If you’ve ever been to a networking event such as a conference or meetup (like Toastmasters), it’s natural to ask – “What’s in it for me? What will I learn from the people at the event? What will the organizers and speakers teach me?”. While this is a totally fair question to ask, sometimes it made me feel deficient of knowledge and experience, that I had to participate and learn to get something out of it.
Not too long ago, as I start thinking about going to my next big tech event. I end up receiving an email from the organizers promoting the conference. I get so excited by the line up of speakers and their talks, the venue and location, which I never been before! I was so exhilarated for my next travel adventure and going to this event that I almost miss the barely readable words at the footer of the email that read “Want to volunteer? Click here!”. This immediately gets me thinking – “Huh, I wonder who are behind the scenes. This is an enormous event and I wonder how much work it’s put before, during and after each of these conferences…”. Without hesitation and a good dosage of curiosity I Immediately start composing a new email inquiring about this volunteering opportunity.
Not too long in just a few days, I receive a reply from one of the organizers; I was in! I’ve volunteered before at few smaller events, but this one wasn’t only going to the my first time, but I’d be also going to volunteer at an event that was expected to receive thousands of people! The venue? A hotel that had hosted six presidents, The Beatles and was were the Oscar statue was first sketched, on a napkin. Though those are not the type of things that fascinate me too much, I thought it was pretty cool 🙂
The day is finally here, and I hop on plane and travel all the way over to Los Angeles, CA. Where the conference is happening, and from day one I realize how much work is put into just to prepare things for the volunteers themselves. Most things were already unpacked and ready for us to begin organizing and sorting in preparation for the attendees. From filling up bags with some cool swags, to putting everything in place at the registration desks and making sure things are in order all around the venue, it took us hours, and I was very enthusiastic all the way throughout the first day.
The following day is finally time and I can’t wait to see how it’d all unfold. Thousands of people coming early morning to register and grab the best seats for the conference’s keynote speech and a first opportunity to network with their fellow other attendees. Right up-front, during the registration period signing people in, I get to greet and chat with so many people. For some, a few seconds to check them in, handout their badge, lanyard and wish them a great day ahead. For others, a first quick eye contact that open doors for more connection to happen on the days ahead. It’s fantastic to see people’s excitement in their eyes, it lights me up!
As a volunteer, I got to watch the most fascinating talks, was steps away from some of the brightest people our community has ever seen, met some of the most friendly people I’ve ever met and had close experience on what it takes to run the entire show. Would I have had such a blast hadn’t I decide to be at service to the community? I doubt it.
The most incredible and unforgettable experiences I’ve ever had in my life were rarely the ones I was receiving something, they were the ones where I was giving. Giving my time, my sweat and my heart. It’s never enough. Give to the people around you, your family, friends, your communities, and since we’re here, give to your fellow Toastmasters. 😉