What’s the convention ? What’s the conference ? Is it going to be like TANA, AATA conventions ? Are we going to have cultural programs ? Are we going to invite celebrities ? Can we get thousand people to come to this convention ? And the questions just kept coming. The simple answer to all these questions was “Convention is merely a team building exercise“. Once the goal of the convention was agreed upon the discussions moved forward.
But why team building
: About 70 of us across various chapters of PFL
were actively engaged in phone discussions, projects, campaigns, strategies etc for the past 4 or more years. Sometimes these discussions or interactions got emotional, personal, volatile but this was bound to happen because these were political in nature. However, there was another reason, a very strong reason actually. We never knew the person on the other side of these discussions, we never knew what their personalities were, we never knew how they were individually and this to a large extent was what the convention aimed at – to bridge this gap, to know each other better and to respect and value each other as an individual. In effect the convention was a way to sow the seeds for the team spirit and team work.
But 70 people, how do we handle logistics ? Logistics included
- Airport pick up/drop off
- Press releases
- Time management
And this list got quite long but at the same time we were getting close to the D-Day. First things first, we assigned the tasks and responsibilities to all the volunteers and started tracking everything on a google spreadsheet called “The Event Tracker ” (More power to google docs). With weekly calls we decided to monitor the status.
The Public Event – While the discussions for the convention were going on, the team proposed for a public event. The intention was to showcase our strengths and also create awareness as to why political engagement was important and how we as NRI’s could contribute to the political situation back home. This probably was the only thing the team agreed on – the need for a public event but what the event should be, how it needs to be designed, who the target audience would be, were all difficult questions.
The event team took on the responsibility of working on it and in about a weeks time the theme of the event was proposed, of course, it got refined after some healthy discussions and debates. The theme later on took the name “Reviving Social Legacy“. It was an event for everyone. For the kids it was a public speaking contest, for parents it was an opportunity to listen to the kids on what social legacy their kids wanted them to leave behind, for the audience it was an opportunity to listen and interact with the panelists.
At the same time all the other teams were running full steam ahead with their tasks.
The twist in the tale: Right when we thought we were all set and nothing could go wrong from here, the school where we were supposed to host the public event informed us after almost a month that they were canceling our booking. They learnt that we were a political organization and it was against their policy to rent it out. This was a huge set back, not because, the venue was cancelled but because of the reason why they cancelled. This turned out to be a blessing in disguise, since this only strengthened our resolve to fight this political ignorance and made us want to do the public event more than ever. In a matter of a few days, an alternative venue was secured.
The publicity: Obviously, the convention needed no publicity, but the public event definitely did. The publicity had to be done at two fronts – first, to get more participants for the public speaking contest and second, to get more audience. Train stations, Indian streets, Indian stores, pre event press release, radio shows, television, public speaking training institutes etc. Of course this wasn’t always as smooth as we expected it to be. For e.g. news papers were charging a hefty sum to carry the Ad’s, the train station where we were distributing the flyers kicked us out since we needed permission to distribute the flyers, grocery stores removed the posters we put up for free publicity, but despite this, we kept trying and working out alternatives.
With every set back, we learnt a lesson and we also found another alternative, but no matter what, the publicity efforts didn’t stop till the last day of the public event.
The phones started ringing, members started arriving at the airports, the RSVP team which coordinated the travel plans had already made arrangements for the pick ups. In the meanwhile, another team got to the venue where we the convention was being held to get the house in order. The members just fell in love with the convention for it was not the typical run of the mill hotel or convention halls. It was a summer camp in the woods. The conference facility was a log cabin and the lodging was equipped with bunker beds with a large living room which allowed an intimate environment for all 60 – 70 members.
The venue was also chosen because it was a not for profit organization running the summer camp and in a way we were extending support to their initiative.
The two days at the convention went by very quickly, but the memories from the convention will last forever. No I’m not saying this, this is what everyone else felt and experienced. The public event also saw a similar response, the parents and audience appreciated the platform that was given to them where they could engage in an interactive discussion on social and political responsibilities. This in itself is a testimony to the amazing team work, planning, coordination, execution and professionalism that went into hosting the 2 day convention and the public event – Reviving the Social Legacy.
Of course our work is not done, it only got started, it’s just the beginning and these 2 days gave memories for a lifetime.
Some comments the kids/audience made during the public speaking event
- Watching news doesn’t equate to political awareness
- Social responsibility is not a chapter of a book, it means compassion
- Social Responsibility begins at home and is part of everyday life
- We need to give back more than what we take from the society
I will add more comments/reactions/interactions and memories in the coming days …
Memories from the Convention: As a fun activity we asked everyone to introduce not by just saying their names, but also say something that’s interesting about them and to everyone’s surprise we had a good mix of crazy, creative, talented individuals. We had someone who was/were
- An ICC Umpire in the making
- Passionate about acting and drama’s
- Classical dancers
- Hopelessly Romantic
- Day Dreamers
- Stand up comedians
- Story tellers
- Just crazy and passionate about politics
- Some interesting quotes
- I changed and now I will change my country
- Live happy and let others live happy (Use Johny Walker 🙂
Later that evening was an informal gathering, but no one had a clue how things would be, after all, we hardly knew each other. Except for the phone calls and the occasional or i should say the frequent emotional outbursts. But once we got under one roof, it was a riot, i meant a laughing riot. When we look back each one seemed to have a strong characteristic that almost type casted them that evening. For e.g. The Congo Man, the Status Updater, the Man from Houston, the Confused Philosopher, the Mass leader, the Jeans Lady – of course, these names are not as funny as the originals were, but these memories, I’m sure will last for a long time. Actually one of them even suggested that he wanted to characterize every single one and share it with the group, but i guess this is still a work in progress.
Hosting the public event: [Coming Soon … ]