Monday, November 13, 2017

An Event-Full Month

My latest work assignment is with a unique volunteer organization within the provincial government. I am privileged to be the one full-time staff for Central Region. There are three other full time advisors, one each in the North, East and West. Although we are highly supportive of each other, we focus primarily on delivering within our regions and portfolios. Within each region, we work with volunteer colleagues who have demanding management positions and aren't always able to dedicate full attention as they work off the side of their desks on volunteer tasks. Each region has different challenges. In Central we have over half of the membership (3,000+) and easier access to senior executives.

The position is not solely focused on delivering events however this month alone I will be delivering five events to more than 800 people.

I'm learning so much about designing programs and agendas, working with volunteers, preparing presenters, managing technology and venues, promotion and marketing, managing attendance, evaluating results and outcomes, and coming up with ways to continue momentum once the events have finished.

So far this month, three events have been successfully completed with two more on the horizon. It has been extremely demanding and a wonderful learning opportunity. I've been able to grow not just my leadership and technical skills but have been able to work with rich and  extremely interesting content. Perhaps even more important are continuing lessons on how to restore and replenish energy and focus, and keeping things in perspective when they don't go necessarily as planned.

Moments Matter
The first was a milestone celebration for 100+ staff. These are held every year, and I was pleased the theme I proposed, "Moments Matter" would be adopted across the province. Rose Kennedy's quote had been on my mind and was shared at each of five events.

Dr. Elaine Dembe delivered the keynote address at all celebrations, and I thoroughly enjoyed her presentation about Passionate Longevity.

Unfortunately our chosen venue had challenges with their A/V system, which led to last minute scrambling in morning set up and again in the afternoon when we switched to the doctor's laptop. She held her composure while we both insisted staff try an alternate projector set-up. Thankfully we were able to proceed after the fuss. Although the speaker could have managed without the powerpoint, having the visuals there enriched the experience.

Mental Health Awareness
I was the main lead on this event and involved in every aspect, from designing the agenda to follow-up survey evaluations. As the months went on, I grew a team of leads and close to 50 volunteers to help with execution, and was thankful for every person who became involved.

We used technology to broadcast to 19 satellite locations and webcast the event, so in addition to the 120 in-person attendees, we had more than double participating at remote locations. Video  and presentations will be available online for the next year, extending reach even further.

The Chairs and I approached potential presenters and pitched the approach, getting input from senior executives as we finalized the agenda. It was very rewarding to curate content and flow for the full day. The topic was certainly a meaningful one, with the goal to raise awareness about mental health issues and the tools managers can use to build a culture of support and resilience. Most rewarding, evaluations now confirm we met our objective.

Careers in Operations
Two events - one in downtown Toronto and the other in Downsview, for 120 and 80 attendees respectively. Speed networking, ADM panels, a trade show element... Lots of fun, laughter and learning  - always a good combination!

Here I was part of the team to deliver and didn't need to take on the overall leadership of the events - a good thing, as the first event was held only days following the Mental Health Awareness conference.

When tickets went on sale for these events back in the summer, they sold out within days. The waitlists were as large as their capacity. Yet there were high rates of cancellation and an even higher percentage of no-shows, leaving several seats empty. There will be strategies in future to help ensure people who want to attend don't miss the opportunity.

Art of Leadership
This conference series is popular in Toronto, and working with the organizers I negotiated a deal for our members to receive a networking suite, seating at the event, and boxed lunches. The goal was for 100 to sign up and hear best selling authors, including Vice-President of the US Joe Biden, Amanda Lang, Welby Altidor, Dr. Tasha Eurich and Vince Molinaro. Now two weeks away we have revised our target to 80 and are currently at 63... more communications and marketing required. Who could resist such an inspiring line-up?

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Full Beaver Moon - November 2017

I looked up at the moon in the sky last night and by some optical trick it looked oblong. I wondered how it could be so full again, so soon... aren't there 28 days between each moon?

I've been busy as a beaver this last month. Courses, work, personal milestones, it has truly been a whirl.

The Mindfulness Studies and Drawing courses have been great diversions, but I've missed more than a few Uke Jams and two Heliconian lectures. I'm looking forward to returning to my regular schedule in a few weeks.

On the work front, it will truly be an eventful month. Although I am not an event planner by trade, by the end of November I will have earned the credentials! Five events for almost 800 people. This past week I executed the first two. One a milestone celebration for 100+ staff, the other a mental health awareness event for almost 400 managers. I've been planning and organizing both for months. Three more events from now to the end of November, thankfully with major preparations done.

Last weekend I did a yoga workshop on Saturday and a silent retreat on Sunday. Much needed! There have been a lot of long days and sleep interrupted by waking up in the middle of the night to add new tasks to the 'to do' list.

Evenings have also been full!

Monday was the Drawing course.

Tuesday night Rob and I popped over to Alex and Penny's house for Halloween - just the day after they got their keys.  The wallpaper was already stripped and lying on the floor, holes in the walls being poly-filled. So much work ahead of them, and so much potential!

Wednesday night we saw Yasmin Levy and the Klezmatics at Koerner hall. The Middle Eastern sounds made me feel as though I'd travelled elsewhere for the evening.

Thursday night I had the sense to keep free as I ended up working until 8 pm to get everything ready for the big work event the next day.

Friday night we went to see a movie at the Fox and within 3 minutes I had fallen into a deep sleep, waking up just before the end credits rolled.

The moon was full today at 1:23 a.m. and I was sleeping deeply, right through the night and late into the morning. Woke up, cleaned the house, planted some bulbs in the garden, and then had a well-deserved massage. Now upstairs for a long bubble bath!

Tonight the clocks push back and we get an extra hour... I will be using it to catch up on my sleep!

Monday, October 9, 2017

Happy Thanksgiving

Much to be thankful for on this beautiful Thanksgiving Day.

The orange dahlias and begonias in the back a teaser for showier autumn foliage on its way. Right now the maple is only beginning to redden, only a few fallen laves on the stone.

I'm finalizing the dinner menu: Prime Rib, mushroom gravy, Yorkshire puddings, brussels sprouts with chestnuts. Choosing the wine: a 2007 Vino Nobile Di Montepulciano that has been waiting too many years on the shelf for a special occasion...

Alex and Penny will be joining us for dinner. In a few weeks they will be moving into their first house! I can't believe my son has bought a house in this crazy market. Of course I shared the story of how when we bought this house, it dropped 20% in value before we even moved in. Our town is overdue a market correction, but the two of them have wanted to buy for awhile and jumped in as the prices became a bit more affordable. I am both happy and apprehensive for them, but they are in for the long game.

Long game, indeed. Almost 30 years at this address, house poor for more than half of them, Rob and I taking turns at being unemployed throughout the 90's. Time and meals spent at home together, camping vacations, working hard, making do. If it all came easy, would we have enjoyed things as much?

Now in the autumn of our lives, a harvest of life's pleasures.

Beautiful finish

Over to the island and back again. Overnite the boat was actually heeling in the wind as we were tied tightly at Hanlon's wall.

Sunday morning there were  8 kite surfers flying in the strong winds, graceful sails arcing in the sky. We watched on the beach to the sounds of waves, debating whether to stay another night or go.

The Environment Canada marine map had coloured all the bodies of water red, due to a tropical storm effect. The forecast indicated rain and stronger winds the next day, so although we'd pre-paid at the wall for two nights, we headed back to the club with a credit for next year noted on our account.

The trip back was spectacular, sailing by the jib in the autumn sun with  dazzle on the water. I was more than a bit melancholy, knowing it the last trip of the season.

We docked and stripped the jib and main, laying the white canvas on the grey gravel in the parking lot, tucking the sails away for winter.

A beautiful sunset at the end of the day offered some solace.

Yes, I am thankful for the season but greedy for more!

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Full Hunter's Moon - October 2017

Alex and Penny are coming for a mid-week supper tonight and I've been staring at the light in the back garden. Life is good.

September and October have been busy. Courses (Mindfulness Studies and Drawing for People Who Can't Draw), busy with work (SIX events in November).

Still picking up my uke a couple of times a week, and lately playing  Don't Fence Me In.
Love this line in particular:  I want to.... gaze at the moon until I lose my senses...

The moon is full today, 2:41 pm
(Image: Photo by Colin Lane, Manchester)