Last night I enjoyed dinner with a room full of talent and optimism. They were the speakers for our For Action Conference, which starts at 2:00 PM today at Focus on the Family. After eating, I delivered three important items to them, and in a funny sort of way, each represented the weekend and their contributions to what is coming up.
I had cool polo shirts custom stitched with their names on them. The speakers and administrators (there are 12 of us) will be sporting these for the first couple days of the camp. We do have a subtle dress code (casual), but there will be individual style that flows at the conference and in each of the speakers.
Style. Each of the speakers have this. Travis Herche is one of the most stylish guys I know, and he brought his even more stylish wife, Christina, with him. I’m breaking the mold for one of my speakers, Andrew Pudewa, who announced that he has never given a speech without a suit and tie. That’s his style, one of the “patriarchs” of the speaking group, but he’s looking forward to the opportunity to broaden his horizons a bit.
We are asking the students to tap into their own talents and gifts and figure out how they can contribute to others. We’re even asking them to think of specific products and services. I think of one our speakers, Cynthia, my daughter, who has developed quite an awesome style of her own in her blogging and publishing opportunities. I hope all the attendees walk in the speakers’ footsteps in their own way. In style.
When each of the attendees registered, they submitted a survey and a photo of themselves. Like a top-secret government briefing, I passed out a 50-page report and ran some numbers on their interests. Last night we took some time to talk through some commonalities and other interesting data on those who are coming to the conference. Each of the speakers took the report to their hotels to study up on the students, get to know them a bit better before meeting them today.
Maybe that sounds creepy to you. Perhaps if we were NSA agents or something it would be, but we aren’t. We are dreamers who are each living out dreams the best we can, and we want to take the time to befriend a group of younger dreamers and light up their lives. The speakers will be giving a lot to the attendees — their time, their attention, their speeches — but I suspect we’ll all feel we received more.
Hey, it isn’t like the attendees don’t know who the speakers are. Josh Taylor and his brother, Jordan, are extremely transparent on their YouTube channel Blimey Cow. I got to peek into Josh’s speech outline, and I can’t wait for the attendees — millennials, just a few years behind Josh — to be inspired by Josh’s vision and work ethic. Like all the speakers, Josh will be giving, the For Action attendees will be receiving, and it will be awesome.
I’ve been running debate camps, like, for ever. The For Action Conference is different, there are many people attending who aren’t in the academic debate community, and half the speakers don’t come from this background. That’s all okay. How to debate isn’t what this is about. It’s about how to love and live.
I’ve never developed such a thorough program as the For Action Conference Program. It’s a coil bound book with agenda, notes and outlines, even writing activities. I passed them out to the speakers and we paged through some of the highlights of the weekend.
Here’s another thing different than my debate camps: each speaker is speaking ONCE. That’s it. My debate coaches typically teach all day, but I told these speakers to do one thing: “In one hour, teach the next generation the most important thing they need to know to succeed.” They narrowed down from that premise, and that’s what they’ll be learning this weekend. Success from the best.
What will the speakers be doing for the rest of the weekend? They’ll be fellow attendees. They’ll be sitting in the crowd, hanging out at breaks, learning along with them during the other speeches and discussions. They aren’t flying in, speaking, and leaving. They’re actually part of the conference, and I love that about this conference. They love that, too.
I know speakers like Taryn DiMartile will relish this. She’s marketing director for College Plus. In the profiles, the most teachable item on our list is post-secondary education, so her expertise will be in demand. She’s also a platform builder herself, a blogger and an encourager with, as mentioned already, her own style. She’ll be giving and receiving like the rest of us.
Perhaps you now regret not signing up. Don’t worry, we’ll likely be doing another For Action Conference in the future. It hasn’t even started yet, and I’m seeing the fruits of our labor already.