Making Room on Your Plate

By Kimberly Hoffman, CMP, DMCP
Director, Event Services at
Accent Indy

I’ll start this with a disclaimer: I am NOT a perfect volunteer, coworker, or human. I’m really quite far from perfect – but with a little self-awareness, I’ve learned some things. These things are not gospel, and my way is most certainly not the highway – but I hope something here inspires you, makes you think, or leads to more happiness in your daily life.

It’s no secret that we take on a lot by choosing the events industry. Our time, attention, and energy are constantly demanded, and our plates are simply overflowing. With the start of the new year, it’s only natural to want to reevaluate where we’re putting our efforts – cutting back on the things that prevent us from achieving balance / harmony, and identifying areas where there might be room for more fulfillment or personal development.

Without question, it’s important to say “no” when something doesn’t serve you. However, I’ve learned that it’s even more important to say “yes” when it does serve you or when it might. Here are three questions I try to work through when a new opportunity arises (personally and / or professionally):

What are my foundational beliefs / values? Can this opportunity help me tap in to those values?

First things first, your values can (and will) evolve. What serves you today might not be a fit next year – and that’s OKAY! Assess what is important to you, right now – be it family, career advancement, a sense of community, or an ongoing mission to find the best slice of pizza in the US. Try not to let the influence or opinion of others determine what your core values are, as these are what make you wonderfully and uniquely you.

From there, consider the opportunity and whether it aligns with these values. If there’s a chance for enrichment, great! If it doesn’t align, is that because the organization might be in need of your wit, wisdom, or compassion? Or is it simply not a fit?

Personally, I deeply value learning in all shapes and forms. I try to learn every day from people who do things differently than I do (again, my way is not the highway), and I am constantly evaluating my own habits and practices as I continue to grow up. I’ve served as an association chapter volunteer and board member under several incredible professionals, and the skills / tips / tricks I’ve picked up from them have been invaluable as I’ve grown in my own career. I’ve found value in seeking continued education – even if a topic doesn’t apply to my daily work, it helps me find compassion and appreciation for others in our industry. Sometimes value isn’t obvious in an opportunity, but it might reveal itself in an unexpected way over time!

Are there opportunities available that could develop my skills where I’m not exactly the strongest?

Volunteering should be a two-way street – yes, it’s nice to give back to a cause or organization that you believe in, but have you thought about how these opportunities are benefiting you? It’s okay (and smart) to be selfish as you choose where to spend your time volunteering and on professional development.

When I first began volunteering with my current professional association, I was a member of the Education Committee. Yes, I had already planned events at Accent – but choosing and contracting speakers (and on a budget!) wasn’t something I had experience in. I saw value in learning more about this skill, as I thought it might give me a better idea of what my clients have to do for their meetings. Once I got the hang of things, I stepped up to be the Committee Chair as I didn’t have leadership experience in the industry just yet.

After a few years on the Board of Directors in an Education role, I pursued a spot in Communications – my weakest area of knowledge within our association. Here, I learned programs like Slack, Canva, and MailChimp. I’ve learned the back end of two websites, and have been involved in a total site redesign – both experiences that make me more comfortable when talking tech with colleagues and clients. Currently, I’m sitting in the role of President Elect where I’m focused on LISTENING, observing, and looking at things in a big-picture setting.  This will ALWAYS be a work in progress.

Ok, Kimberly, enough with the soapbox. What’s the big idea?

There’s something to be said for getting uncomfortable, acknowledging our faults/areas of opportunity, and being vulnerable. In order to absorb new things, we need to create space for them. That might mean letting go of something else, or being more flexible with what we are already working with.

What is my time worth?

Call it what you want – here we’re talking pros vs cons, risk vs reward, and opportunity cost. First things first, know your value – when an opportunity presents itself, have a clear understanding of the investment that you’d be making (time, $$, energy).  What price are you willing to pay?

In volunteering, does the value you bring to the role or opportunity outweigh the value coming back to you? In that case, is service / giving back one of your core values?

While it might seem like a long shot to take on one more thing, it could be manageable and beneficial if you can make room by making the most of your time elsewhere. There is a wealth of information online on perfecting the art of time management and working smarter, not harder.

I wish there was a less cliché phrase for it, but you truly do get out what you put in when it comes to engaging in an association. Volunteering is a perfect place to start reaping those benefits, as you’re quickly submerged in the culture and happenings of your community.

After exploring these three areas, it’ll usually be pretty clear as to whether something is a good fit. At the end of the day, it’s best to go with your gut – but I challenge you to consider whether there just might be room on your plate for one more (right) thing.

Here’s to an incredible 2019!


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