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.

Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes

RealTime Productions has gone through a lot of changes recently.

We’ve moved offices – heck we’ve moved cities! The shift from the cacophony of South Lake Union to our calm location in Mercer Island has created a significant change in our work process. From individual cubicles in the old office, to an open plan here on the Island – the change has increased both our ability and desire to work collaboratively. We more freely bounce ideas and strategies off one another, paying little attention to individual role or title.

Our team, like others in our industry, has undergone staff shifts. But in coming to know our new members, we’ve made an intentional effort to acknowledge not only their similarities to existing team members, but their distinct differences. We’ve begun to celebrate our individual uniqueness, and learn better ways to work together. As we drill our new staff members on protocol, their influence has altered our policies. “Because that’s how we’ve always done it” has been retired, and replaced with “what do you think?” Our “can-do” focus (doing whatever it takes to pull off a challenge) has really lightened up our staff and brought a new energy to the office. Mind you, these are changes coming not from the top, but from every level of our team.

And the collaborative approach is becoming evident with vendors we cull together to manage an event. Perhaps it’s our perspective which has altered, but we see them as fellow collaborators putting on a client event. While mindful of their corporate procedures and policies, we are looking forward to forging closer relationships on these key players in event management. We find it a much more transparent and inclusive way to get the work done, one that celebrates the talents and humanity of all of us.

We’ve changed our branding a bit as well. We kept the tradition of our logo, but ventured into popping up the color to match our new physical environment. If you’ve been to our new office space, you certainly understand. We replaced muted tones of dark teal and sage with a brightly-hued light teal and spring green; tastefully tempered with a lovely charcoal gray. And for a color pop…don’t be surprised to see some hot orange thrown in.

We’ve altered our work schedules a bit, choosing to adapt to the ever-changing needs of both our staff and clients. Everyone who works in our industry knows the reality of working whatever hours are needed to pull off an event –  but mindful of life-balance issues, we have encouraged our team members to balance their time between working from home and in the office. This affords our team greater ease in meeting client needs, while retaining tight team relationships. Not to worry though, we are more reachable than ever!

Our approach overall, has been to become more personable, while retaining professionalism. What does this mean to our clients? We hope it means that you find us taking a more personal approach to you and your events, while offering you a high degree of service and collaboration. We love expressing our “can-do” attitude, making extraordinary events come to life! We’d love to hear your thoughts on our continued evolution as a premier, boutique event management partner.

Homeless Holidays

I love that holiday season allows me to relax (professionally anyway) and wrap up some work items before launching headlong into the New Year’s projects. For the crew at RTP it’s also an opportunity to give back to the community in a manner that our workload often precludes. This year we’ve become acquainted with a local group, Youthcare who works with homeless and at-risk youth – getting them on their feet and going in a positive direction.

We quickly learned that Youthcare does more than offer teens a spot to crash and get a hot meal; their programs help those trying to get a leg-up on adulthood. I asked the Youthcare staff whether teens aging out of the foster system has an impact on their clients. They confirmed, that yes, indeed a large population of their clients are foster kids aging out of the system. But its not just the fosters, there are a million reasons that kids leave home – few of them are good.

I’ve been blessed to grow up in a large, welcoming family. For me, making mistakes as a youngster wasn’t tragic. Mom and Dad were there for support to anytime. I’d always known that no matter what stupid thing I did – choosing a bad job, hanging out with a reckless crowd, failing a class in college – my family would be beside me with stable advice, a warm bed and a stern admonition when I needed it (and yes, I always needed it!). Kids on the street have incredible hurdles to surpass, fears and questions that go unspoken, and overwhelming trust and security issues. Navigating adulthood without ready support can seem unsurmountable. This is where Youthcare plays an important role; offering direction, physical comfort, a safe place where they can launch into finding permanent housing and educational opportunities. I’m delighted that RTP is getting to help these kids move forward.

Our mission (which of course we accepted) was to prepare lunch for those who come into the Youthcare facility in downtown Seattle. Our team was greeted on a cold December morning by the resident Chef Shannon. We were directed to aprons and handwashing procedures as we checked in, then set into motion making a stir-fry, fresh fruit salad and cheesy biscuits. The food was simple and nutritious – but also smelled delicious. More important however, was the response we got from the youths as they passed through the food line. Some laughed with friends or joked with others in line – but despite the challenge of being homeless in the brisk winter weather, they were all well mannered and polite. They thanked us as we dished out lunch, stopping occasionally to chit chat – normal kids overall, just like those we all have at home. But these youth we knew, were facing challenges we had been fortunate to bypass. One of the kindest things you can do for the homeless (regardless of age) is see them as people – because that’s what they are: people facing challenges and needing our help.

As you bustle through crowds in this holiday season, picking up a last minute gifts for family, please remember that the disheveled teen sitting nearby may be struggling without home and family. Please be kind, and if you’re inclined, dedicate a portion of your holiday giving to those needing a hand up. You can contact Youthcare at youthcare.org/