Sure we can do it, and we deserve it

Our Chamber of Commerce Annual Dinner was last week. Every year we try to improve the event and make changes that will result in a more efficient program and a better experience for the participants. This year, in an effort to add some fun and better control award presentation times, we incorporated videos into the program. The videos replaced some of the live award presentations.

In the fall of 2016, I attended an event hosted by the Business Leaders for Michigan. They had incorporated videos into their program, which had gone quite well, so we used that model as a starting point. We discovered they had used an event company to help them with their program.

We contacted the event company, which is based in south Michigan, and had a meeting with them to discuss what we were trying to do. After the initial phone conversation and a few follow-up emails, they presented us with a proposal for our event. The proposal came with a price tag starting at $12,000, with add-on options that would cost us even more.

We definitely had some sticker shock. There was no way we were going to spend $12,000 to incorporate videos into our program. We knew we had to find a different way. We didn’t want to record our own videos because we wanted them to be higher quality than what we would be able to produce. We asked the guy who was already signed up to handle sound for our event and he said he could do our videos for us as well as incorporate them into our presentation for a much more reasonable price so we got to work.

The Annual Dinner went extremely well. The videos turned out just as we had hoped — professional yet fun. We achieved the goals we had in mind when we decided to make the change. Based on the attendee feedback, the new format was appreciated.

So what’s the point of my story? It seems that sometimes we don’t think we have the resources to get the best, the capability to handle anything better, that we don’t have access to the best, or we think that we simply don’t deserve better. And so we settle. But we don’t have to settle. We can do anything we want if we are creative and choose to view things in a different way.

For our videos, we started with the company we knew could do what we wanted. We had seen them in action. We knew they were capable and they had plenty of experience doing just what we were hoping to do. But the price tag didn’t work for us.

Instead of giving up, we found another way. We worked with our own guy to make it happen. This might not have been the usual work he does, but with a carefully laid plan, the ability to be flexible, and some creativity, we were able to get exactly what we wanted for our event.

It seems that sometimes people think that since we live in a rural area, that we can’t have the professionalism or event experience that we might enjoy when we go to a larger community. Why should we feel that way though? We deserve the best. We may not always have as easy of access or the same amount of choices, but we certainly have the same opportunity to make our events and our community as unique and as special as our experiences elsewhere.

My challenge to you is this: If you are involved on a board or committee that is responsible for hosting an event, spend some time thinking about how you can push the envelope with the guest experience. Think about how you can create a more professional, fun, and positive experience for your event participants. Now figure out a way to make it happen.

It takes work and it takes creativity. It will take trial and error and flexibility. But it is possible and we deserve it.

Jackie Krawczak is president/CEO of the Alpena Area Chamber of Commerce. Her column runs bi-weekly on Thursdays. Follow Jackie on Twitter @jkrawczak.