What Are You Talking About?

You will learn more about another’s program and why they feel it was successful. Then you can modify the idea to meet your needs.

It is very possible you will listen to some of the craziest ideas you’ve ever heard of — so what! Keep it to yourself. You are not there to make someone else feel bad about their ideas, but to share and learn some new ones for yourself.

I once listened for ten minutes as a camp director explained how they were getting rid of all their paper marketing materials and going purely to on-line and DVD’s by request only. In my mind I thought, “Wow! No way am I going to get rid of all my traditional pieces.” But, aside from the extremes of this guy, I decided I needed to look at how to get more out of my website and determine if I could use DVD’s.

Learn to “Play Nice”

My point is — don’t be afraid to share your success and ask others about theirs. If we don’t, then we create an industry of not sharing and we lose the opportunity to improve each other.

It’s like back in kindergarten when you were trying to make friends. You started playing with each other and, at some point, you shared your name and before you knew it you were friends. As I remember it, it always started by playing together. If you played nice before long you had a friend, if you played bad you started avoiding each other — never talking.

Networking in camping is about playing nice together. Camping by its very nature is very isolationistic. We are alone for most of the year and then we have an isolated 8-12 week sprint in which no one can communicate with us. My family and friends consider me completely unreachable from May until September each year! (It is getting better!).

If we do not pass on the great ideas and the experience learned then we do not allow for a future of leaders to replace us and strengthen our industry.

Maximizing Conference Attendance

How many times have we rationalized going to conferences by saying it was a great networking opportunity? And, how many times have we gone to a conference, sat in sessions taking notes only to go out that night and talk about anything but camping?

When traveling to conferences with staff (or peers) I suggest you hold mini-brainstorming sessions with your staff (or whomever you’re attending with) though out the conference.

Make a point of summarizing the subjects and what idea you’re thinking of implementing back at camp. See what others think.

At the last conference I attended I had four key staff with me. We met after each break to brainstorm about ideas presented at the conference, and discussed how we might implement them at camp. Upon returning, we started seven new initiatives — the most of any conference I have attended in 12 years. I’m amazed how just this little change — adding 30 minute brainstorming sessions through out the week — resulted in workable ideas/initiatives.

If you are alone at a conference, make a point to get up the nerve to sit at meals with people you don’t know. Walk up, ask, “May I sit here?” and immediately introduce yourself and ask a question of response such as, “And where are you from?” Sound funny or obvious? I bet it does but how many times have you sat down with strangers and said nothing. Soon you’re buried in your food, randomly nodding your head to the conversation and before long the meal is over and you are relieved to move on.

Maximizing Camper Fair Attendance

How many of us travel the camp counselor and camper fair circuits and, while recruiting staff and campers, take the opportunity to network with others?

At camper fairs, bring staff to do the recruiting and move around to look at everyone’s latest brochures. Ask them about their new programs. At Camp Kern, we love the recruitment season because we collect every brochure from every camp! But wait there’s more…

What if, when you returned from the recruitment trips you held a meeting with a team of volunteers or staff and you went through all the brochures — cutting out the interesting ideas, pinning them up and seeing what could be modified for your camp?

If you collected enough, you could create a complete new camp program. Then, call the camps that have the ideas you have identified and question them specifically about the program or idea that has caught your interest. By the end of the conversation you have flattered the camp you called because you loved their idea and you have made a new contact for you and your team.

Networking and idea collecting is flattering and easy if you allow yourself to share and listen. We cannot pass on the skills of program development and camp successes if we do not do a better job in sharing and talking to one another. I want to see the next generation of camp leaders be far superior then we are.

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