I know what you are thinking – “Dave is trying to get us to hire him to be a speaker for our staff training”. Sorry to disappoint, but that is not what I am doing. I am trying to get you to hire an outside speaker for your staff training this year though. I have always made a habit of having guest come in and do a kick-off keynote, some workshops or some specific topic that they are experts in during my staff training time at camp. Here are a few reasons why:
1. They will hear from you enough – I always assumed that during the course of the summer with meals in the dining hall, staff meetings, campfires and whatever other times I happened to stand up and start talking my staff was going to hear from me. I need to set the tone for staff training, but it is okay for me to have someone else come in and talk. I am not an expert in everything (see #2).
2. I am not the expert in everything – there are a few things that I am passionate about leading the training in, but for most everything else I am going to find the best people I can to talk about the subject. It might be a parent talking about parent expectations, a Chick-fil-a general manager to talk about customer service, an exceptional counselor to talk about cabin management – you get the idea.
3. A different voice carries more weight – this one drives me crazy, but it is true. I can say something over and over again, but if I bring in an outside trainer and they say the same thing I did my staff will remember it better and think it has more authority because it is not their “crazy director just spouting off at the mouth on one of his rants”.
4. It helps the speaker – I have hired trainers to come in who that is there full time job, I have hired camp directors who just do a couple of trainings a year and I have hired people who have never done a training before, but I know that they knew their stuff. What a great compliment to pay someone than to ask them to come speak to your staff. It might help them pay the bills and it might just be the esteem boost they needed.
Okay, since I have hired a few speakers in my career and I have heard a lot of camp trainers at conferences over the years I will give a short list of people I would recommend and why (all of these listed below I would classify as practical and affordable).
1. Jim Cain – I have had Jim in a few times over the years and heard him at several conferences. Here is why you should hire Jim: your staff will use the things he teaches them the entire summer! He does a great job of teaching useable skills to help with group dynamics and cabin culture.
2. Forrest Perry – Forrest is the best I have ever seen at leading games and songs in a summer camp environment. He is high energy, funny and your staff will love him. He also is a camp director so what he is teaching your staff he is actually doing at his camp.
3. Dan Weir – I have never hired Dan, but I have heard him speak at camp conferences. He does an incredible job of tackling the technology/camp dynamic. If you need someone to cover social media and camp, should you allow technology in your camp and technologies affect on campers he is your guy.
4. Connecticut Camp Guys – I have heard Mark and Patrick speak a number of times and they do a great job of communicating to the camp directors and to the counselors and program staff. They both direct large day camps in the Northeast and so the things they are covering they practice on a regular basis.
5. Mike D’Avria – yes, I know that Mike is my co-founder of CampLeadership.org, but I have to be honest and say he is one of the best when it comes to communicating with counselor level staff. I don’t know if this is good or bad (let’s say it is good), but he still thinks like a counselor, but understands the importance of the work from the time he spent as a camp director.
Some of you might be thinking any of the following things:
1. I know my staff better than anyone and so therefore I should train them – this is true and you can share things with your guest speaker that you would like them to focus on. Remember, sometimes it works better if they hear it from someone besides you.
2. What if I hire someone that is better than me and my staff like them more than me? – If I hire someone I hope they are better than me! Yes, my staff might think the guest is smarter, better looking, younger, more fun, more interesting, but that can’t get in the way of us providing the best training opportunities for them.
3. I can’t afford to pay an outside speaker – Most camps can afford to pay for what they think is a priority. If money is really an issue you might be able to “swap” some training time with a camp professional that you know.
Staff training will be here in about 5 months and now is a good time to start thinking about who you would like to help make your training great this year. Good luck and if you know any staff training experts that I have missed let me know.