Why get involved in AFETT projects is a question I always ask myself, and the next question that I tend to ask is why is it that other members don’t get more involved. I always have an excuse and my favorite by far is simply that ‘I am just too busy’. You see, I have been a member of AFETT for what must be about 6 years now …and my level of involvement has been sporadic. In those 6 years when I have been active, I served on the Board twice. For this period, I am Secretary, and I have contributed my time to several projects. The most noteworthy project is the Mentorship Programme, on which I co-authored the material used and I am currently the Chairperson of that committee. A number of times my President has asked me to get involved in other projects, and I tend to ask ‘why not someone else, as I am already contributing?’
About 3 weeks ago, my President was preparing for our AFETT-RBC IWD Luncheon: ‘Connecting Girls, Inspiring Futures … from playground to diplomatic corridors’. At that time, she asked me to help with the seating arrangements for the luncheon. I am not sure why I said yes, but I did, and I am so glad that I did. I have to be honest. Sifting through all the information, getting the protocol advice and then attempting to come up with seating assignments was at times frustrating and definitely took much more time than I anticipated. There was many a late night but it did not stop there. I also volunteered to come out and assist at the event!
Well I have to tell you, I am not sure what I was thinking …I have no background in event planning and my personality makes me uniquely not suited for event management. I like to plan and then execute the plan without a hitch. When hitches come up, I get anywhere from slightly annoyed to extremely agitated! If you know anything about event management, you know that hitches come and it is a matter of handling them calmly, courteously and logically.
I arrived early on the day of the event, and within half an hour, there was my first hitch. I did not walk with all the information that I would have needed! What followed was hitch after hitch and I soon found my blood boiling. My blood pressure was definitely up! Nonetheless, I used our very able and well-appointed coordinators to assist me in whatever corrective actions were needed, and for all my direct interactions with our participants, I was a picture of cordiality. I don’t want you to get me wrong, all interactions with participants and sponsors were well handled and I doubt anyone was any the wiser that hitches were occurring.
At the end of the luncheon, I can say it was a great success. Four hundred people seated, Heads of Mission happy with their welcome and the event. I made it a point to ask many people what they thought about the event and I only got glowing commendations. I felt accomplished. Actually, I learnt a lot from the day. One of major lessons is if you are ever organising a large event, make sure to have strategic people around whose only task is to observe, as they can be called upon to handle unexpected issues.
I also got many benefits from the people that I interacted with and who contributed to make the day a success. I would like to share what I got from some of these people:
- From Elise I learned that it is possible to handle a huge amount of correspondence and never lose control; the key is being organised and positive.
- From Judy I learned – prepare, prepare, prepare! However, there does come a time when you must simply let it go and let the people and the measures you put in place work.
- From Jesse May I learned that it is okay to be nervous, but prepare even harder and push forward with spirit and a positive attitude.
- From Kathleen I learned to put together a file of every possible piece of information you will need at your event and have that file with you at all times.
- From Kathleen, Jamila, Sandra and Lisa Shandilya, I learned – stay calm, don’t sweat it, and just deal with it calmly. I have never worked with Kathleen, Jamila or Sandra before and I have to tell you that we worked well together. I got to know them, and I would not hesitate to get their help in anything I need assistance with in the future; I hope they feel the same.
- I learned from the Heads of Mission that anyone can start off disadvantaged, but with the right attitude and persistence, you can have any success you want.
I had a marvelous time at the IWD event. I learned a lot, I am proud of my contribution; I made a few friends that day and reconnected with some old ones.
So, if you are an AFETT member ‘waiting’ to see what the Association can do for you, I dare say, you will be waiting a long time. I urge you to get involved in any and many of our worthwhile projects and you will be surprised what comes back to you ….I certainly was!
Lisa Mc Donald
AFETT Secretary 2011 - 2012