Time stretches, or shrinks, depending on the prospects that lie ahead. My experience since childhood proves it. The promise of strawberry and vanilla ice cream is fulfilled after what seems to be a lifetime, while the lash of a cane lands on the buttocks before you are aware that you committed a crime. This is utterly unfair.
As an incoming president of a Rotary club you’ll understands this well. Even though you are elected a year and a half before you assume office, the date arrives faster than an angry buffalo on steroids. You will barely have time to draft that masterpiece of a speech as you’ll be too busy managing a combative planning committee, dealing with caterers that are perpetually late, or shady DJs who threaten to skip the event unless they get full payment in advance.
Organising a successful handover ceremony doesn’t have to be like dodging matatus at the City Stadium roundabout during rush hour. In fact preparations that add dignity and decorum to the proper transfer of authority from one club president to another should be both enjoyable and fulfilling. It is the first taste of your leadership that your members will get and you should ensure that all the guests leave with the impression that the the right man, or woman, got the job.
There are three things that you need to remember as you prepare for this once-in-a-lifetime event. Let us start with the basic fact that this celebration is for your guests; it’s not for you. Consider this for a moment, Jesus turned water into wine for the wedding guests, not for himself, and for the same reason you should arrange the flow of events to ensure that your guests are pampered and entertained.
Cater to your guests tastes as you select the venue, chose the menu and hire the band. The debate on the keynote speaker should be centred around what the audience would like to hear and the ability of that person to deliver the message credibly and with pizzazz. Over the years I have found that best speakers are people who have had extraordinary experiences, have risen to the top of their field, or have achieved success in something new and innovative. Most importantly they should be skilled in public speaking and able to tell a tale that is both invigorating and rewarding.
Suitable candidates include managing directors of major companies, established celebrities, pioneers of futuristic technology like artificial intelligence, and leaders of organisations that are effective in driving positive social change.
The next thing to focus on is timing, because big wigs have the shortest attention spans. 45 minutes should be allocated to the entire set of speeches, and not more, because after that peoples minds wonder or turn to social media. You should avoid situations where your high ranking keynote speaker loses the attention of the audience as this will lead to embarrassment for both of you, and don’t blame anyone if they never return your calls again.
Time it so that your guests can socialise before the proceedings and I recommend a pre-dinner cocktail that allows guests to catchup with old friends or meet new people . After the cocktail allow them to have their dinner at a casual pace so that they can enjoy conversations over their meal.
Once they have served their dessert you can initiate the formal part of the event with speeches that will run for 45 minutes or less. In order to limit the length of the outgoing and incoming presidents speeches, you may defer the presentation of gifts and introducing board members to a special club assembly held a week prior the installation ceremony.
After the formal part is dispensed with, you may proceed with the entertainment which should include music and dance, and not only confined to a raffle draw. When people are grooming themselves before a gala, I can assure you that they are not thinking about how many raffle tickets they will buy. On the contrary they are thinking about how good they will be on the dance floor. So give them what they’ve come for; good music and an ample dance floor.
Finally, when planning your day, pay attention to the little things because they complete the whole picture. Send out your printed invitation cards well in advance so that your guests can block their diaries and confirm their attendance. Make sure that you approach potential sponsors early if you intend to have them subsidise the cost of the event by providing cash or goods in kind. Spend time at the venue planning the seating arrangements and checking the equipment to ensure that everything runs smoothly.
Take care of your VIP guests and keep an eye on them because this is one way of showing your appreciation for their encouragement. Print your menu cards and the schedule of events and place them on the tables so that your guests can follow the proceedings. Don’t forget to rehearse the flow of activities too, so that you can anticipate problems and eliminate bottle necks. Once the party is over, remember to send thank you notes to your keynote speaker, your sponsors and anyone that offered significant support.
The installation ceremony is a metaphor for your leadership because it ties together the most important elements that you need to fulfil your potential. It requires of you to take initiative to understand your members and your guests so that you can respond appropriately; to exceed expectations by creating an outstanding and memorable experience for your biggest supporters; and to nurture relationships as you take time to develop your theme and put the pieces into place to achieve greatness together.