I recently chatted with Samantha Brown, Outside Sales Manager for Off the Grid, to get her impressions on planning this year’s L.E.A.P. (Learning.Engage.Act.Particpate) day on May 17 at the Walnut Creek Marriott. It was her first time planning this event and also, as a supplier, it was quite a new experience for her. I wanted to ask her: What did she learn? Did she have any surprises/challenges?
Hi Samantha. Thank you for taking the time to talk with me. First, I’d like to ask you now that L.E.A.P is over how was the overall experience?
I feel very grateful to have had this opportunity. I never would have had this experience if it wasn’t for PCMA. I’m also appreciative that the structure of PCMA allowed me the freedom to create a unique educational experience, whereas in another environment there may have been more rules and regulations to navigate.
Tell me a little about the planning and topics for this year’s event. How did the planning reflect the theme of “Inclusion”?
Well, let me share with you my introduction at the event. It really sums up the experience I had:
“Inclusion is about bringing your whole self to the moment and recognizing that others are doing the same. In working on the planning of this event, I learned about the personal struggles of individuals in our community, about some of my own unconscious biases, and of the variety of perspectives in desired learner outcomes from an industry education event. With all of this in mind, I encourage you to face this day with and open mind, being gentle with yourself, and gentle with others. ”
The idea of shedding our work clothes and putting on robes was an idea inspired by my background as a performer. Being “in costume” allows for an immersion into a character and in this situation the goal was to get more comfortable in order to share more personal challenges related to the topic of inclusion.
We also made sure that the event took into account the needs of all attendees, including dietary needs as well as physical needs.
As I mentioned in my opening address, I personally learned quite a bit about unconscious bias and that’s something I’d like to try and incorporate in future events focused on this topic.
What were some of your main take-aways from planning the event:
First, I’d say I learned that it’s never too early to get started. I also learned that it’s not always necessary to ask for permission – sometimes you just need to start planning and getting things in motion. Usually you’ll get feedback if plans are not in-line with what the stakeholders want – they will let you know if it isn’t.
Another take-away was to make sure to find out early on who the key stakeholders are and their goals or desired results from the event. For example, attendees at PCMA events have several key objectives: education, new business, and networking. This dictates what you want to spend your budget on in order to get the best ROI. And it also determines the program – such as more time for networking and not being too rushed. Also, we wanted to showcases Walnut Creek and that guided the program as well, including getting outside and seeing what the city has to offer.
Asking for help is also important, but make sure to give deadlines and be clear about expectations. This makes it easier to move on if the person can’t meet the timeline and you can either do it yourself or get another person to help.
Finally, I learned that sometimes what could be seen as a challenge or obstacle could turn out to have unexpected benefits. In past years the keynote lecture would typically be later in the day; due to scheduling issues our speaker gave her keynote address in the morning. This turned out to be an advantage – everyone felt that her words set a tone for the rest of the day and inspired attendance in all the sessions.
Anything that you would have done differently:
I would have emphasized and developed the experiential aspects more. I would have added another unique experience, such as giving attendees a “persona” different from them, for a new perspective and going through the day with that perspective in mind, and trying to understand the challenges they may not typically have to deal with. I also would have explained why certain choices were made. Don’t expect attendees to make the connection themselves.
What was your biggest surprise?
I’d say that I got to learn so much about my fellow PCMA members at a very personal level. It very
much tied into the theme of “Inclusion” – and that we need to be gentle with ourselves and others as we don’t know what anyone may be going through.
Do you have any additional comments or suggestions?
I’d encourage suppliers to sponsor a planner as it’s a great value for planners – a lot of education packed into one day.
Also, I’d recommend a supplier to consider planning an event with PCMA as it’s a great learning experience – just make sure that you have enough bandwidth to spend the time required – there is a lot!
Finally, I’d like to say again that I’m really grateful for the opportunity PCMA has given me. I’d also like to thank my employer Off the Grid for supporting me. Their support and investment were very instrumental in my ability to pull off a successful event.
Thanks Samantha! I love that you stepped outside your typical role and had a great learning experience. I know it’s going to be knowledge that will always be useful to you, now that you’ve experienced “the other side”!
Karen Grayson, CMP