Sunday, March 11, 2007

Rotary Club Election

Changing the way things are done can be risky, but it is generally worth doing. [Boring lead, I apologize.]

The most recent campaign for Rotary Club of Indianapolis, one of the largest/oldest in America, involved such change and risk. The change was the approach our team took: Serious, Sober, Content Rich. Our opponents continued a 22 year tradition of frivolity - Safe.

We pulled a pre-campaign stunt: introducing ourselves prior to the assigned campaign day exploiting a rule that allows a member to rise and introduce his/her guest; we used that opportunity to introduce ourselves to the amusement of the other members. We got noticed.

On campaign day, the other team assumed the stage, adorned with day-glow green tee shirts, 8.5" X 11" landscape printed keywords for campaign themes and just a few very simple PPT slides (that really only explained why they had called themselves the HAGS. Which really became BHAGS (instead of Spokes.) It stood for Big Hairy Audacious Goals. (This would make a lot of sense of you had read: James Collins and Jerry Porras's 'Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies' but from the reactions I observed, most of our members hadn't.) We never did learn about their complex 'eye' like logo. But that's for another blog about communication strategy: Keep It Simple.) [Now I need to apologize for the embedded parens.]

We, on the other hand, had a website, passed out Name Memory Cards which supported our theme: Every Rotarian Knows Every Rotarian, and presented what amounts to be a 'platform'. We developed a logo that presented key ideas, we used a Wiki to communicate among ourselves and used a 'gimmick' to demonstrate our Network theme: we paid out about 2000 feet of colorful crepe streamers 'connecting' (really wrapping) the audience in a virtual network to illustrate the way personal relationships create communication channels (ostensibly to enable members to do business with each other. I got worried that claustrophobic members would be alarmed!) But the biggest and most well received tactic was the use of a 5.5 minute video that introduced us to the audience; (economically produced by a member's video story company: Cantaloupe.tv.) There was no script - and I thought my own performance was ho-hum, but as Marshall McLuhen opined: The Medium is the Message.

One of our members created really cool name badges which included our logo; we also made silly banners that we wore like a collar - but hung backwards so when we sat facing the speaker our campaign was advertised to everyone behind us.

Another 'hit' was the text we had our announcer read. This made such an impression that some members that I regard as VIPs commented how good it was and one (the publisher of our monthly newsletter) asked for an electronic copy.

Altogether, our campaign broke with tradition and introduced a provocative goal - and that got us attention. One member remarked that he heard someone say: Imagine that: a SERIOUS campaign for the board. Imagine that: Every Rotarian should know every Rotarian. I was very pleased that those aspects of our campaign got the attention they deserved.

Finally, the hitch. During presentation, and for reasons that I'm still not sure about, the PPT displayed fine, but when I switched to the video all we got was audio and a blank screen! I felt mortified - here I was introduced as the A/V committee chair and I couldn't even get the video to play! After some fiddling around (about a minute and a half's worth) I got it running. The president of the club allowed me a 'do over' and the audience still mustered an applause when it was finished. (Multi-media is still so cool in most settings that it's OK if it comes off like starting a Model A.)

Afterwards, more than one member thought the faux pas wasn't off-putting at all. In fact, they gave me kudos for figuring it out under pressure. Luckily, suicide watch was not necessary!

Can a single election change the course of a venerable institution? I hope so. Our Rotary club is a very important part of our city and makes an impact in our world. As Margaret Mead said:
A small group of thoughtful people could change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.
Hopefully, we'll get elected and have a chance to transform the gimmicks of our campaign into the leadership needed to reestablish our club as an important force for good business and community building in Indianapolis.

1 comment:

Lana said...

Great work.