Recently while cleaning out some old camp files at home, I discovered the transparencies from my first ever speaker presentation at Mid States. In case you have no clue what I’m talking about (I’m looking at you millennials,) here’s a photo of the overhead projector:
Coming across these materials reminded me of my first time speaking at Mid States. I was so nervous; from the moment I decided to speak until I reviewed my evaluations. Yet somehow, despite my nervousness, Mid States was the perfect place to test the waters. The Mid States community is friendly and kind, just like the camp community. Having had the pleasure of working with many speakers over the years, they relate to finding a similar welcoming environment. Attendees are eager to learn, but also understand that you’re a human being. If you come prepared and focused, attendees will be open to your ideas and ready to learn.
Each camp I’ve worked with and every position I’ve held has benefited from my experience as a presenter. Speaking at a conference provides professional benefits to you AND your camp. When you present, people learn about your organization, and your camp becomes a leader in the community, which makes the camp community stronger. How, you ask? Well, think about it this way. There are two types of camp people: those that focus internally on their job at camp, tasks that contribute specifically to their individual jobs. There are also those camp people that see themselves as part of the greater camp community, the greater mission at hand. These individuals share their ideas, ask questions, generate innovations that not only help make their camp better, but help all camps become better overall. They help make camp current in the 21st century, and relevant in youth development. And perhaps most importantly, these people change the world by bettering it, making the camp community stronger. These camps, and camp people, become known for their cutting-edge innovations. This helps recruit campers and new employees in the future. There are many ways these camp people help the community, a common way is to present at conferences.
Speaking not only benefits your camp, it grows your professional skills and allows your experience to shine. The challenge of preparing a presentation and sharing your knowledge will strengthen your ability to train your staff next summer. Your supervisor will see that you have creative ideas to share. When it's time for you to take the next step in your career, more people will know who you are, and the skills you bring to whatever camp you are working with.
Finally, the greatest reason to speak is that we need new ideas. Camp is about relationships and strengthening communities. We all share the same mission: to better the world through camp. We cannot do this without constantly evaluating ourselves and how we do things. It’s vital to our survival as the camp community that we continue to ask questions, share ideas and grow. We need you to help us accomplish this. We need your ideas, your solutions.
Submitting a proposal years ago opened doors I never thought possible. I encourage you to consider submitting a presentation for this year’s Mid States. Show the camp community what you excel at! Give voice to your ideas and strengths. Be part of the larger camp world through this role and make us all stronger professionals. I believe we all have something to share. We all have gifts and strengths. What is yours? I’m excited to learn from you!
Yours in Camping,
Colette M Marquardt
American Camp Association, Illinois
Tips for the New Speaker:
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