Lost Sleep and Silver Linings
Every association professional has lost sleep over one project or another from time to time. I'm certainly not exempt. Yet, when a project worries me, I examine the situation and work diligently to remove impediments and build positive outcomes. Years of experience has taught me that tenacity often resolves what worry cannot. But last week's Public Policy Roundtable reminded me of some lessons that trump tenacity.
New challenges present new opportunities. After a lot of back and forth on dates and possible locations, we held the event at a nontraditional venue because of scheduling conflicts with our regular venue. As participants arrived - many of whom were seeing the venue for the first time - a spirit of adventure was in the air. They commented on how intimate and conducive to conversation the space was. And, of course, coming out of COVID, we appreciated the affordability and flexibility of the venue and offsite caterer.
Relationships [really] are our superpower. For a host of reasons, locking in the program and speakers was far more difficult than for previous events. Speakers confirmed and repeatedly canceled as their schedules changed, and, with each change, the committee worked to bring balance to the views presented. We called in favors, phoned colleagues, asked for recommendations, and were ever so grateful when they connected us to others. Strong committee leadership allowed us to leverage a much broader network, and regular communication with committee members helped to resolve issues quickly. In the end, the act of building this event together - with all of its challenges - brought committee members closer together and heightened their satisfaction.
Things are different - and that's okay. In addition to the change in venue and difficulty locking speakers in, one of our speakers had to cancel on the morning of the event, and two others finished their presentations early. These changes affected more than 60 minutes of programming in a 6-hour program. Pre-pandemic, the cumulative impact of all this would have been some [understandably] dissatisfied participants - and staff anxiety levels to match! But that positive feeling in the room persisted. Even as participants filed out the door, smiling and visiting with one another, they commented on how strong the program was. The post-event evaluations bore this out - every respondent reported finding 'good' or 'excellent' value in the event! Several participants made the extra effort to send complimentary emails to us afterward.
Association work will always come with its own unique set of worries. But perhaps the silver lining of COVID-19 is the grace we now receive from and grant to others in an imperfect world. And, of course, the sleep that comes with it.