Last week, we attended the Tri-State Camp Conference which was filled with many wonderful and valuable professional development sessions, networking opportunities and a vendor hall packed from wall to wall with camp specific items including equipment for activities, special event enhancements, facility improvements and more!
I started with a session titled “Equipping Staff to Manage Behavior” which was very informative. Managing camper behavior begins with establishing core values. We at Shibley have our GREEN values – GENEROSITY, RESPECT, ENDURANCE, EMPATHY AND NUTURE. When impressing upon the campers to do their best, it is always important to reiterate the values and tell them what our expectations are. Giving campers behavior-specific praise and detailing what they did right is critical for a child’s understanding- “Great job” is nice, but detailing the behavior you witnessed reinforces the desired behavior in the child and their peers. Don’t take for granted that a child or staff member knows why they are being praised.
Since I spend much of my time on staff recruitment and staff training, I also attended sessions titled, “Identifying, Avoiding and Addressing Staff Toxicity” & “Recruit Staff Like Campers.”
Here are some takeaways:
- Ask the potential employee how they want to be addressed and what their preferred method of communication is (email vs. phone vs. text message).
- Staff interaction at training is far better than lecture style sessions hour after hour.
- Giving staff clear expectations is the foundation of training.
- Staff evaluations are very effective after week 2 and week 5. Do not wait until half the summer is gone to begin these.
At Michael Brandwein’s 25th Anniversary Session, “Back to the Basics” we learned that BRICKS are good but the MORTAR that keeps the bricks together is more important. Bricks are the attractions – our Green Giant, Kid/Car Wash, pools, adventure parks, etc. The mortar is the staff that creates unforgettable experiences and interactions among our campers.
What a great conference! It’s always great to get together with camp friends from near and far. I went to some informative sessions about staff training and development which are sure to help improve our all-staff orientations. My favorites were titled, “Level Up Your Staff Development-Before, During and After Camp” & “Help Your Staff Turn Stressed Parents to Resilient Parents.” Each year I take away some really great information from amazing camp professionals and youth development professionals that have been doing this for years.
This year my biggest takeaway also came from Michael Brandwein’s 25th Anniversary Session, “Back to the Basics”. The title itself drew me in. Over the last few months, all we have been saying is- we have to get back to basics and keep things simple in staff training. We compiled a list of great activities described by Brandwein to use in our trainings before and throughout the summer. I also really enjoyed a session called, “Fun, Hands-On Cardboard STEM Projects for All Ages and Levels.”
I attended a few sessions focused on how we can improve upon our food service at camp titled, “Food Trends and Allergies in Today’s Campers and Staff” and “Demystifying Special Food Diets”. The focus of these sessions was current food trends and how we can make our dining experience safer for our campers with food allergies and offer more variety to all our campers and staff.
I also enjoyed sessions focused on maintenance and general camp operations including, “Using Today’s Technology to Improve Your Camp and Create New Opportunities with ‘Maintenance Mindsets” at Camp.” Throughout the conference, many camp professionals share their best practices. I took away several new ideas to help our administration team streamline intercamp communications.
The best part of the conference for me is walking through the vendor hall to look for new activities to bring to camp. Many food vendors are there also, and we have the opportunity to taste new snack and lunch items. I found some brand-new snack and lunch options that we will be adding to the camp menu for this upcoming summer.
My main focus at camp is customer service and creating an inclusive, nurturing community for our campers and staff. I really enjoyed the session titled, “Delivering World-Class Customer Experience: Lessons from the Mouse” given by a former Disney employee who now runs a Customer Service consulting company. One of the many topics in his presentation was how we can create daily “wow” moments by doing simple things that take up almost no time at all.
He talked about housekeepers at Disney taking the time to tuck in stuffed animals or prop them up in front of the TV to make it look like they were enjoying themselves while the family was out at a park. This can change the whole end-of-day “vibe” for a family after exiting the park exhausted, with a lot less money then they started with and one day closer to the end of the vacation.
The Keynote was given by Charles Duhigg, author of “The Power of Habit.” One part of his presentation that stuck out was the “LATTE” method of receiving feedback. This was developed by Starbucks, as you may have guessed. LATTE stands for: Listen, Acknowledge, Take Action, Thank & Encourage more feedback. This applies to how we handle feedback of all kinds from children, parents and staff during the summer.
Some other informative sessions I attended were called, “Understand & Plan: Evolving Industry Trends on Sexual Abuse and Prevention”, “5 Lessons I Learned Starting Music Festivals that Made Me a Better Camp Director” and “Applying Best Practices from Corporate America to Camp”.
We all look forward to returning to the conference next March!