This past weekend in Tampa I spoke with a first time volunteer who had attended the events before (in Tampa and other cities) and he said that he had been really surprised and impressed by the amount of work that the event requires. I think he was disappointed a little that he had not realized before, but in fairness we strive to make our events look easy. We show up, hopefully endure a minor wait to check in, and then off we go to learn and network, probably thinking little about who got up early to pick up the donuts and who is taping signs on the doors and all the rest. Because we make it look easy, there’s a human tendency to think setting it all up was easy. It’s easier the second time than the first time, and so on, but it’s never going to reach the point that it doesn’t require effort.
Should we remind the attendees how much work was required so they can be grateful? Of course not!
No, what we should do is encourage people to volunteer. It’s not easy, but every volunteer you find becomes a stake holder. Some will volunteer once, some one will return every year, and some will grow to take larger roles in the event. Whether they volunteer again or not, they’ll have a different view of events ever after (hopefully a good one).
To my volunteer friend I say this – thank you!