by Derek Muller
Welcome back to summer camp! You’ve booked your trips and entertainment, secured your basic supplies, and drafted your calendar of events. Your summer staff is on the payroll. Nothing can go wrong!
It’s the night before camp, and your email won’t stop buzzing. Parents have a million questions, and they’ve waited until the last minute to ask them. You answer their questions about lunches, medications, daily activities, staffing ratios, camp-appropriate clothing, and anything else that may be included in those emails. NOW you’re ready for tomorrow.
The morning comes, and you drive to camp. Parents immediately launch questions at you. Your counselors aren’t entirely sure what they should be doing with the kids as they’re signed in. When you finally get a chance to breathe, your mental to-do list is maxed out. You know you can’t do all of this by yourself, so now you need to delegate.
We all love the idea of delegating, but it’s very difficult for us in practice. It’s not because we’re control freaks. It’s hard because it involves a great deal of communication, and communicating effectively is challenging. When we develop our camps, festivals, and programs, it’s easy for us to picture every detail in our heads. Externalizing it for others takes intentionality and perspective.
Communication is a complex topic to tackle in a single blog post, so here are some quick tips on communication that I’ve found helpful in my career. They are framed around summer camp, but they can be translated to planning other programs and your community festivals.
Put It In Writing
Creating documents is tedious and time-consuming. However, they are necessary to provide clear information. Some documents that I’ve found helpful are:
• Registration Guides
• Parent Handbooks
• Staff Handbooks
A simple email previewing the coming week works wonders. Sure, you probably shared the information for the whole season in your handbook or beginning of the year welcome email, but people forget. Sending timely reminders is key to effective communication with program participants and parents. Include your staff on these emails so they know what parents are being told.
Assign Tasks (Delegate)
How many times have you ended a conversation with, “Great! We’ll do that.”? There’s a good chance the task was either not completed, or that it was done twice. Delegating isn’t being pushy. By clarifying who is responsible for specific tasks, the potential for miscommunication and conflict is minimized. If you clearly task your Camp Director with creating the rosters for the upcoming week, they will get done. If you leave it as either you or your Camp Director will create the rosters for the upcoming week, you’ll end up with zero or two copies of the roster. Never leave a conversation without clearly defining the next action and who is responsible.
Use the Right Tools
There is a seemingly infinite number of communication channels and apps. While they were all designed to enhance our communication, using too many of these tools complicates communication. Meet with your team and choose the channels that will be used to communicate, and when each means will be used.
Keeping these four concepts in mind won’t completely end your communication troubles, but you will experience a much more streamlined process that keeps parents and staff alike on the same page.