Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Field Staff Conference

Sunday, July 17 began the Fraternity Executives Association’s Field Staff Conference, where field staff (leadership and educational consultants, expansion  consultants, etc.) from fraternal organizations come together to enhance the development of inter-fraternal relationships, provide understanding on the deeper meaning of Greek life, and incorporate theories, skills and techniques that will benefit consultants while traveling.  The agenda for this year’s conference—which was held at the Hilton in downtown Indianapolis— included a session about mastering the art of conversation and social skills for consultants.  It also included professionalism and etiquette training, best practices for traveling smarter, and other strategies we consultants can utilize while on the road.
I don’t want to rehash the entire conference so I will touch upon my favorites:
On Monday, July 18, former U.S. Marine Guy Harris spoke to us about our personal leadership styles and using our personal style to our advantage.  The presentation went into the differences in out-going and reserved personalities and taught us how to recognize and work with others who have opposite leadership styles to maximize results.  This was very similar to a fundraising training session I attended for Penn State’s development office.  The concept about recognizing, respecting, and adapting to other personality, communication and leadership skills was very similar, but it was good to hear something similar again.
Another session that I really enjoyed was an etiquette seminar presented by Anthony Cawdron, who is the events coordinator at Purdue University.  He also teaches advanced service courses in the Hospitality and Tourism Management department at the university. He has a Masters degree in Hospitality and has held a variety of positions including banquet manager, restaurant manager, hospitality faculty in Switzerland and three years as a butler in two of England's finest stately homes; Blenheim Palace and Sutton Place.  Yes, I basically just dished out a long biography about Mr. Cawdron, but he was such a great presenter and has such amazing credentials, I couldn’t let it go unmentioned.  Now I’m not going to say I knew everything in that presentation, because I most definitely didn’t.  But what I am saying is that etiquette presentations—those many, many, MANY presentations over the years at the Logan House at Penn State Behrend—were very helpful.  Most of what Mr. Cawdron spoke about is addressed thoroughly by Behrend’s Housing and Food Service catering staff during their brief presentations.  And I also learned a lot from Mom Nonnie’s presentations over the years, so I felt fairly prepared going into it.  He spoke very quickly in an English accent, so my familiarity with etiquette standards helped me catch the things I had wondered about, such as how much to pour of white wine vs. red wine and when a group is eating at a buffet, how many people seated at the table while others are still in line is appropriate to begin eating. In case you’re wondering: white wine, one-half to two-thirds glass; red wine, one-third to one-half glass; and at least three people should be seated at your table if others are in line before you begin to eat. Mystery solved.  Mr. Cawdron did a wonderful job integrating humor into such a serious topic which unfortunately has such dying interest.  It was one of the best presentations of the conference, and I’m glad we all got to learn something from Mr. Cawdron.
David Stollman, founder of Campuspeak and assistant chapter adviser of the Alpha Sigma Tau chapter at New York University, gave an AMAZING presentation at the end of the day on Tuesday.  The presentation was geared mostly toward tips about how to be the best consultant we can be. Some things he suggested were the following:  Learn to network: we never know who we’ll meet on the road so we should meet everyone we possibly can, from alumnae to campus professionals to chatty Cathy on the plane to chapter members.  Learn your style of leadership and language:  he encouraged us to use our personal leadership, communication, and facilitation styles to the best of our ability and to watch our body language in intense situations.  Learn to tell a story:  great stories keep people engaged, can teach people important lessons, and make huge impacts. Learn to live this: as in learn to live our values, our organization and our mission long after our consulting years are over, because our ability to make an impact in the fraternal movement doesn’t just end once we leave our post as a consultant.  Learn to be a mentor: for many, we will be the only humanization of our national organization to the collegians so we should be willing to help to make long-lasting connections and be willing to help someone grow and succeed. And finally, learn to use a mentor. I saved this for last because I think I have and still do have some great mentors in my life, and I’m looking forward to helping someone else as much as they have helped me. This one hit the hardest for me because I wouldn’t be the person I am today without such great people.  David ended his presentation with an awesome video about the greatness that is happening in fraternity and sorority life across the country—everything from Tri Delta’s 2006 pledge to raise $10 million for St. Jude’s Hospital in 10 years (but meeting their goal in just 4 years!) to Penn State’s IFC/Panhellenic-sponsored THON, which is the largest student-run philanthropic effort in the world.  Even though I am not THON’s first supporter, just seeing how instrumental and influential THON is to the fraternal community was pretty breathtaking. I sure did snap to show my support, but I just wish a fellow Lion could’ve been there somewhere with me to share in the pride of our Penn State students.
It was great that the conference was open to consultants from both women’s and men’s organizations. It really added some great dynamic to the conversations and maximized our opportunities to run into friendly consultant faces while we are on the road. And what group of men doesn’t enjoy the company of some ladies, and vice versa, especially when we will be on the road interacting with our same-gender groups for the next how many months?
After the conference, we checked out of the Hilton and into our new hotel. You would think being out of the Hilton would be depressing, but not really.  Wireless in the rooms wasn’t free there, and it is here, so I’m very content!  We will be headed to headquarters tomorrow for our first AST specific training days, and I think it’s safe to say that we’re all looking forward to it!
I haven’t taken many pictures yet, but I plan to! In the meantime, here is one of the hotel room in which we stayed at the Hilton and one of the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument (even though it’s under construction) in downtown Indianapolis’s Monument Circle.


  1. Wow! The conference sounds lovely and it sounds like, while you knew "a lot" (I can't bring myself to remove the space, but still wanted to call attention to the alot creature), you learned some new things. How many different organizations were represented at the conference?

  2. :-)

    I forgot to include it (typical memory lapse) but 38 organizations were in attendance-- not sure how they were broken down into how many sororities and how many fraternities. It was pretty neat!