Staying Motivated – Rotary District 5580 Conference
Whether you’re a volunteer or are working for a living, it’s important to stay motivated and knowledgeable about the work you’re doing.
For many folks, attending a workshop or conference not only gets you out of the house or office, it can put you in touch with other people who are interested in the same things. Some of those folks will have some great experiences or knowledge to share. Being there might just give you that jolt of new ideas and energy you’re looking for. Maybe you can even share something back!
This post will capture how that can all come together in a conference setting, which is a great professional development tool for just about anyone. So while we’re talking about one specific conference, look for the common lessons that are repeated at thousands of conferences and workshops around the country every year.
In late April, 2019, I traveled with our Rotary Club President and two foreign exchange students to the Rotary District 5580 Conference in Minot, ND.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with Rotary, it’s a worldwide community service club. If you are familiar with other service clubs like the Lions, the Jaycees, Kiwanis, Sertoma, etc., you get the general idea. Each type of club has its own focus and history, but they all are great at bringing people together to accomplish something bigger than themselves.
I’ve been a member of the Bemidji Rotary Club for a number of years – we meet every Monday for lunch, like clockwork! (Let me know if you want to visit.) One of the things that draws me to Rotary is the combination of impactful local service (we’re pretty good at building playgrounds) with awesome networking and a strong standard of ethics (called The Four Way Test).
The theme of this year’s conference was “Honoring Our Roots. Embracing Our Future.” What a great theme for a 110
+ year-old organization that continues to build its membership and impact!
While visiting with other attendees, I asked them why they came to conferences like this. Thank you to those of you who put up with my pestering! Some of the more common response themes are listed below.
TO MEET FRIENDS
A few folks at this conference had been regular attendees for over 25 years!!! As you can imagine, many people there were thrilled to reconnect with folks they had become friends with over the years. Quite often those conference acquaintances had expanded into true friendships, with travel, project collaboration and more built in.
As I quickly found out, those same folks were also excited to meet me – a newcomer! Doing my best to let my introvert side take a break for the weekend, I did what I could to start putting names with faces and hometowns. If you were there and are reading this, please be patient!
For anyone interested in building their woodpile in their community or vocation, networking is a critical skill. Attending a conference is networking in hyperdrive. Do it well, and every time you turn around, you may be meeting someone who just might change your world!
TO LEARN MORE ABOUT ROTARY
When most people join a club like Rotary, you get exposed to the things your club does – its activities, its practices, and its norms. By attending the conference, I quickly realized just how much more was going on behind the scenes.
I learned a couple of things. One was that our meetings and activities were fairly typical for Rotary clubs. It’s important to know that we’re pretty much in line with best practices and aren’t doing a bad job making a community impact, either. We also had a chance to compare ourselves against the other clubs with all of the awards that were handed out. Fundraising awards, service awards, and overall impact awards – gives us something to think about for next year!
The other lesson is that what our club does, plugs into a larger organization. Our recruitment, dues, and project partnerships directly impact the success of Rotary on a larger scale. This was quite evident when I attended the District Business Meeting. Officers were elected, budgets were passed. Goals were set for the next year. None of that would be possible without our local club’s efforts – and quite possibly vice-versa!
How does that compare to the organizations you’re involved with?
TO GET THE BIGGER PICTURE
Oh, man, did this conference hit the jackpot! They landed a young(ish) Rotarian from Australia named Evan Burrell to be our Keynote speaker. Evan’s made a worldwide name for himself as a “Superhero” of Rotary, including being on the cover of the Rotary magazine. First off, his speech hit all the buttons – funny, enlightening, emotional, and motivating.
What really made his speech work, though, was how it pulled everything together. I feel a little better equipped, and a lot more comfortable, to take what has been truly great about Rotary for the last century and make it work even better in the next.
That sort of “big picture” motivation is a key benefit of a conference. Time after time, when I asked attendees what makes a conference memorable for them, it was about the speakers. A good one will make the whole trip much more worthwhile.
I’d also be remiss if I didn’t mention one of the other keynotes at this particular conference. Clinton Romesha is one of only four living medal of honor winners from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. His talk was spellbinding! His story doesn’t get more personal or motivating. And buying his book, Red Platoon, afterwards as a gift was so worth it. Thanks for the signature, Sgt. Romesha, my veteran buddy will appreciate that (after I get done reading it)!
TO LEARN MORE ABOUT WHAT WE COULD BE DOING
Throughout the conference, there were a wide variety of breakout sessions. Each of those sessions had something for someone. While I may have been motivated by hearing about how one club was working to impact their community’s youth, another person may have had their eyes opened about another club’s recruitment strategies.
One of the nice things about a service organization like Rotary is that each club has a chance to mold its programs around what its membership wants to do. Sometimes, though, you don’t even know what might be possible until you see something that sparks an idea. Conferences can turn those sparks into wildfires!
It’s not that different, really, than an Association of City Clerks or any other type of conference. In that case, every city operates differently, within certain bounds. Find those new ideas that can impact your role or community and make it happen!
TO SUPPORT OUR PROGRAM/EXCHANGE STUDENT
One of Rotary’s big successes is its Youth Exchange program. Our club hosts one inbound and one outbound student every year. The countries students come from and go to vary every year.
It’s a heck of a program! The conference is THE place where the impact of the student exchange is most obvious – all the kids are there, they cement what will likely be lifelong bonds between them, and they do a great job motivating the adults!
That’s only one program out of many. Thankfully there are folks that want to get the story of their own programs out there, to share their successes and lessons with other clubs. You never know when that one idea will motivate someone new to join in, and then another, and suddenly your program’s impact is magnified beyond your wildest dreams.
Do you have a better idea now of just how many positives can come out of attending a conference? Networking. Professional Development. Big Picture. Motivation. What’s not to love!?
You know, I used a lot of words in this post, and I only scratched the surface! Maybe I’ll have to have another post on all the fun stuff, like the “Roarin’ 20’s” gala, or the Carnival night, or the informative poster sessions, or the fundraising auction, or the humbling memorial service. So much packed into three short days!
If you have a chance to attend a conference or workshop, whether as a member of a volunteer organization or for professional purposes, I highly recommend you do so. Go at least once a year if you can, just to recharge your batteries.
If you’re a boss or board member struggling with the sending people due to cost or lost time, it’s ok to be careful planning for it and selecting the right event. Just don’t miss the opportunities your people will bring back to your organization!
What do you get out of attending conferences like Rotary’s? Leave us a comment in the box below! Be sure to follow our Facebook page or Twitter feed to receive the latest updates, or enter your email in the box to the right for instant delivery of the newest post!
Great summary, Joe. You capture the conference well AND provided a glimpse of the quality effort that is going into the District 5580 District Conference 2021 in Bemidji!
The whole District Conference Event is very motivational. Great service learning opportunities are available. Meeting new friends and greeting long time friends is a side benefit. The keynote speakers are motivating, educating, and amusing their audiences. Peace making symbolisms abound with the contributions from the foreign exchange students. Biographies of award recipients are impressive and inspirational.