Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Back from the dead- I mean the midsingles conference!

For the past several months I've been so completely engrossed in planning the midsingles conference that my blog had to take a back burner. If I had time to sit, relax, and write like that, I had time to be working on the conference. 
But the conference is finally over! And I'm slowly coming back to life! The recovery period from the conference has taken a little (lot) longer than I anticipated. For some reason I thought all I would need was a few days to sleep and unwind and I'd be back to normal. That was just crazy talk! Instead it has taken 3 full weeks of sleeping and just letting it all go! 
My spark of imagination and creativity is starting to come back as well. I actually want to write again. Finally!
Which reminds me that I haven't actually blogged about the conference itself. Maybe I will write something more descriptive later. But for now, here are the details-

We had 510 attendees. Considering when we started this process we were planning on 350-400, that was an overwhelming and amazing turnout. 
Our conference was different from all other conferences ever for several reasons. But the biggest and most important reason was that early on I had a phone call with Elder Clayton Christensen, who advised me to try something different. I took his advice and that changed everything. Most conferences take an approach of entertain and educate. That's all they do. They figure all it takes is you stick a bunch of singles all in one place and keep them occupied, and they will meet and marry. Right? Isn't that how it all works? 

Well, according to Elder Christensen, there is far more to it than that. He told us that if you want to get to know someone, you need to solve a problem with them. That's how you really see what a person is like, and learn about them. So he suggested that we have him speak for an hour about the problem and problem solving. We then had another speaker give more specifics on the problem. From there, we broke everyone up into small groups to "solve" the problem. 
The problem we chose was the singles program. We asked 510 single adults to sit down in groups of 20 and come up with their ideas for how they would restructure the singles program in the church. 
I was so nervous! This method had been tried in Boston and I had heard very good things. But it was very hard to pitch this idea to people and get them excited. I felt like I spent months trying to hype it up via word of mouth. 

Blessedly, people loved this. They loved solving the problem and feeling like they made a difference. They loved getting to meet people. They really liked this very new format! I am getting so much feedback about how much people enjoyed the small groups. I am so glad we did it!

My big thing that I wanted from the very beginning of the planning process was wanting a matchmaking opportunity. When I was in high school I went to a youth conference where we took a personality test in advance, and when we arrived at the conference they gave us a list of the people we matched with. I really wanted to make this happen, but I have to admit, making it happen was one of the most difficult parts of this conference. Finally in the eleventh hour a great possibility came up and we made it work. Again, I am so glad we did this! It turned out great!!  When people arrived on Friday night we gave them their list of matches. Immediately people dove right into it, looking around to meet their matches. I have to laugh about it now, but for a few minutes we actually had to stop the party and convince people to walk into the main room! Everyone was clogging up the reception area while they stood around and looked at their lists. Nobody was walking into the actual party! It was the first of many times I would hear myself say, "this is a good problem to have." 
And believe me, I said that a lot over the course of the weekend. 

I'm not in the mood right now to give a play by play of the whole weekend. So I'll stop here and save the rest for some other day. 
Getting to plan this conference was a huge responsibility and a great blessing. I have made so many wonderful friends and seen the best in so many people. I stretched my own abilities (and patience and endurance) farther than ever knew was possible before. And every last bit of it was worth it to see so many people enjoying themselves and making new friends. Out of 510 attendees, we only had one negative feedback email. (And that person really was quite ridiculous. She stayed for 30 minutes, didn't participate in anything, and left. Her loss.) 
When I got this calling back in January, I went home and cried. I didn't cry because I knew it would be a ton of work. I cried because I knew that when you try to put on an event for 510 (350) people to come closer to God, the adversary is going to work his hardest on you to keep you from reaching your goal. And that had me scared and humbled enough to cry. 

And I cried the day it was all over and we survived. We won. We pulled it off! 
The last thing I want to say is that none of this could have happened without our amazing team of volunteers. I had an incredible co-chair/partner in Derek. We never once divvied up who would handle what, except that I insisted he handle the money. We just equally carried the weight and helped each other out. (Ladies, I can't stop singing his praises. He's pretty dang amazing.) We had 4 women (Nichole, Valerie, Kimberly, and Candace) who each carried the weight of a big event/detail (FOOD!). Derek and I handled everything else, and trusted them to do their parts. All in all, we had 121 volunteers kick in and help pull this conference off. (510 attendees and 121 volunteers- is there any wonder we were exhausted?) 
Co-chair Derek and me acting like we're not ridiculously tired and running solely on caffeine. 

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