It was January 19, 2018 when I first stumbled on YALI Network Facebook group. Immediately, I registered, took my first pledge, and complete the course “Effective Communications For Healthy Outcomes.” Interestingly, on January 25, 2018 I got a message encouraging me to hold a #YALILearns session and report back to earn the YALI Network Health Advocate Certificate.
Because of my work commitment at that point, I thought it would be impossible to organize such an important session at that short notice. But because the call was inline with my goal to help others become a thought leader in their community, I accepted the challenge.
Fast forward to Saturday, February 24, 2018, I held my first #YALILearns session amid fanfare exactly a month after I got the notice.
In this post, I want to briefly share 10 lessons I learned while organizing my session.
- Don’t Despise Small Beginning – One of the first lessons I learned from my mentor as an entrepreneur is not to despise the days of small beginnings. If I capitalize on the short time I had to prepare for the #YALILearns session, the fear of failure would have taken a toll on me. However, I was realistic in my expectation and already concluded that come what may, I must hold the session no matter how large or small the audience. Don’t be afraid of what will happen if people don’t turn up for your session, be afraid of what will happen if the knowledge you have dies with you.
- Prepare – If you fail to prepare for any session, you are preparing to fail. Despite my commitment and busy work schedule, I make sure I took time to prepare for important aspects of the session. I followed the advice for session preparation in #YALILearns toolkit as well as took relevant courses on the YALI website. That information helped me at one point or the other to have a successful session.
- Budget Appropriately – Because I am new to the YALI platform, I don’t have any material I can use to brand the session such as t-shirts, banners, or other materials. So, I had to budget for all of these. I designed a banner and went to the printing press to print it. I bought a shirt and customized it as a YALI t-shirt. I printed YALI branded materials for the session from my budget. Lastly, I spent money advertising the session online and on social media. Even though I had a few days to invite people to the session, I am happy that the event venue is branded as a #YALILearns arena and I was personally branded. At the end of the day, although I exceeded my budget a little, I was happy that the session was a success.
- Follow Up Interest – If you have been involved in organizing events before, you will know that the attention span of people is very short. A lot of people who promise to attend your session or who showed interest may disappoint you in the last minute. So, to avoid last minute disappointment, I followed up with those who showed interest in my session online, with SMS, and through phone calls. At the end of the day, majority of those who could not make it had apologized in advance and that helped me to budget appropriately and avoid feeling disappointed.
- Research Your Subject – Although the subject to be discussed during the session was already covered in the lesson video, I still took time to do additional research on the subject. Thanks to my preparation, I was able to answer more serious questions during the session that were not covered in the video. That made me an authority on the subject and build the trust of the audience in my message.
- Make Good Use of Social Media – As a social media strategist, I know the importance of social promotion for events, especially when your audience is youths. I fully utilize the social media tools and resources at my disposal based on my experience. It is worth mentioning that 100% of my audience are from my social media campaigns and promotions. The use of social media helped me to cut down on budget and allowed me to fully utilize the little time I had to prepare for the event.
- Collaborate with Others – One mountain they say does not make a forest. No matter how superman you are, don’t try to prepare for your session alone. You may have to reach out to family members, neighbors, co-workers or friends. When the going got tough, I reached out to some others who have had similar events in the past and co-workers to assist. The help I received came in handy and helped me have a successful session.
- Make the Session Interactive – Although I was meeting most members of my audience for the first time, I tried to be as friendly as possible. I kept the atmosphere friendly and everybody felt relaxed enough to contribute to the conversation. That atmosphere helped them have a sense of belonging and they were able to express themselves. It is important to understand your audience and design methods for drawing out those who are overly reserved to join in the conversation. These are communication skills and it’s part of what should go into your preparation for your session. Of course that is a subject for another day.
- Provide Call-To-Action – After your session, it is important to let your audience know the action you want them to take and follow up appropriately. Your session is successful when your audience takes home actionable advice and implements it. Be sure to let your audience know exactly what you want them to do after the session and if possible provide help on how they can get what they need to get the job done.
- Capitalize On Your Success – In my local Yoruba language in Nigeria, there is a popular saying that “It’s the first seed of a corn that is difficult to remove.” Basically, when you remove one seed from a corn, there will be space to remove the rest seeds easily. The same can happen with you if you are a first-timer in organizing a session. The anxiety and the expectations may put you off, but remember, your first session doesn’t have to be perfect. Trust me, after your first experience, you should be able to capitalize on your success or failure and have a more engaging session in your next trial.
Interested in learning more about #YALILearns? Learn how you can facilitate your own session on our #YALILearns page.
Jetro Olowole is a YALI Network member from Nigeria who shared his experience on the YALI Network Face2Face group. He is also a member of the YALICare Wellpreneurs Network. To ask Jetro questions, contact him via firstname.lastname@example.org.
The views and opinions expressed here belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the YALI Network or the U.S. government. YALI Voices is a series of podcasts, videos and blogs contributed by members of the YALI Network.