Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Conference Time. Stress Time.

It happens every six months. I'm about two weeks prior to the Tutor/Mentor Leadership and Networking Conference, which I've hosted in Chicago every six months since 1994, and I'm stressing over the attendance, the speaker list, and all sorts of things that event planners always worry about prior to an event.

I want it to go well. I want a good turnout. I want people to leave the conference with new energy, and new ideas. I want this to result in program improvement from now until August, or in new programs starting, so that every program in Chicago will have more success recruiting volunteers at the start of the 2008-09 school year, which is just 3 months away! You can see a partial list of attendees here.

But why should I be stressed? I'm doing this to help other programs in other neighborhoods and other cities. I'm also doing this to help Cabrini Connections, which is the program I lead.

Over the past 35 years I've learned that the time I spend organizing these events, and networking with others, results in many benefits to my own program, and to myself. I find new ideas. I benefit from the public awareness. I find friends who help me stay involved with this work, year after year.

I've also learned that these events help us generate public attention for tutoring/mentoring, and this helps us recruit volunteers. From my experiences working in advertising for the Montgomery Ward corporation, I've learned the importance of keeping your advertising in front of customers on a regular basis. Thus, the conferences, are part of a sequence of events that not only draw programs together, but draw volunteers and donors to our web site, and to different programs throughout the Chicago region.

From this image you can see that what we do in May is intended to influence what happens in August, November and next spring. Thus, the conference not only benefits me, it can benefit everyone else who offers tutoring/mentoring in Chicago, or in other cities.

Thus, I'm stressed. I know how important it is to get the attention of thousands of potential volunteers and donors and I can't do it by myself. This conference, and the Tutor/Mentor Connection, only work when others see the conference as an event that supports their own program, and expands their own personal network.

I've learned from many years of experience that what happens next week, is what is intended to happen. No matter how many people attend the conference, those who do attend will find value. Here's what some people have said after past conferences. I'm sure many will offer similar comments after this one.

There's no time to be stressed. As soon as this conference is over we move on to the next event. I hope you'll join us.

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