Event Planner Paradox

Through every event planner runs a common thread – we enjoy being needed. Our clients come to us overwhelmed with desires and options, turning to us to comfort them and exert our authority over every minute detail. We give them piece of mind, while micro managing to our heart’s content. We adore their helplessness and naivety because it feeds our desire to be in control and wanted.

Sandbox event planning sketch

Sandbox event planning sketch (Photo credit: edmittance)

Unfortunately, this quality which can make event planners great, can also be our downfall. The larger the event, the more help needed. While we yearn for dependable, self-motivated staff, we secretly revel in the lack of suitable players. We can’t bear to think that someone else would be needed.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a credit thing. I would strongly doubt any event planner is out for the attention. If we were, we’d be planning events centered on ourselves. We just simply don’t know what to do if we’re not needed.

This weekend I came face-to-face with this very conundrum. Injuring my back, I was unable to fulfill my volunteer coordinator duties for a large conference. Three hours before curtain, I scrambled to contact my key volunteers and the event directors, hoping I could clean up my mess. But then, all I could do was sit and wait.

As I was informed later, the intern I had hired at Gangplank to help with events and promotion had stopped by and taken over the volunteers. After the event ended, everyone told me what a blessing she had been and how smoothly everything had ran.

Of course I was happy. I wanted the event to be a roaring success and I was even more proud my intern had been a key player. But in the back of my mind, I could hear a whimper. I wasn’t needed.

Rather than allow myself to entertain this whisper of pity, I pondered on what being a great event planner really means. Sure, we should be able to take control when necessary. That’s what a good event planner would do. But a great event planner sets others up for success. Since I had done my part organizing, contacting and scheduling volunteers, the event directors were able to assign volunteers without having to scramble to figure out who went where. I (hopefully) saved a few valuable minutes, and allowed others to focus on their tasks. And if the event directors hadn’t empowered me, the volunteers may have not been assigned correctly.

Though having my back thrown out has been a pain in the ass (literally and figuratively), I’m glad it happened. Hopefully I’ll be able to step back from more of my events and empower others to take the lead.

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Becoming Bilingual

Typically when we hear the word “language” we think of spoken word – English, Spanish, French, etc. Of course, we also occasionally remember being taught about body language when we were starting to go on interviews or perhaps a few recall the love languages hype from five or so years ago.

However, despite these varied interpretations, the majority will automatically interpret ‘bilingual’ to mean speaking more than one language.

I’ve never been bilingual, though I’ve strived most of my life to be so. Not in Spanish or French, but the language of humor, optimism and, more recently, change.

It’s no secret I have an odd sense of humor. My blog is named for my inability to make a joke without then explaining its meaning, or pointing out something obvious everyone has already recognized. I’m almost completely incapable of interpreting sarcasm, again unless blatantly obvious. To cope with my inability to speak the language, I’ve become very good at taking cues from others – laughing when others laugh – or pretending I couldn’t hear and asking them to repeat the statement, hoping I catch it the second time. I’m completely comfortable with these techniques, until someone point blank asks, “Did you get it?”

I doubt most people would consider sarcasm or subtlety a language, nor not being fluent would hurt someone’s chances at success. But I’ve noticed in my work and home life, my inability to “speak the language” creates frustration or a sense of doubt as to my powers of comprehension.

Similarly others find my serious nature to be irksome. In a playful, frivolous environment, I am often the one to beg seriousness and returning to the problem at hand. I don’t know how to make a complicated subject light hearted, nor ease the tension of a room with an off hand remark. My language dictates directness and sober discussion.

Through observing others and learning from misunderstandings, I’m able to create sarcastic statements of my own, but still not quite able to understand most everyone else. In language terms, I’m pretty sure I’ve got the verbs and nouns down, but I’m struggling with the conjugation and local dialects.

So how does one become humor bilingual? Do I have to give up my native language entirely?

The Red Haired Madam

Amanda Blum is a whirlwind. That is the only way I can put into words her personality and outlook on life. And our friendship has been nothing short of a whirlwind either.

I really can’t remember how I came to volunteer with Wordcamp Phoenix 2011, but knowing Amanda as I do, I most likely got recommended to her and then she sucked me into being involved in a such a way I didn’t even know it was happening. This is the beauty of Amanda. She eliminates fear and empowers others without them ever knowing they had anything to be fearful of. Well that, and you can’t say no to her.

Which is why six months later when she asked me to be her number two when running the first ever TwilioCon, I didn’t hesitate.

Amanda is a fantastic mentor because she doesn’t realize she’s doing it. All throughout this incredible conference, for which I’m making decisions and calling out orders I pulled out of my ass, she’s supportive and instructive. It’s common for conference organizers to take all the glory and shut everyone else out, but Amanda wanted me in on every meeting and every phone call. She didn’t hide the bad stuff, nor did she sluff it all off onto me or someone else. It was Amanda that taught me there’s no point in freaking out because we can always figure out something.

Of course, I’m still working on this last part.

And while much of her empowerment is subtle, she’s knows when to get in your face and push you too. Most people coddle me – either because I’m cute or they feel sorry for me for some reason. Amanda shoves my mistakes in my face and says, ‘You screwed up. Now we fix it.’

Amanda has given me the confidence to believe I could actually plan a huge conference and survive – though I do hope she’ll be around to help =)