Do you remember when you were a kid and everyone always asked you what you wanted to be when you grew up? Maybe they still ask you that now? I believe thats the wrong question. Instead, we should be asking - what's the problem you want to solve?
I realized this, when I was taking my first day of school pictures for my four year old. According to Pinterest, you write your child's career choice at the time on a piece of paper for your child to hold up. Then, you take a picture that you memorialize forever in a scrapbook. However, I realized - she doesn't even know anything other than teacher, police, fireman, and something to do with animals. Instead, I asked her, what problem she wanted to solve. She replied that she wanted to help children who were hungry. I have read that over 60% of careers that our children will go into don’t even exist yet. Let’s focus on the problem. Let's focus on the why.
As an event professional, I always wrote “why” on the cover of my notebook. Why are we having this event? In each and every meeting I attend, I always ask why. There is an incredible importance in those three letters. And that importance extends beyond “that's how we have always done it”; or “If it's not broke, don’t fix it”. As an event professional - we should always be asking - why is this event happening? What is the problem that our event solves?
If we think about earlier - this is the same why as in: Why are you here on this Earth? What is your end goal? What are you solving? Most people think career – but let's think beyond career. What is the overarching purpose in your life? I have a purpose statement for my life. I have it written in bath crayon in my shower and I read it every morning. It stays present with me throughout the entire day. To be in harmony with yourself - the purpose for your life should align with your career and any initiatives that you undertake.
So why are we here? What's our purpose? This is the Extraordinary Events Podcast that is organized by the Extraordinary Events Initiative. We are affiliated with the Hospitality, Restaurant, and Tourism Management program at the University of Nebraska Lincoln.
The idea for this lesson came while I was at an event in Austin, Texas a couple years ago. The facilitators of the session that I found most impactful were actually urban designers. I realized in that moment that events are everything and should be approached as such. Events can be urban design, psychology, placemaking, neuroscience, architecture, finance, marketing, anthropology, storytelling, experience design, audio visual, and so much more. Yet, event education and event podcasts typically focus on the logistics. And while the logistics are important, and will be covered on this podcast, they are not all-encompassing to be successful in this field.
I have been invited to many high schools and universities to discuss event planning as a career. I had no idea who was in the audience, but it would typically range between 15-20 different majors. I would give a lecture and then invite anyone to challenge me how their major could not fit into events. I was always able to make it relate. Marketing? Events are crucial to strategic marketing plans. Construction? Let me talk to you about tradeshows. I even had one girl who thought she could stump me when she said she desired to be a princess. Well, Disney events has professional princesses on staff. No matter what you want to do in life, events are everything.
Since your why should help to inform your decisions and practices, let's talk about our why and what we want to accomplish with this project.
Our vision for the world and is that every designed experience will lead to an internal transformation within each attendee. And to help our world achieve that vision, our mission is to educate, inspire, and empower individuals who wish to design experiences that positively impact and transform each other and the world.
We do have six values that we abide by. We deliver innovation that matters. We push for creativity through curiosity with a sense of purpose. We aim to achieve the extraordinary.
We communicate both successes and areas for improvement. We live our mission. And we believe that each person is unique and differently abled. On our website, we have further explanations about each of these values with specific examples of how we are living them.
I think its important to talk a little about how we got here. I was recruited to the University of Nebraska as an event management extension specialist and have been teaching event management at UNL since January of 2019. Prior to this, I taught at two other Universities after a long career as an Executive Director of Events in the industry. My unofficial title is Event Education Champion and Immersive Interactive Storyteller. Unfortunately, the University will not print those on my official business cards. While I have had this idea for a while, it was actually one of my students, Ally, who helped make it a reality when she decided starting podcasts was a passion area of hers. No one can explain this better than her so I invited her here to share with us for just a couple of minutes about her involvement with me and this project.
Dr. K: Welcome Ally.
Ally: I’m so excited this is actually happening!
Dr. K: So, Ally, for people listening today can you summarize all the different things you have done through this initiative and through our time together so that people have a little bit more of a background about all the things you have done before I ask you just a couple more questions.
Ally: Ya, so when I started at the University my major was actually in education and special education. The end of my junior year I decided that I wanted to switch my major and could not figure out what I wanted to do. Someone suggested hospitality because they thought I was very hospitable. I didn't know what I was going to do but I switched and it ended up my first class was Dr. K’s events class. And it was her first class at UNL as well.
Dr. K: This is the Intro to Events class right, since I teach multiple events classes.
Ally: Yes. I fell in love with the class and actually found my passion. I can’t imagine doing anything else with my life. So, after that class I started working for Dr. K and I got to go on multiple trips which were really cool such as the PCMA conference in San Francisco and IMEX in Las Vegas. I got to experience tons of other things such as EventLNK in Lincoln as well as plan a free giveaway wedding and a hackathon with my advanced events class that I ended up being a leader in, which was a great experience for me. I went to multiple other things and helped out with projects such as the MBECs research we are doing.
Dr. K: There is so much, it is hard to remember it all! I think when I was writing out all of the things that our lives have intersected on - three classes, all these different conferences, different events, events through the class, events outside the class, I think it was over 10 or 15 different things.
Ally: Ya, which is awesome. I am so grateful for it. Honestly it taught me so much. Even if it wasn't was I was learning in the moment in the classes, it was the experience that taught me almost more than anything. You can’t…. I mean experience is everything.
Dr. K: So true. And, I have even met your dad. We have interacted in so many different things. I never want you to graduate ever! So, Ally, just two more questions since we are keeping the podcast a little short today. So, can you just tell me why you are so excited about this podcast and working with me and different things we are doing right now.
Ally: Honestly, I just want to see how it grows and how we can help other people and show them the mindset and how we think and change people's thought process and maybe see where it goes.
Dr. K: So now I am going to ask you a question I didn’t pre-vet through you, it's not on your script of bullet points here. You are graduating in a year, so where do you see this podcast in a year. On your graduation day - where do you see this podcast being?
Ally: Honestly, I don't know. But I hope that it impacts people and that people enjoy it. That it can grow and that I can end up doing something with you with it but we’ll see. Honestly, it’s not for us, it's for other people and how it impacts them. So if they enjoy it, then ya.
Dr. K: Absolutely. It’s so interesting. This is my third university and every time I would leave a university I would have so many students say - I wish I could go with you, I want to transfer schools, or I want to go with you. It just kind of hit me - why does event education have to be location specific. Why can't everybody get this information, why can't the general public and the industry at large? I have so many industry partners that say can I come take your class and this is kind of an extension of it. We are going to start with the podcast that is going to follow along with the class, we are going to use the podcast in the class as well and then we are going to add additional things such as industry interviews and case studies and events are everything will be a side podcast within this podcast. Its kind of like you are getting to sit there and take our class which is really fun! So thank you Ally for helping this become a reality!
Ally: Yes, of course!
So for everybody out there listening - I have homework for you. In my first day of my Intro to Events class that I teach, I do not cover my syllabus. Instead, I have students explore their purpose and vision for their life. I have them write it down. I have them share it in small groups. Then I have them declare it to the group at large. It's actually really really fun. It seems appropriate for this first podcast to have you do the same. I challenge you to write a purpose statement for your life. Think about what would you be willing to do if you were willing to fail more? Push for creativity through curiosity with a sense of purpose.
Thank you all for taking the time to make the time. Stay tuned for our next episode.