What’s up 2016? Lessons from the year that was.

Another year is about to end again. This year, 2016, is far different from others mainly because of many events that shook our world – Brexit, US Election, Philippine Election, Marcos Burial, etc. This list does not yet include personal events that made most of us say, “What’s with you 2016?” To me, it is a very challenging in so many aspects. It will take another essay to tell all the happy, awful, and annoying things. But looking back, I think there are still a lot of things worth remembering like those simple smiles from the person you admire. Despite all that happened, there are still a lot of things and a lot of people to be thankful for.

Each year, I try to list down the top 10 things that I learned. I do this to help myself move forward and inspire others to grow. This way, I am also able to look at the past year positively by looking at its contribution to future growth. I usually put this in my year-end journal but I thought it will be useful to share this online. I’m sharing here my top 10 lessons for 2016 which I hope you can relate to:

  • If the need is presented to you, there is no better way to respond than to do something about it. We all have something to do. We all have our own limitation. But have you ever thought why of all people, the opportunity to help chose you? There is always a reason for everything under heaven as they say. You might be the angel this person in need is praying for. We are all angels who are meant to support each other. Help does not need to be grand. It can be as simple as taking/sharing a photo of their situation or offering a connection to someone who has influence. Your small act of kindness can go a long way.
  • Take every opportunity to inspire and teach others. You are blessed to bless others. This world gave you all those knowledge, talents, and opportunities to share it to others. Do not be selfish with your kind words and simple sharing of thoughts. A simple morning message of inspiration on your social media can go a long way than ranting on how awful your day is. Try to also teach others. This does not need to be a crowd. Even one person is enough as long as you teach the right thing.
  • Make a stand. Stop standing on the fence. If you know what is right, why prevent yourself from fighting for it? As the saying goes, “evil prevails when good people keep silent.” If you keep on just agreeing to both sides just to prevent conflict, aren’t you tolerating the very reason why there are oppression, inequality, and corruption in this world? If you want to make this world a better place, learn to get out of your comfort zone and be part of the uneasy work to make a change. No one gets anywhere by just sitting down.
  • Make time for important people in your life. Once work pops, it won’t stop. Life will always make you busy that you won’t even realize that time is over and you don’t have the people you value anymore. Make time for them. Set it as a priority in your things to do. Actually, don’t make the moments with them just part of your “things to do”. Don’t make your love ones a part of your checklist. Make every moment with your family and friends a requirement in your every day, every week, and every time. Allow your love ones randomly disturb you. Allow your family to take your energy. Let your friends mess up your schedule. After all, why are you doing all these things? Isn’t it for them?
  • Make a budget, stick to it, and be wise on your spending. You will never know when money will come running out. Sometimes, even if you have a job, there will be times that your pay will be delayed or will not be enough. There will also be times that there will be an emergency and you are not prepared for that thousands-worth of expense. This is why you have to make a budget and commit to it. Set aside 50% of your budget (if you can) for emergency fund, savings, investments, and other social protection expense. That way, you will have something to spend when the going gets tough. Two important things I learned on the year 2016 are: first, to never use a credit and miss paying all the expenditure on time; second, to use the budget intended for something else. Missing these two points will give you a headache.
  • Allow yourself to be vulnerable. Tell what you have to say. Mean what you say. There will be several times when we neither show nor tell what we have to say because we are so afraid on how people will react. If this will always be our mentality, we will never be happy because we hold ourselves back to possibilities. Be brave to face the consequences. When we show our true selves – what we feel, what we want, and who we really are – we experience freedom; we allow ourselves to be surprised to the price of being courageous. Fly butterfly!
  • Travel responsibly. When I mean travel responsibly, I mean going outdoors with care and going on an adventure without compromising your other responsibilities. I won’t talk much about being a “responsible traveler” because I think there are a lot of resources on considering the environment in your adventure. But just in case you forgot, PLEASE TAKE NOTHING BUT PHOTOS, LEAVE NOTHING BUT FOOTPRINTS, and KILL NOTHING BUT TIME. What I really want to talk more is on being honest in the time and resources we use for travel. If we are supposed to be working then we work. Let us not use that “I am not feeling well” excuse to go to the mountains. Much more, let us be true to ourselves that when we travel, we really have the money for it than using our money for the monthly bills to pay for our trip. You will enjoy the beach more if the time and money you use is something that won’t worry you after.
  • Let Go and Let God. There’s a debate whether you should fight or hold on to what you think you deserve. For me, I think the best way is to let God. If it is for you and it is the right time, you will have it. Continually struggling to have what is not supposed to yours will just drain your energy and nab you from opportunities that are meant for you. You will never notice the other treasures around because you are simply “preoccupied” with your imagined “what ifs”.
  • Regret not the things that you did but the things you never did. Jump out of your comfort zone. Have fun! Life is short to prevent ourselves from enjoying the things that makes us happy. Travel to places you’ve never been. Say what you have to say. Dare to do the things that scare you. Try something new. Meet new people. Test your threshold. Be afraid but don’t let it stop you from doing what you want to do. Let go of that phone and experience more of life. If you were to die tomorrow, what will you regret not doing?
  • Be thankful even if it hurts you. Remember how a tree grows with more branches? It takes pruning. Remember how a diamond is made? It takes some intense heat and pressure. Life will not always serve you with cakes and lemons. There will be days that the sunny sky will be cloudy all of a sudden. When that happens, you hold on to the one who made everything. There is a lesson that is meant to be learned in the pain you are feeling. The strong warriors are those who have gone through the times. No pain will take forever. If you pass the test of tears, you will come out as a better person.

I’m bringing all of these lessons to 2017. I am looking next year with a clear vision that it will be better because I am more ready given the learnings I had this year. Again, thank you 2016 and to all who had been part of it. Dear 2017, let’s make new stories. I am ready for you.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” – Jeremiah 29:11

#IAmWarrior #Readyfor2017

Master Event Planning

One way or another we will all be organizing events be it birthdays, weddings, or something required by our work. This blog post is more on organizing events in the context of work or organizations. It applies in organizing conferences, summits or the like. I am sharing this to the public since I think this will help us lot in maximizing events which we all invested in. As a learner, it is important for me to get the most of my time in conferences which includes networking with people, be inspired by speakers, and learn something new.
I do not own any of the ideas listed in here. It is mainly from the talk done by Intermedia Communications Training (www.IntermediaCT.com) in the Asian Development Bank. I hope the notes below will help you in organizing events. Keep on learning!
What makes an interesting event:
  • Events is about people and not about organizations. You should make sure that there will be instances for networking.
  • Very good facilitator
  • Good time management – you need to be conscious of the time. It is either you finish on time or you finish ahead of time unless there is really something interesting happening that you cannot cut.
  • Close well – make it short, sweet, and tell people to do something. It is easier to push people to act on what they know right after a learning activity.
  • Avoid too many panelists – 2 to 4 people should be enough
  • Avoid too many bullets in your presentation.
12 Principles for Event Organizers
  1. Begin with the end in mind – you need to find the purpose/reason at the start
    • Agree on the events purpose
      • Write down the outcomes you want
      • What is the take away?
      • How do you want to influence participants?
      • What is the mood you want to create?
  2. Find a unifying theme
    • What’s driving transformation
    • What are the key questions?
    • What’s the cutting edge?
    • Ex. The Africa We want (in 50 years) – they also used the hashtag: #AfricaWeWant which got the interest of journalist
    • Find the questions that everybody wants to answer
  3. Use ‘Reverse Engineering’
    • Standard:
      1. Topic
      2. Speakers
      3. Boredom
    • Reverse Engineering
      1. Think of the effect you want in your participants: “Inspirational Session”
      2. Look for speakers who can create the effect: “Inspiring Speakers”
      3. Create the topic: “Inspiring Panel Topic”
  4. Variety and Innovation
    • Don’t do the same topic over and over again
    • Come up with different events structure
    • You can have any of the following:
      • Game show
      • Fish bowl – two circles where people in the middle will talk about a topic and the people outside listen and observe
      • Talk show
      • Unconference – every one from the participants can be a speaker
      • Mini TEDx style events
  5. Give speakers clear directives
    • Event format and topic
    • What you want them to speak about
    • Their time length
    • Deadline for PowerPoint (if allowed) – have a clear deadline so that you can still check their presentation. You don’t want them to present 95 slides on the event itself.
    • Rehearsals – this should be an opportunity for the moderator to meet the panelists
    • In some cases, you may want to require them to have a contract to make sure that they show up
  6. Strong moderators
    • Energetic and professional on stage
    • Expert in panel subject matter
    • Able to exert discipline
    • Able to create interactivity
    • Strong moderators would usually make it clear what the session is and what will happen
    • Good moderators are captains of the ship
  7. Break down the barriers
    • You should move your audience to becoming participants
    • Create an interactive atmosphere
      • Do open mic session
      • Do crowdsourcing first
      • Government people meeting CSOs in a small and interactive space
  8. Networking
    • Bring networking in the middle of your event and not just a side event
    • Make sure that your refreshments are of good quality – bad coffee spoils conversation. (Back-up info: Psychology study says that if you are holding something warm, they tend to feel warm too. If they feel comfy sitting on a chair, they feel comfy listening to you too).
    • Try to organize a pubcrawl or social event after the conference. Your event goes beyond what’s written in the program.
    • People who actually have a post-conference event usually find the conferences more memorable.
    • Think of the iceberg that you need to break it.
    • You can ask the panelist or speakers to put their contact details on their presentation or in the program.
    • You want this to happen naturally but not really pushing it
      • You can put them together in one physical room
      • There can actually be in-session events like speed-dating for people to get to know each other
      • You can set-up a board where people can go after the event. Example: Youth dinner night in a nearby pub.
  9. Twitter/Use of Social Media
    • The key to using Twitter is to create an interesting hashtag
    • The idea for using Twitter is to not just broadcast but actually to engage people
    • Make sure that the hashtag is used so remind people vitually and visually about it
    • You can tell them to use hashtags for comments during sessions
    • It is also important engage your participants prior to the event using the social media
    • Use videos or podcast to make your sessions available for those who cannot make it.
  10. The big picture
    1. Put one planner in charge of the big picture. Assign a person who can step back, move from session to another, and see how everything is going. This person will do something like participant observation.
  11. Your people (your team) must commit
    1. Ensure that your people are actually attending the whole conference and that they are mentally present.
    2. Your people should know who are coming and see who are connected to their work and meet them.
    3. Your people can help in solving problems
    4. Your people can also use the event to ask for participant’s opinion then you can use that for your other work or for assessments
    5. Give everyone a job like Tweet or take pictures
  12. Magic moments
    1. Find the “Aha!” Moment per session. For example if it transportation, you may want to present samples of innovation in transportation.
    2. Think of the “Wow!” Moment per conference. For example, you may want to present a hologram of one speaker who can give the final remarks.
    3. The important part is to actually give them something that they will remember.
  13. Make the end point a high point.
    1. It should not be a reminder of logistics
    2. It should not just be summaries
    3. Give them something inspiring to end
    4. Propose actions.
Other things to note:
The space/venue
  • Be mindful of the physical space. Try to check the venue when there’s an event. Spaces tend to be different when there is nothing happening.
  • Usually green things like plants will make the setup look good
  • Try to use red, yellow, and green as that energizes people
  • Use galleries or rolling tarpaulins.
  • How to handle high level officials who speak too long?
    • Talk to them and be clear that they have 3 minutes when in fact they can have 6 minutes.
    • Try to ask their assistant to remind them about the time constraint.
  • What type of formats we can actually use?
    • Do something like a talk show: 1 journalist interview 1 prominent person
    • Think of bringing-in like minded speakers/guests and make them talk to each other (Ex. Kapihan session)
    • For example, you can invite young people to tell what they were doing and what do they want to happen
    • For example, you can invite Mohammad Yunus to tell something about Africa. He is interesting and his insights would be interesting.
  • How can you actually get your government officials or prominent people to do rehearsals?
    • If a day before rehearsal is not possible, just give sometime for the moderator and the speakers to meet each other before the session. Around 10 minutes in a holding room will do.
    • Best format for government officials could actually be no PowerPoint.
    • You can actually coach the people first on what will happen and what is expected from them.