Writer for Rent
It's been three weeks since TEDxWaterloo DIS CONNECTED happened, and I am still reeling. TEDxWaterloo took up several hundred hours of my life since September 2011 and most of my extra brain power. As one of the six executives who "lead" the organization, there was significant responsibilty attached to my role of head of Marketing Communications. Essentially anything that had "words" and marketing and communication in it, fell into my domain. This included redesigning and providing content for the TEDxWaterloo website to writing the speaker profiles and the event program; and I had a hand in editing most mass emails on behalf of other team members. There were ads and press releases, and reading at least 3,200 emails. The reason I was given this responsibility is because I have 25 years of experience and a reputation for being smart, reliable and fun to work with. (Never underestimate the value of brining fun to any task!) Of course, I wasn't alone. I had a team of great people who ran the social media campaign (but first I had to write a social media policy document so everyone knew what our strategy was), I had a PR team that handled day-of public relations and I had keen set of fellow organizers who would give feedback and proof copy. Without them, none of TEDxWaterloo would have happened. (See a full list of volunteers here). These are some of the things I learned about organizing a successful daylong event for 1500 participants - as a volunteer.
- When everyone is a volunteer you have to make sure they know it's okay to make a mistake and we are all on a learning curve. I would take a bullet for my team or "fire" a sponsor if they treated any of my volunteers without respect or professionalism.
- Impress upon people that its better to say "no, I can't do it" then to say you can and then don't. There is always someone else out there who is willing to help, but only if they know that help is needed.
- Communicate often. Even if you don't have a whole lot of news to share, let them know what you know. Volunteers can feel disconnected in a virtual organization, which essentially is how TEDxWaterloo is run. We do almost everything via email and Skype.
- Use the official website as the #1 Source of Accurate Information. This way you can point people to the website for current information. If it isn't on the website, it isn't true or real.
- Be organized with your teams. My volunteer web programmers are brilliant and solved many technical problems. But they aren't responsible for writing or for strategy. They would tell me what's possible and what isn't, but they need clear direction - as do all teams. Once they have it, they can do their jobs and provide you with insight on how to do it better in the future.
- I traded in one social life for another. I gave up weekends and vacation time in order to devote it to TEDxWaterloo.Yes, it was worth it. Will I do it again? Yes, but now that I have helped create some sustainable infrastructure and have some key people who have agreed to stay on as volunteers, I will be able to delegate more.
- TEDxWaterloo volunteers are the most diverse, interesting and talented group of people. The sheer number of creative minds with such staggeringly different backgrounds and interests is like a giant think tank of amazingness. The fact they all agree TEDxWaterloo is worthy of their time is amazing.
- Celebrate your wins, no matter how small. Mourn your losses and move on.
- There is never enough time. But everyone knows that already.
- Do it again. You are making a difference.
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