Wednesday, July 20, 2016

I was reminded

Something interesting happened to me today.

But, first, what led up to this.  I was asked about 6 weeks ago to give a presentation about Native American culture at a Boy Scout Troop meeting.  I conferred with the young man a couple of times about what he wanted from the demonstration.  I wanted to make sure how long the presentation needed to be, what it needed to cover, and who my audience was going to be.  I even spoke with the Scoutmaster regarding the presentation to make sure he and the boy were on the same page, and that I fully understood what they wanted from me.

Last night I made the presentation.  It wasn’t my smoothest of presentations.  First my introductory video didn’t work immediately.  Technical difficulties.  We didn’t really have much time to test the facilities with my equipment beforehand.  But, after about ten minutes the video finally worked.  But, by that time, I had already switched over to ‘old school’ mode. 

I’d begun with an introduction of myself, who I was to the audience, and why I’d been asked to visit.  I’d talked about where they might have seen me before, and some of them actually already knew me.  Volunteers are always helpful.  Once that was done I moved into the different styles of dance, and that is when the video began working again.  So, we watched about 2 minutes of a 22-minute video of Fancy Dancers tearing it up during an ‘iron-man’ or ‘last man standing’ competition. 

After that, I explained where modern powwows come from, including information on Buffalo Bill Cody and other Wild West shows of that era.  It turns out, none of the youth in the room, from 11-18 had even heard of Bill Cody!  So, I had to give them some explanation of who he was so they could understand the ramifications of what he had done.  I talked about George Custer and the Battle of the Little Bighorn (“Greasy Grass”).  I talked about how quickly the reservation period enveloped the Lakota after that point.  And I talked about how the dance styles developed from that point on.

That is about when I lost my train of thought.  I had parts of three different dance styles laid out, and I talked about where you could obtain pieces and tried to explain the differences they might see among the styles.  But, between the video and having to give a much more in-depth history than I’d planned, I’d lost my original intent.  I kept looking back to the boy who kept giving the sign to keep going, so I kept talking, rambling a bit about the outfit pieces, leather leggings versus blanket leggings, deer-toe armbands versus silverwork, etc. 

And then I tried to make a final point about learning other peoples’ cultures, being open to new ideas and ways of experiencing events.  I mentioned that just learning a little about someone else’s point of view will open up more opportunities for them in the future when they meet new people whether in college, military, or the workforce.  About that point I’d been talking for 45 minutes.  So, I handed it back over to the boy, who had everyone applaud my presentation.  Then he handed it over to the Scoutmaster who did the same thing.  And I began packing my stuff up.

The best part was when I had two boys begin asking me questions like, “how expensive is this?”, “is it easy to do?”, and the best question ever: “How can I get started doing this?”.  I had the fortune of being at a troop where several other members are dancers, so I was able to refer a lot of the questions to some of the more experienced dancers in the room, and thus help stir a dialog between the boys in the troop who know, and the boys in the troop who want to know.

But, the best part happened today.  I was at my desk, when my phone rang.  The person calling is my boss, so I thought he’d be handing me another assignment or task for the day.  But, he thanked me.  He thanked me for coming out the night before and giving such a thorough presentation.  You see, my boss also happens to be the scoutmaster at that troop.  But, the fact was he went out of his way to thank me again for being there for his troop and helping educate them on current affairs and historical relevance of the Native communities I am familiar with.  Keep in mind, he didn’t have to thank me – he’d already done that the previous evening.  But, to take the extra step of calling me and thanking me, made me feel very appreciated.  It is one piece of the puzzle that a lot of people miss – including me! – when working with others.  A simple show of appreciation makes a huge difference.  Whether it is just a ‘thank you’ in passing or a larger presentation about the appreciation, or something in between, simply reaching out personally, extending the hand, and saying ‘thank you for what you did’ can make someone’s day, or week, or month maybe. 

Some people don’t feel appreciated, but they work hard every day.  Some people don’t realize how appreciated they are for what they do.  Civil servants like the Police, Firefighters, EMTs, Medical staff; and others like Civic leaders, Ministers, and even Scoutmasters often do not get thanked for what they do.  More often we tend to take them for granted and assume they will be there when we need them.  And sometimes we abuse them when we perceive a mistake.  We are all human, and sometimes we just need to be told that what we do is appreciated.  

I hadn’t realized how appreciated I am for what I do for the boys.  I was reminded of that today, and it makes me feel good.  

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

If you build it, they will come. Won’t they?

I’ve had a lot of conversations lately with many different people about the Native Programs, and other various programs in the Order of the Arrow and within our Lodge and Section.  For years, I have witnessed the belief or philosophy ‘if it’s on the calendar, that’s enough notice’. 

The problem is, it isn’t enough.  Just because you know it is an event you should attend, doesn’t mean the rest of the lodge does.  Just because you’ve been going to said event for 15+ years doesn’t mean the event is known to new members.  And Just because you mentioned said event in a new member orientation at 9pm doesn’t mean those same new members will have any recollection of those announcements.

So, how to we rectify this issue?

A very wise man - my mentor, one of my Chapter Advisors, a Lodge Advisor, a former Lodge Chief, and all-around good guy – once told me the following magical phrase while I was trying to drum up attendance for the 1988 NOAC trip to Powell, WY:

                "Advertise, Advertise, Advertise"

Wait.  That’s it?  Advertise, advertise, advertise?  You may think that isn’t so magical.  But, I’m here to tell you, it is. 

But, why?  Well, no one in Scouting advertises anymore.  We apparently believe that ‘if you build it, they will come’.  This goes from pinewood derby relays to Jamborees.  The advertising is word-of-mouth, at best.  There may be websites where information can be obtained about those larger events.  But, who is talking about them?  Who is driving recruiting and attendance?  Who – or what - is driving desire for the event?  And how are they learning more and helping drive interest in that event or program?

I recently started working for an advertising company.  In the year I have been here I have learned one vital thing – if you don’t advertise your product no one will know about it.  Or, at the very least, your brand will fall out of public knowledge in a short time.  Of course, I don’t mean that scout events need Highway Billboards, national ad campaigns, and social media sweeps.  But, if you want people to come to your event, why aren’t you advertising?

It’s simple.  Flyers, tri-fold boards, announcements at every meal at Lodge events, announcements at every lodge Executive meeting, Facebook posts, and updates to the lodge website will help immensely! 

But, the even simpler – and probably better – option is to just reach out your hand, introduce yourself, and invite someone personally to the event.  A personal touch will go a LONG way to encouraging someone to attend.

I leaned something else once – if there aren’t people getting sick of hearing from you about this event, you aren’t reaching enough people.  Let me rephrase that: if you are not aggravating at least someone with your advertising, you are not getting the word out enough.  Think of the advertising on late-night television – Billy Mays Hayes, Sham-wow, Oxy-clean.  At first there is some notoriety about those products, and then after a time, there is a bit of annoyance at seeing the ads.  That’s because the advertiser wants to make sure their product is visible by as many people as possible.  There is a car dealership in my locale whose ads my children despise, because the owner is on the TV almost constantly.  But, he is driving business.  He is getting his name and brand in front of thousands of customers a day, and they are going to him to purchase vehicles.  Aggravated or not, he is getting people to his location to buy his products. 

Another advantage to getting the word out often and continuously?  After a while, those same people who have heard your spiel a dozen times can begin advertising for you – reciting the spiel by memory.

Now, here’s the real secret.  This is hush-hush, so keep it to yourself.  Then, you ask that person to help you will a small task at that event.  I mean s-m-All, small.  Ask them if they would help judge a dance contest – no experience necessary.  Ask them to help ensure water gets to the ceremony sites (notice I didn’t say they had to take the water, just ensure it was delivered – oversight).  Ask them to help a boy lead by just being his backup for the day, whether as an elangomat, or as a registration advisor – the boy can do the work, but we need someone to assist in the event he is overwhelmed or needs guidance, or helping in the Trading Post from 1-2pm.  Anyone can do anything for a short amount of time.  Right?  Once they realize their obligation is small, and they were successful at it, they will realize what fun they had and volunteer for the next event.  And then THEY advertise (or advocate!) for you!

I was the lodge’s Dance Team Advisor more than a decade ago.  I had a great salesman in the team’s youth lead.  He was charismatic, personable, friendly, and loved to dance.  He was the best sales pitch a product could hope for.  With his drive, and some guidance, and the backing of some very interested adults, we were able to get dance team participation up from nearly nothing to over 50 dancers at the next lodge dance we had.  And that same event had over 400 attendees, before we stopped counting!  We did this by visiting the various chapters and showing a video and talking about dance styles, and doing the same at lodge events, and talking about our plans at LEC meetings, and so on.  We advertised what we wanted to do, and people got excited.  It took having that ‘cheerleader’ up front continually telling people about what was going on and how we could use their help to have more fun.  We took a Native Dancing and Music program of 13 people in 2000 to more than 60 people in 5 years.  Better than 300% improvement in 5 years.  Because we advertised.

I will tell you this, it works.  It takes time, you don’t see changes overnight.  But, we need to think of our events and programs as sales opportunities.  If you want more sales, you have to encourage people to buy, no matter how good a product is or how long it has been on the market.  Coca Cola has been around for over 100 years, and they have spots on nightly TV, print ads, and more.  We can learn something from that. 

If you build it they may come.  But, if you want growth, you must advertise, advertise, advertise.