Change is a Comin'

Isaac Asimov said, “The only constant is change, continuing change, inevitable change” — and I couldn’t agree more. This year has brought about numerous changes in Special Events & Protocol, from a reorganization within our department to the various ways we coordinate our annual events. I enjoy change — it keeps me on my toes and often enables creativity and innovation; however, I’ve definitely learned some important lessons while navigating change along the way. As you evaluate your events and implement new ideas, you may want to keep the following tips in mind:

Ensure the appropriate players are involved

Before you decide to make a large change, think of all the people you will impact and who may need to contribute to the decision. If you are making a change that affects students, definitely include a representative from your department or the SGA to serve as the students’ voice.

Develop a communications plan

Identify all your target audiences, both primary and secondary, and then when, how, and where you will communicate the change to them. I have found that sometimes it’s necessary to communicate to your key support players first so they will be knowledgeable and able to support you when their bosses or other leaders come to them with questions. Communication may need to be more personal if the change is significant and controversial; face-to-face meetings and/or personal phone calls can make all the difference in these circumstances.

Communicate as early and as often as possible

Although we don’t always think so based on RSVP responses, people do still tend to make plans early; therefore, if your change could impact travel plans or other schedules, it’s best to tell interested parties as early as possible. Also, think of other messages that might conflict with or complement yours and different times during the year that your change could be communicated, reinforced, and best received. Don’t be afraid to let your audiences know of the change via multiple methods and time frames.

Provide valid reasons

Be honest and transparent in your communication. The changes you make might be positive and/or inevitable, but they still might be hard for your audience to accept. By being as forthright and truthful as possible, your audiences will respect the way you handled the change, even if they don’t necessarily agree with the outcome.

Consider providing an outlet for others to voice their opinions

Everyone likes to be heard and to know someone cares about what they think. Consider providing a comment form or email where your audiences can provide feedback or suggestions. They may or may not change your opinion, but they will give you food for thought and your audience will appreciate the opportunity to be heard. Try to respond to as many comments as you feel you can that truly warrant a response.