TEDxBratislava’s 8 tips for team success

TEDxBratislava 2014 volunteers (Photo by Tomas Pospichal)

TEDxBratislava 2014 volunteers (Photo by Tomas Pospichal)

Bratislava in Bratislava, Slovakia has now organized nearly ten TEDx events. From these many events, they’ve learned a lot. So, for their blog, they put together a list of eight tips for making organizing a TEDx event a rewarding experience for every team member. This post was originally posted on TEDxBratislava blog in Slovak and English, which you can read in full on their website.

Below, TEDxBratislava‘s eight tips for team success:

1. Give it an effort.
When you look for volunteers, give it an effort. Here is how we did it and it worked really great: Two and a half months prior to the event we made a post on our blog, Facebook, Twitter and website. Volunteers could sign up via an electronic form, describing who they are and what their skills and motivation might be. We chose 25 of them and one month before the event we invited them for a meeting. When someone didn’t show up and didn’t even apologize, we deleted them from the list. At the meeting, we explained everything and provided room for questions. We added a few more people to the list to replace the ones we didn’t hear back from. We communicated with them through the Facebook group; we were open to any questions. We also asked them to help with some things even before the event. One week before the event, the team member responsible for volunteers called yet another meeting with volunteers at which they went through all the tasks and activities again. At this meeting, volunteers already knew what their assignments and responsibilities were.

2. Have leaders and divide responsibilities. Make one person responsible for all volunteers and for communicating with them during the preparation period as well as during the event. This person should always know who does what and should be able to assign activities to volunteers as necessary. If you have smaller teams (e.g. catering, registrations), these also need to have their leaders so that members of these teams always know who to turn to with questions.

3. Treat your volunteers as equals. Volunteers need clear direction, supervision and feedback. These guys volunteered their energy and free time to come and help you out. They are usually passionate about the cause and they have a genuine interest in its success. They want to help you. Appreciate it! Don’t be condescending and don’t treat them as if you were their superior. Say “well done” to them a lot and don’t be embarrassed to overdo it with compliments! (give them enthusiastic “You are bloody amazing.” ) Motivate and encourage them by being friendly. Volunteers can later become great new members of your team, let them know that, and they give you even more energy and enthusiasm.

4. Make it personal. You might have many volunteers, so learning their names might be a challenge. However, the person in your team who is in charge of volunteers should know them well. If volunteers are divided into smaller groups, group leaders should also know their names by heart. To make it easier, make name tags, write their first names in big letters on them and give it to volunteers (and to team members) not only on the day of the event but also during preparations. Also, you can print the list of team members with photos, names and responsibilities before the event, distribute it to volunteers and the other way around. Calling volunteers by their first names rather than by “Hey, you guy in the yellow shirt,” makes a big difference. (A few weeks after the event we had a BBQ together – the team and the volunteers – and it was very nice to recall the top moments of the event again. Together.)

5. Let them realize their potential. When distributing responsibilities, let the volunteers choose first, they know best at what they excel. Never be so ignorant as to believe that you always know best when in fact it is usually the people carrying out the tasks who know best. Volunteers are your logistics, so listen to them. They might have good ideas. If you can’t use their ideas, explain why, so they don’t get an impression you’re simply ignoring them.

6. Feed them. Adapt this one to the length of the event and preparations . If it’s just a few hours, bring water and small snack. If the event is longer, even the whole day, make sure you provide proper food full of energy (ideally warm food, fruit, salads and some sweet treat). If you don’t have the resources to buy food for the volunteers, let them know so they can bring their own (they usually don’t mind if you explain to them that you simply don’t have the money to buy food for them or the team).

7. Stay cool. Something is going to go wrong. Just accept it at the very beginning. It’s going to be some tech thing or some human factor failure. Or both. How you deal with it is crucial and will affect the morale of your team. You get annoyed, panicked, frustrated and angry. Yes, ventilate, swear a little (or little more), but move on, don’t pass the blame, don’t go round in circles or point a finger. Everybody makes mistakes and usually the person who does feels the worst. It’s better to be nice, say something consoling, and it will be okay. If you’re going to use walkie-talkies for the team and the volunteers, use them sometimes to drop a joke or two. It really helps to keep the spirit up all along, the worst moments including.

8. Be nice. Always. It makes the world a better place.

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