The basic ground rules set in elementary, middle and high school aren’t that far from each other. The rules just become more defined and elaborate over time. Or, they also become understood, for instance no running in the hallway. But, what about the basic ground rules of a conference?
In the book, Conferences That Work, the author Adrian Segar, a conference planner with over 20 years experience – informs us that in the professional world, employers allow us to establish our ground rules in groups. Yet, traditional conferences don’t have explicit ground rules. To improve your conference, Segar sets a few ground rules for a safe and intimate conference:
- “While you are here, you have the right and opportunity to be heard.”
- “Your individual needs and desires are important here.”
- “You will help to determine what happens at this conference.”
- “What happens here will be kept confidential. You can feel safe here.”
- “At this conference, you can create together with others, opportunities to learn and to share.”
According to Segar, by sending these powerful messages to attendees, it sets the stage and gives people permission to share and learn from each other. Recently, Leadership Loudoun Youth program hosted a retreat for a group of selected high school students at The National Conference Center. In this week-long program, these students participated in engaging activities, team-building exercises, and listened to guest speakers – all which promoted strengthening their leadership skills. At NCC, we explored how closely their program experience paralleled with Segar’s five ground rules of a safe and intimate conference.
Read below for a daily summary and how each ground principle played a role (note, some rules could have been applied more than once):
- Day 1: Team building activities, a ropes course, and a leadership discussion. “At this conference, you can create together with others, opportunities to learn and to share.”
- Day 2: Discussed the business and non-profit community and led an activity on networking, collaboration, and referral marketing. “Your individual needs and desires are important here.”
- Day 3: Led a public speaking activity. “While you are here, you have the right and opportunity to be heard.”
- Day 4: Coordinated a community service project (with Keep Loudoun Beautiful) for the class to clean-up litter trash and recyclables. “You will help to determine what happens at this conference.”
- Day 5: A youth-drive and youth-led activity called, “Listening to Youth” which identified top issues addressed in the application process (from alcohol and drug abuse to the pressures of success). “What happens here will be kept confidential. You can feel safe here.”
Segar explains, “when attendees feel safe to share and empowered to ask questions and express what they think and how they feel, what happens at a conference can be amazing.” Based on the testimonials from Leadership Loudoun Youth, it appears the students were empowered to express their views and ask valuable questions – an experience created from setting the ground rules of a safe and intimate conference in the beginning.
**In an effort to make Loudoun County “The Best Place to Grow Up,” a partnership between Leadership Loudoun and Loudoun Youth, Inc., created Leadership Loudoun Youth. The program consists of a group of selected high school students based on their how they view leadership and issues they see within Loudoun County. The National Conference Center is proud to have hosted the graduation ceremony for Leadership Loudoun Youth, Class of 2010. Congratulations! To find out more information, please visit Leadership Loudoun Youth.