Packed up for Europe!

What do event planners do after a rush of summer events?

In this office, a lucky few head out for European vacations!! This month we have both Renee and Maggie headed across the pond, each on a unique journey. Renee will be visiting several stops – staying in Airbnb’s, whereas Maggie is focusing on a car-camping adventure in Iceland! Because we are fans of efficient logistics, I grilled them on their travel strategies; particularly packing.

 

Maggie is our all-out outdoor adventure gal; so “roughing it” is de regueur. She has the gear and the no-how to make a nature immersion a delightful escapade, so we look forward to hearing about the many fantastic waterfalls, not to mention the sheer beauty of the landscape (can you say Icelandic Wild Ponies?)

Renee will be taking a more conventional route (selecting the perfect Airbnb in Prague? Challenge accepted!) and doing some city hopping (don’t miss Copenhagen and Paris!) Did you know there’s church in Prague (Church of St. James the Greater) with an amputated limb hanging on the wall for centuries – to ward off thieves? Said limb is from a thief that the statue of Mary grabbed in the act. Not the kind of thing you find here in the States…

While their travel plans diverge, there are a few things they agree on…

  1. PINTEREST Research! Looking for a great collection of blogs and tips about the area you are traveling to and prefer they come from people who’ve recently been there? Pinterest is chock full of them!! While the web can be overwhelming in terms of the many sources, Pinterest provides a picture-friendly method of finding just what you need.
  2. Compression Cubes. These handy little items are a blessing in terms of packing up the vital equipment and keeping track of what you brought with you. You can find them all over the Net, but there’s a hot sale on Gonex on Amazon. Renee bought the full set, giving her a number of size options; but Maggie is still deciding.
  3. Plan for power!! Yes, getting an appropriate power adapter is key to easy travel with electronics, but be wary. Some of those cheaper power adapters are just that…they adapt your US appliances for the prong needed, but they don’t always convert the voltage. Double-check your adapter purchase.
  4. Plastic is perfect!! While there are a few places that need cash so many of the locations you will visit accept credit cards, which is ideal to shopping and eating to your heart’s content. Don’t forget to notify your card company which countries you will be visiting.

Of course, they have other tools they are using to plan and track. Spreadsheets aren’t JUST for event budgets! And one of our travelers has even planned her wardrobe packing via a Publisher page….details make a difference.

We wish them the safest travel experience, and loads of fun!

 

Stressful Job?

Event Coordinator ranks at number five according to the Forbes list of Most Stressful Jobs in 2017, (behind airline pilots, police, firefighters and enlisted military personnel). It might sound crazy, but event planners actually thrive on managing hectic schedules and multiple events. How do we do we handle this stressful career choice, you might ask? The answer is simple – we create a fun work environment and we know the balance of work and play.

Here at RealTime Productions, we have “First Thursdays” where the team celebrates happy hour on the first Thursday of each month. We let off a little steam as we toast our team. We’re big on Mexican food so deciding on a gathering place is rarely an issue – bring on the tacos!

We also schedule fun team competitions/celebrations throughout the year such as our Spooktacular Halloween Treat Competition, Thanksgiving Potluck and our Holiday Treat Exchange in December. Our tasks seem less stressful (more manageable) while focusing on these fun distractions. Our office manager, Ceili, is the talented baker in the house, so she often takes the win for her baked treats.

We also love to give back to the community. Our team has volunteered at the YouthCare’s James W. Ray Orion Center in downtown Seattle where we prepared and served a meal for the homeless youth. It was a touching experience to serve the Seattle community while bonding with our team.

An important event we participate in every year is the Walk MS, in honor of the owner of RTP, Jeanne Berry. Each year we build a team and raise money to help create a world free of MS. This year, we’ve added prizes as incentives to reach our goal of $15k. We invite family, friends, clients and partners to walk with us in the fight to beat MS. We’re really looking forward to finding a cure for this vicious disease, and are proud to represent during the walk (join us won’t you? http://bit.ly/rtpwalkms )

Whether it’s enjoying happy hour on a patio on summer day, exchanging holiday treats, or taking time out of our day to volunteer, our team is always planning our next outing or work party as something to look forward to. Staying healthy is a priority for us given the stressful nature of our work, so we have developed this strategy. Our team-building events help us re-energize ourselves so that we can put our best foot forward for our clients. We know how to work hard and most importantly, we know how to play hard too! What do you do to manage stress? Do share!!

FCE – Canine Spinal Stoke Challenge

November 15, 2016, my dog Junie (and RTP canine pal) suffered fibrocartilaginous embolism (FCE) or canine spinal stroke that left her paralyzed from her pelvis down.

FCE is neither preventable nor detectable, and can happen to any dog of any age. Junie just so happened to draw a short straw in her already difficult life. Because I’m biased to rescue-dogs only, I adopted a mid-aged dog, who’s active enough for my lifestyle (which includes lots of hiking and exploring). Junie was the perfect fit!  She’s only 3-4 years old, but was overlooked after months in foster care after being relocated to Seattle from an abusive past in California. Our first few months together, we spent every evening at the beach or park. On the weekends we clocked miles while peaking mountains and swimming in glacial lakes.

When Junie’s FCE occurred, she was jumping into the car after a long run in the rain. It was shocking to watch. Her back legs immediately went limp, just moments after she’d run circles in the mud at lightning speed. After 5 nights in intensive care, she came home to begin a long, hard road to recovery. Our new lifestyle was far different from the one she had come to know. For weeks, she was unable to move at all. Her back legs lay heavy and limp. Her tail was also immobile leaving her unable to express joy in a wag or single thump on the floor in response to seeing familiar, warm faces. I slept on the floor next to her, waking every couple hours to clean her, change her diapers, and give her nerve pain medications. Our evenings out at the beach and weekends on the trail became tiring, difficult, long days and nights of learning to care for a paraplegic.

About two weeks post-FCE, Junie had a custom wheelchair made, and I’d tie up her rear legs so that at least for a little while each day she could forget that she can’t walk on her own. Next came physical therapy, which includes assisted walking on an underwater treadmill 3 times a week, acupuncture, and range-of-motion exercises on the floor every couple hours. There’s no way of telling what the future holds for Junie’s legs because every FCE case is different. Some dogs become paralyzed in all 4 legs, and some just 1. Others make huge recoveries and learn to walk again or regain control of their bladders, and others remain incontinent and unable to walk on their own for the remainder of their lives.

Learning to care for Junie day-to-day can only be compared to the challenges of parents bringing their first newborn home. Unlike parents of a human, I didn’t have 9 months to prepare. I discovered that changing tables are pretty magical inventions, as well. Putting a diaper on a 45-lb. dog while holding them up with one hand and trying to fish their tail through a hole with the other is a challenge of another dimension. Doggie diapers aren’t as foolproof as human diapers, which is why I’ve started buying Pampers (Sesame Street theme, of course, because who can resist an Elmo image on a little doggie butt!) and cutting my own tail holes. I’m learning as we go, and our routine has become more and more doable as I understand what works and what doesn’t. Here’s the great thing about dogs, which if you have one of your own, you’ll surely agree: they don’t feel sorry for themselves. Sure, Junie understands her life has drastically changed. Does she let it stop her? Nope! We’re now 6 weeks post-FCE and she’s dragging herself around and hopping on two legs like she’s never known differently. She looks a bit like a kangaroo, and the cutest darn kangaroo ever. She asks for belly rubs, gets excited about every meal, loves a good wheelchair walk, and still gives the squirrels a run for their money. Her eyes still brighten when I walk in the room, and in her mind, her tail is definitely going “thump thump thump” on the floor, even though I can’t see it do so anymore.

Junie love-love-loves the RTP office and will hopefully return to my desk-side soon so that Ceili can offer butt-rubs (where she may be permanently numb, but I guarantee she’ll appreciate the thought!) and Renee can share her apple slices. We specialize in handling curveballs and making the best out of what we’ve got as event planners, so luckily, I’ve got the right team beside me through this journey!

 

On-site Experience

On some occasions, our work requires us to be on-site with our clients for periods of time longer than just the event itself. From March through August 2016, Erica and I packed up and moved to the Microsoft campus in Redmond to plan the third annual global Hackathon. The Hackathon is only a two-day event, but the energy, passion, and expertise that is jam-packed into those two days is impressive, to say the least. The importance of such an event, as short as it is, would be difficult to fully understand had we not thrown ourselves into the culture on campus to work with those who understood its value and had nurtured it through its wildly successful initial years.

While Erica and I had previous experience working Microsoft events, this one was different. Being brought into the mix the third year an event takes place is interesting. How does a team keep the excitement of an event growing after the initial thrill of something new has passed? How could we turn an event that people were now familiar with into something bigger and better and worthy of their commitment?

The team we worked with at The Garage was a small and scrappy group of just 8 to 10 of us. The event is global, so think tens of thousands of participants. With a large-scale event and a small team, it wasn’t unheard of for us to turn our desktops into a resting place for our heads at 4am, if need be. The dedication to our audience was apparent. If you’d asked those registering for the event what kind of team was running the show, they’d likely have assumed far more people were involved. Our email inboxes proved this true time and time again, as they were flooded with questions and comments months ahead of the event.

For someone who is newer to the event world, the value in being on-site for six months was immeasurable. This was my first event as a full-time employee of RTP, and I consider myself lucky to have had the chance to dive head first into such a long-term project. I find that I thrive on getting to know those I work with, both professionally and personally. Some people love email, and others work best with face-to-face communication, talking things through to find a solution. Whether I was running downstairs to chat with the dev team in person over lunchtime or emailing deliverables or questions, I came to know what worked best for each person I interacted with. I don’t consider myself the most tech-savvy millennial, and those we worked with didn’t necessarily have event expertise, so all in all, our half year working together was a learning experience during which we relied heavily on each other.

When pitching our ideas to potential clients, we often mention that we value partnership. We like to become a part of our client’s team and have them become a part of ours. Working on the Hackathon was a prime example of this value in action. By the end of the event, we were giving each other high-fives, hugs, congratulations, and thank-you speeches because it truly was a team effort, and no one of us could have pulled it off alone.

Trailblazing Fundraising – MS Walk

RealTime Trailblazers 2016Today was awesome! No really…it was. We did the MS Walk – RTP style!

In past years, our crew has supported the MS Walk financially, but this year, we chose to take it further. As you may be aware, Jeanne Berry, our president has Multiple Sclerosis (MS). Our staff loves Jeanne and wants to help the MS Society in finding new treatments and of course, a cure. Kat our BD Director had walked in previous years (she’s so active!) and encouraged us all to walk this year. It was a no brainer of course. We branded ourselves the “RealTime Trailblazers” and launched into fundraising.

For the past couple of months, we’ve been putting out requests for support, both individually, and collectively, to make as big an impact as we could. Jeanne egged us all on by promising to match whatever we raise, up to $5,000. We campaigned for money, if only to make her pay up that match!

Our team was comprised of staff members (both employees and contractors) as well as friends. I was delighted to have my sister, Ginny make the walk with me. She was overwhelmed my how kind my team members were “Are they always friendly like this?” she whispered. “Yes” I laughed “this is who they are, not some kind of show.” And it’s true, the RTP team is indeed comprised of people who like one another, and can be counted on for support, regardless of the focus. Other companies give lip service to “being a family” but our crew truly is!

We raised $14,000 total (including Jeanne’s match) and are proud of having every employee participate this year! It was exciting to be a part of this walk. We’re looking forward to next year, and invite all our clients and associated vendors to participate.

A Question of Company Values

Most companies generate a mission statement and/or a list of company values that they gleefully place on their website.  These elements are often created by upper level staff and/or a marketing team. Sadly, these lists or statements are periodically trotted out to staff – blatantly telling them what their values should be. Because RTP is shifting to a more ‘personable, yet professional’ outlook, we created a statement of company values that genuinely reflect those of our staff members, both individually and collectively.

So how did we go about doing that?

Kat suggested we try an artistic/creative exercise that she’d done with another team. They had created a vision board of who the team believes they are, and where they’d like to go. Great! I’d been trained in Expressive Art Therapy facilitation and possessed a wealth of art supplies; so I volunteered my resources to pull this off. Although some team members were a bit hesitant, we committed to doing this as a team.

We set aside a day of focus (thank you Jeanne!) – preceded by homework. Each team member was given a series of exercises to help them discover their own values (both personally and professionally). So often, team members can feel more like ‘just’ employees rather than genuine contributors. The point of this project was to steer clear of that kind of thinking, making our team to feel valued, and accountable for the final values outcome. And we were all in…Karin made the trek from Portland to participate live, and in person.

I think it was more work than my team mates anticipated. First we shared with our personal values with the group. We explained how we generated them, and why they were important. Next, we moved on to the company values.

I asked each of my team members for a value suggestion; followed by the requirement that they validate their choice with examples from our work. You see, it’s not enough to just come up with a list of nice words, they have to MEAN something. In performing this project, we came to appreciate the similarities in our personal values, to understand our work mates, and land on a list of values that genuinely reflects who we are as a team: Creativity. Collaboration. Integrity. Perseverance.

Next, came the fun part. Ok, it was a bit of a struggle for some at first; but eventually, we created a decorative canvas, which now hangs in our office. This piece is more than just a list of values; it’s our compass, our map of who we are now and where our team is headed. As we glance over at it, we are reminded of the work it took to create, the cohesiveness of our crew, and our collective values.

Have you engaged with your team about your company values and how they define you as a team and in the work you do? We’d love to hear about it.