By Quentin Wodon, a member of the Rotary Club of Capitol Hill
For the past four years, I have conducted evaluations of the district conference we hold in District 7620 using surveys administered through the web. This year our conference was different, and some of the things we learned I thought could be valuable to share with Rotary members everywhere.
This year our conference was shorter and cheaper to attend. On the first day, attendees had several opportunities to participate in community service projects with local NGOs. We achieved substantially higher attendance (425 registrations) than previous conferences.
Our conference focused largely on fun and fellowship, with only a few sessions on Rotary matters. And it involved multiple locations with transportation provided from one location to the other. Because the conference was located in an area with several Rotary clubs nearby, many participants were also able to attend without having to book a hotel night.
Did the new format of the conference work? A total of 155 participants responded to the evaluation survey. Almost half of participants rated the conference as better than previous conferences. This is slightly below the results for last year’s conference, where 60 percent of the responses rated it higher than the previous year. But those results are still impressive given that for the two years before that, most respondents rated the conferences about the same as previous experiences.
The survey rated some 25 different sessions, with a criteria of having at least nine respondents per session to pull reliable conclusions. Six of the 25 sessions got 75 percent or more “very good” ratings, and these were two of the service project sessions, the high school Four Way Test speech contest, the Interact session, a Saturday evening dinner with Dean Rohrs our guest speaker, and the subsequent Rock Tenor music performance. So service projects, interactions with youth, and the Saturday capstone events stole the show!
The survey revealed there is still room for improvement. When asked what types of sessions they would like to see more off, respondents said they would want sessions discussing successful projects, and debates/discussions on Rotary and its future. More information on our conference evaluations is available on my blog, Rotarian Economist.
What have you found works at your district conference?
Thanks for this comment. I agree that one day is best, personally. There used to be a rule that the conferences should be 2-3 days in length and I am not sure if this still applies. On a conference’s objectives, the main trade-off is probably to find the right balance between fun/fellowship and learning/action, and this could actually change in terms of balance from one year to the next… If you are interested in our evaluations, a paper on the first three three years of evaluation is available on the “blog series” page of my blog, and I will put the full results for our last conference evaluation there in July. Thanks again.
This year our District also decided to shorten the event from three days to two. This gives more people the ability to be a part of the full conference. We leaned HEAVY with a focus on youth services and utilized our Interact club as KEY players. The Interact club enjoyed being a part of the conference as they introduced speakers, entertainment, and even completed a service project during the conference. District 5630 knows that one of the keys to a successful conference and Rotary in general is to engage our youth and show them the value of Rotary. The community hero awards were given to one person from every community that has a Rotary club, these heroes need not be Rotarians which allowed more exposure to our communities! We had one of the most famous Rotoractors, Mitty Chang come and talk to us about building a “YES” culture in our clubs. We gleamed knowledge from Rotarians across the District to provide short and engaging breakout sessions that provided everyone with more tools to help attract and keep people in Rotary. We also did the passing of the pin ceremony after an awesome awards night on Saturday, everyone was already there anyway right?! We started awards night with “Red carpet” and a step and repeat banner for GREAT pictures of all of Rotary family. Check out the fun from our conference on our District page https://www.facebook.com/rotary5630
The best district conference I ever attended was a one-day conference at the South San Francisco Conference Center. Everyone went home at the end of the day. My personal take on it is that much of what we do in “official” gatherings is driven by tradition and “what we’ve always done,” rather than on real needs. I applaud your desire to “change it up,” but I think we ought to first determine what the objectives are, and then build the event around accomplishing them, rather than starting with the assumption that we have to have an event, and then trying to figure out how best to use the time.
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