Monthly Archives: August 2014

The New Training Committee Hits a “Home Run”

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L-R: DG Bill Fine, Ronnie Davis, Jeff Neufeld, Pam Kreis, Chair Mary Nagle, PDG Bob Parkinson, and David Kelly. Have you noticed that DG Bill makes it into all of these posts? He’s the hardest working DG in Rotary!

Mary Nagle and Sean McAlister are the new Training Chairs for District 7620.  They are trained educators whose “real life” career involves  actually training people.  What a concept!  I’m afraid that, once again, massive, startling, earth shattering, and yes, disruptive,  positive change is on its way to District 7620.  What fun!

For those who don’t know, the Training Chairs are responsible for PETS training, the beloved acronym for President-Elect Training Seminars.  President-Elect training comes in three doses, the first two being called “Pre-PETS 1” and “Pre-PETS 2.”  Or, for those of us who have  had the privilege over the years of actually planning Pre-PETS 1 and Pre-PETS 2, we have often called them Thing One and Thing Two.  Here’s a video clip that offers a better introduction.

FULL DISCLOSURE:  I hated the very thought of this movie and went out of my way not to see it.  This clip confirms that I made the right decision.

The third installment of President-Elect training is called Chesapeake PETS which is planned in conjunction with three other Rotary Districts and is held in Reston, Va.

In addition, the Training Chairs plan the District Leadership Assembly, which was known to us dinosaurs for years as the District Assembly.  This is a half-day meeting where club officers and Committee Chairs get trained so that, presumably, Club Presidents don’t have to do all of the club’s work during a Rotary year.  Nowadays club secretaries, treasurers, Sergeant at Arms, Membership Chairs, Foundation Chairs, PR Chairs, and New Generations Chairs, have much to learn.  The training team is in charge of putting together the curriculum to make that happen.

I’m told that the strategic plan for our training in District 7620 includes incorporating large amounts of technology and (I think they said) “experiential learning.”  I have no idea what any of that means but I’ve been assured that we will be highly equipped to deal with the complexity of Rotary in the future.

Luckily, our Training Chairs, Sean and Mary, won’t have to do all of this planning and training themselves.  They are busy recruiting and, er….planning, with an all-new training committee.  Guess what?  The Committee members all have backgrounds in training, coaching, and presenting.  As I said….what a concept!  They met just a few weeks ago to brainstorm about how to get us all a lot smarter, and I can faithfully report that we will all be a lot more knowledgable about Rotary as they “do their thing.”

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L-R: DG Bill Fine, Maria Nelly Pavisich, Pam Kreis, David Kelly, Ronnie Davis, Jeff Neufeld, Mary Nagle, and PDG Bob Parkinson. These folks are the brains of the operation!

So, in conclusion,  I am forced to break out the oldest of sports metaphors and proclaim that this year’s training, AND future year’s training, is going to be a home run.  (I’m going to see the Orioles -Tampa Bay game tonight with high hopes we (The Orioles) will get more than the two hits we got last night.  Hence, the absolute necessity of a baseball metaphor.)   Which is, as you can readily see,  a horrifyingly clumsy segue for me to share the most iconic home run scene in movie history, Robert Redford as Roy Hobbs, taking out the stadium lights  in the movie, “The Natural.”

Can’t let you go without a few more pix of your Training Committee hard at work.

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Mary and Maria discussing our strategic vision statement. You can’t get a bunch of educators together without them wanting to do a vision statement. The best ideas are hanging on the wall behind Maria. I hope someone took that paper home with them. (Somehow I don’t think this group approves of the “Ready, Fire, Aim” philosophy!)
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Ronnie, Jeff, and Pam actually paying attention. I, on the other hand, had my ADD kick in so I got to take the pictures.

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20,000 Visits for Ready, Fire, Aim

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It’s almost Ready, Fire, Aim’s ten month birthday.  The first missive on this blog was posted on October 27, 2013.  Since that time I’ve published 70 posts and as you can see from the statistics above, RFA just had it’s 11,715 Visitor and it’s 20,000th Visit.  Given that RFA readers have somehow found enough value in the blog content to visit 20,000+ times, I thought this would be a good time to review just how this experiment in Rotary communications is progressing.

I should start by reminding my readers that although I personally find it endlessly entertaining to goof on my fellow Rotarians, and especially my colleagues on the esteemed, mighty, and all-knowing District 7620 Leadership Team, of which I am a proud member, “goofing” in print is not the purpose of RFA.  It is, instead, an experiment to see if we can build an audience of Rotarians who are interested in reading about Rotary news in our District, and news about Rotary worldwide, by providing them with consistent and entertaining content.  The RFA blog is but one of the “pipelines” being built to reach out to our members with great content.  The District’s new blog and  LinkedIn Group, along with our Facebook Page, District Governor newsletter, Foundation Newsletter, and weekly DG letter written to Club Presidents on Sunday evenings, are all methods of providing content for interested members.  Part of the RFA experiment is to see if you mix entertainment with the news, does it make a difference in building a Rotary audience?  (I have proven, without question, that I am entertaining myself.)

So how are we doing so far?  From my perspective the news is mixed.  The good news is that the blog has about 1,000 Visits and about 500 Visitors each week, and that’s probably pretty good.  You can see that this week’s data (shown above) is about average.  The not-so-good news is that readership growth is hardly parabolic.  There’s been some progress, but it’s been slow.  Here is a chart of the Visitors and Visits to RFA over the past six months:  (Note: Visitors are unique individuals coming to the blog site and Visits are the number of blog posts they read while they are here.)

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You might immediately notice the two posts that created the most Visits and the most Visitors.  On June 6th I posted one of the few serious posts I’ve written, called  Where Rotary Succeeds and Foreign Aid Fails.   The results were startling to say the least.  Here’s a closeup of the data for the few days before and after the post.

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As you can see, on the day of that post RFA had the usual 100 visitors but they hung around the blog and read close to 800 posts!  I was so astounded by this that I had my blog advisor, and super Rotarian, Darren Easton, look at the data to confirm it wasn’t an error.  It wasn’t.   Go figure.  If you are wondering, the post with the most Visitors (not Visits) is a post I did called  Congratulations 7620..You Crushed it. That post had over 433 unique visitors who stayed to visit 526 posts.  The “You Crushed It” blog was all about our Foundation giving stats for last year and contained several life changing (silly) videos of people crushing things.

One thing that is a puzzlement is where the visitors come from.  Clearly Facebook is a major driver of visitors to the blog.  Each post is “shared” on the District Facebook Page, the Zone 33 Facebook page, the Columbia Patuxent Club Facebook Page, and my personal Facebook page.  I also notify Rotarians who are the subject of the blog by email so they know they’ve been featured.  (I do this so they can prepare for the deluge of paparazzi that is the inevitable consequence of being mentioned in the blog.)  But of greater interest is the power of hashtag Rotary on Twitter.  Each post is tweeted on my Twitter account with my huge group of 56 followers.  But because  I use hashtag Rotary in each tweet, the result is an astounding  number of Visitors from overseas.  International Visitors was the subject of an RFA blog this past April called, Rotary International Really Is…..International.  Here’s the latest data on overseas visitors to RFA:

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The list above shows the Visitor count for the top ten countries.  How many different countries have read RFA?  Would you believe 123 countries?  Hello visitors from Slovenia, Hungry, Malawi, Fiji, Rwanda, and Sudan…just to name a few.  Here’s a map of a typical day’s visitors to the blog by country.  Pretty wild, don’t you think?

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Here are some observations about the RFA  experiment so far:

There is some evidence that the blog audience is growing.  If you squint at the 6-month history chart I think you can see a slight upward trend in visitors and visits.  I had hoped to see more of an uptrend.

I see no evidence that the audience for the blog is primarily from District 7620, even though the blog is presumably “about” my journey to being DG next year in District 7620.

Very few readers use the subscribe button to subscribe to the blog posts and get notifications of posts direct to their email, even though I beg them to do it after every blog post.

Shooting video on my smart phone, hanging it on YouTube, and having video content on the blog has been well received.  If I can do this, anyone can.  More to come throughout District 7620.

There is little to no “conversation” on the blog.  Blogs are an inherently interactive platform to communicate.  So far….this one isn’t.

I have not used the “bully pulpit” of being DGE to “push” blog readership.  I think the 500 visitors and 1,000 visits baseline is pretty well established.  Beginning in PrePETS I will ask 2015-2016 Club Presidents to follow the blog.  It should be interesting to see what happens from there.  My hypothesis is that most of my President Elects will read the blog and immediately quit Rotary.

We are diligently working to create content for the other District “pipelines” for content. Without consistent content we can’t see what happens when we “cross refer” readers to our different sites.  District PR Chair Dawn Wittfelt is hard at work creating this information infrastructure.  If you might be interested in being a “reporter” for District 7620 and helping out, please let Dawn or know.  It would be much appreciated.

Finally, to the chagrin of my readers, there is, apparently, an endless stream of important subjects to write about.  For example, recent posts have included vital information about how to tie your shoes and why clubs should employ herald trumpets when properly greeting the DG. Do’s and Don’ts of the DG Club Visit. I’ve posted video interviews with Rotary big shots and not-so-big shots.  And I’ve posted several videos from the movies.  My personal favorite?  A clip from the horror classic, “The Shining”, featuring Jack Nicholson’s famous line,  “Here’s Johnny.”  Rotary’s Gone Mad!

So…for the PR geeks out there you are now up to date.  Back to our regularly scheduled programming.  And thanks to all for reading Ready, Fire, Aim.  I hope I got you to laugh at least a couple of times along the way so far.

 

 

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RYLA North America…Pretty Amazing

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RI President Gary Huang and First Lady, Corinna Yao (Center Right) at the opening ceremonies of RYLA North America.  Yes…we were “Happy Clappin” with President Gary.

There are times when you are reminded that energy, enthusiasm, optimism, and good old fashioned idealism are fun to be around.  Yes…some say that youth is wasted on the young, but I guarantee you that if you spend some time at the RYLA North America Conference you will start to see the world a little more positively.  RYLA stands for Rotary Youth Leadership Awards, and the attendees are, for the most part, Rotaractor’s from around the world. They come to the National 4-H Center in Washington, DC  to celebrate service to others, and while they are at it, to learn a little bit more about Rotary. According to the website, the RYLA Conference in North America is an intense leadership training program that is designed to recognize, encourage, and further develop the leadership skills of 18-30 year olds who have shown a potential for rendering important service to their local communities. 

Here is the Founder of RYLA North America and current President of the new Federal City Rotary club, Navin Valliappan, to tell you a little more about it.

I’ve been to a District RYLA meeting before but this is a different, international event.   And yes, the brass came out to welcome the young men and women who came to participate, including RI President Gary Huang and his wife, Corinna.  Guess what I found out while hanging out with President Gary over lunch?  The RI President picks his own theme for his Presidential year.  He picked “Light Up Rotary” a full year before his term began and in time for Rotary to publicize it at the Rotary International Conference prior to his year.  Who knew?  I always thought the PR Dept. did that kind of stuff.  (This is the kind of intrepid reporting my RFA readers expect and I strive to deliver.)

But as usual, I digress.  During the opening ceremonies there was the proper amount of speechifying and a parade of flags (actually a parade of signs) for each country.  We were also treated to a taste of international entertainment.  Note:  Check out the RYLA participants getting all the action on their smart phones.

I think I’ll let the pictures tell the rest of the story.

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The Parade of Flags…er….Signs…during the Opening Ceremonies. You can see that the RYLA participants were severely depressed and not having a good time.
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Yours Truly hanging with my new friends from the Ethiopia contingent. My club does a lot of service work in Addis Ababa so we had something to talk about. I wish you could have met these terrific young men and women.
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L-R: Yours Truly, Washington DC Club President, Jennifer Hara, RI President Gary Huang, the First Lady, Corinna, and District 7620 PR Chair, Dawn Wittfelt.  Not pictured, the dozens of  RYLA participants who had their picture taken with President Gary and Corinna before they graciously, and patiently, posed for this picture.
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A happy group of Rotaractor’s from Barbados. Here’s a crew that is going to make a positive difference in our world. It was a privilege to meet them.
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The Big Brass from District 7620 getting the orchestra seating at the Opening Ceremonies. From L-R: District First Lady, Kathleen Fine, DG Bill Fine, RI President Gary Huang, First Lady Corinna Yao, the person who did all of the DG work last year, Margaret Kyle, and the IPDG who let Margaret do all of the work last year, Peter Kyle.

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Now THIS is a Signature Event

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It was tough choosing who to give top billing for this post, but I decided it had to be the beer guys. They kept the Budweiser flowing. (I’m a true connoisseur of the finest light beers.)  From left, Rotarians Howard Topel, Don Taylor, Tom Phelps, and Jim Powers. (Apologies to the Rotarian at far right who persisted in actually working so I couldn’t get his face in the picture.)

I realize that I may be the only Rotarian in District 7620 that has never attended the Annapolis Rotary Club crab festival.  It’s only been an annual event for 69 years!  I rectified that situation last weekend as Linda and I attended the event as a guest of the club.  If you haven’t been there, the scale of thing is breathtaking.  Do you remember the first time you visited Las Vegas?  Manhattan?  Disney World?  When you go to the crab festival it feels kind of similar.  Twenty three hundred people gleefully spending the evening at Navy-Marine Corp stadium chowing down on their favorite crustaceans.

Linda and I got to sit at the President’s Table, which was very cool because we got to meet Naval Academy Superintendent, Vice-Admiral Walter “Ted” Carter and his wife,  Barbara. This guy was at Top Gun when Tom Cruise was shooting the movie.  He flew 125 combat missions in support of joint operations in Bosnia, Kosovo, Kuwait, Iraq and Afghanistan.  He accumulated 6,150 flight hours in F-4, F-14, and F-18 aircraft during his career and safely completed 2,016 carrier-arrested landings, the record among all active and retired U.S. Naval Aviation designators.  

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DG Bill Fine and Naval Academy Superintendent, Vice Admiral Walter “Ted” Carter, taking a break from swapping baseball stories. By the way, Superintendent Carter may have set the record for carrier landing, but DG Bill Fine faced real danger when he raised District dues this year. Perhaps the biggest risk of the evening was Superintendent Carter wearing dress whites while eating crabs.  (NOTE: Spouse, Barbara, did most of the picking.)

Wanna know what the conversation was about when chatting with a bonafide American hero while eating crabs?  Baseball, of course!  It turns out the Superintendent is a Red Sox fan (forgivable in light of his military service.)  He thinks that the A’s got the best of the John Lester trade versus Detroit grabbing David Price from the Rays.  But the topper came from our own bonafide hero, our District Governor, Bill Fine, who related a story of watching Manny Machado, platinum glove third basemen for my beloved Orioles, make FIVE errors in one game at Triple A.  FIVE ERRORS!

But…as usual….I digress.  The stats for this event are ridiculous.  350 bushels of crabs, 3,400 ears of corn, 100 gallons of crab soup, 1,800 hot dogs, 150 pounds of beef barbeque, and hundreds of gallons of soft drinks and beer.  Not too shabby.  The club members were all complaining about the construction at the stadium, but Linda and I didn’t know what it looked like in previous years.  We just thought it was spectacular.  Here’s Annapolis Rotarian Harold Green’s observation on how the event turned out.

I suppose it’s worth mentioning that PR wizard Mary Felter managed to get FIVE, that’s right, FIVE, different TV networks to cover the event.  And I also suppose it’s worth noting that they figure they will clear somewhere close to $75,000 for the club’s favorite local charities.  One other observation…it is clear that Annapolis Rotarians work their butts off during this event.  This is clearly the “all hands on deck” event for the club and red shirted Annapolis Rotarians could be seen hustling everywhere you looked.

There are some other fantastic signature events in our District.  The Baltimore Club’s Bull and Oyster Roast comes to mind.  I believe this year is the 93rd year for their signature event.  Wow!

If your club doesn’t have a signature event., an event that your community instantly identifies as a Rotary event, then you should start planning one.  If it involves good food and Lite Beer, I will try to make time in my schedule to show up….clearly in the interest of journalism of course.

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DG Bill and Annapolis Club President, Marshall Larner. It was clear that when attending the event as Club President, Larner didn’t know what to do with himself. I suggested he claim 100% credit for the success of the event, but he didn’t seem to think that passed the Four Way Test.
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Florida Watermelon Queen Megan Morgan, courtesy of the Maryland Department of Agriculture and the Mar-Del Watermelon Association.
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Elvia Thompson, co-founder of Annapolis Green environmental group. Here’s a stat for you: They expected to collect 20,000 lbs of food waste that will turn into fantastic compost in about two months.  And no, I didn’t stick around for the cleanup.
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Rotarian Larry Ulvila, Jr. handling the MC chores.

 

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The Most Important Rotary Lesson

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From Left Top: AG Barton Goldenberg, AG Geoffrey Fenner, AG Dave Miller, Yours Truly, AG Stephen Ness, AG Mathew May, Left lower: DGN Anna Mae Kobbe, AG Danny Parker, AG Bill Yeakel, AG Larry Leahy, AG Mark Milby, DG Bill Fine. All happy to have learned the most important Rotary lesson.

This is the 68th post on the Ready, Fire, Aim Rotary blog, and loyal readers know that this is the place to go for hardball journalism and the very latest in Rotary best practices.  I’ve been waiting for the calendar New Year to write this post, but I decided it couldn’t wait any longer.  So, in the best spirit of RFA, I am sharing with you the most important lesson I learned during the past Rotary year.  We actually called a special meeting of the District Leadership Team AND the Area Governors to make certain that this information was properly distributed to all Rotary members.  If you care about world peace.  If you are a team player who knows that “there is no “I” in Rotary.  And, if you want to Do Good in the World,  you will share this message with your fellow Rotarians with a special sense of urgency.

As a member of the District’s Leadership Team, and as someone on track to be District Governor in the 2015-2016 year, who has attended Zone Training, PETS training, and Rotary Leadership Institute, as well as a person who has studied at the feet of master Rotary leaders, IPDG Peter Kyle, and current DG Bill Fine, I can attest that this actually IS the most important lesson I learned last year.  But some of the other lessons include:

Life tends to interfere with our Rotary work just a little more often than we would like it to.

Life interferes with Rotary work in direct proportion with whatever deadline we’ve set for our Rotary work.

District Governors are wise, sensitive, and brilliant leaders of men and women, who never make mistakes.

It takes 14.3 Rotarians to screw in a lightbulb.

P-Mails are actually sent to a special parallel universe inhabited by life forms that are made of Silicon.  That is why they are not read by Rotary earthlings.

There is one lesson that is not new, but is worth repeating every chance we get.  There is no such thing as a “good idea approval form” in Rotary.  The only limit to what we can accomplish in terms of doing good in the world is our own imagination, determination, expertise, and our vision.

Indeed, there were many other Rotary lessons learned last year, but you, dear reader, will have to continue to invest (waste) your time tuning in to Ready, Fire, Aim to learn them.  In the meantime, enjoy these photos of your District leaders trying to understand the basic philosophical and moral implications of attempting a new way to tie their shoes.  I’m proud to be a member of this group of thought leaders.

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The group trying to grasp the details of the shoe tying demonstration. You can see the confusion and concern as our AGs grapple with the implications of radical change in the District.
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AG Danny Parker (left) and AG Geoffrey Fenner, just prior to their “Ah ha” moment.
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Past District Governor, Bob Grill, presenting how shoe tying is extremely important in disaster situations. Grill is a Director of Disaster Aid USA and is at the forefront of a world-wide Rotary effort achieve more effective shoe tying globally.

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