience has been worn thin, which smells of poor people management essentially. (I found out later that the person who started the ‘mutiny’ was not on good terms with the overall in-charge so perhaps I was a little harsh in my judgement.)
One personal achievement was that I got over my fear of talking to retirees. I had initially perceived them to be opinionated and grumpy. But over the course of these two days, I found out that each of them have a wealth of experiences they are happy to share if we, the younger generation would stop to listen.