Thursday, 13 November 2008

a VERY exciting day for the 365challenge ...

( ... a long post ...)

Today was a very important day for the growth of the 365challenge. Nothing to do with my efforts in the gym or the pool (though I am just one swim short of hitting the half-way mark in my channel swim after this morning's dip) - no, it was all to do with developing my relationship with Cancer Research UK (CRUK).

A couple of weeks ago, Peter, the Regional Volunteer Manager for CRUK, asked me if I'd like to speak to the Central Division's Volunteer Manager's conference (or something like that) about the 365challenge. These are the people who support fund-raisers around the country and he thought they'd like to hear about what I've been doing. "Great", I thought, "an opportunity to spread the word, where do I have to go?" Oxford, as it happens, on November 18th. All well and good.

Then Peter called again and told me that the head of another part of the CRUK organisation wanted me to speak to their national conference - which happened to be in my home town of Chester today, November 13th. "Sign me up, oh, by the way, who are these people?" "These people" turned out to be the Events Team, and essentially, as far as I could work out, this was to be a gathering of all the regional Events management teams, the people who organise and support the big CRUK fund-raising activities, such as Race for Life, Relay for Life, the Bobby Moore Fund, Dine at Mine, all the running events and much more. When I tell you that Race for Life last year alone had 665,000 participants and raised around £40 million, you can maybe realise just how important these people are to the fund-raising programme for CRUK!

And I was being invited to speak to them for 30 minutes about the 365challenge!!!

So I wrote my spiel, and put together my PowerPoint presentation to explain who I was, why I was developing the 365challenge, what it was and how, with their support, the 365challenge could play a part in the generation of funds for CRUK. I was told there would be 50 -60 people at the Queen Hotel in Chester, but it turned out there were around 100 of 'em, all attentive, keen to learn what the 365challenge was all about. All they knew at this stage was that it was a 30 minute slot in their programme - most of them knew nothing more, so I had to grab my chance to win them round ...

And I have to say, ... I think I did!

I got a great reception from a really interested, excited bunch of people, who can see potential when it lands in their lap. I have to say, when I know my subject, I love speaking to groups - I only realised this recently, but I don't get too nervous, just enough to get the adrenaline pumping so that I can deliver what I want to say. And I loved getting up there in front of this great room of open, welcoming faces.

The 30 minutes flew by, and we had just a little time for a few minutes for questions at the end. I got some really positive, encouraging comments from people who were nearly as excited as I was. Two stand out ... One person asked just what CRUK were doing to support me in developing the 365challenge, in an almost incredulous tone, as if they couldn't believe that the 365challenge wasn't already their next campaign. That prompted the Head of Events to come up on stage with me and take to mike to explain that the 365challenge was still very new even to them, but they wanted to do all they could to develop its potential and she reassured the Events people that one of their executives was due to meet with me straight after my talk to try to work out how they could help move this on!

The other comment came just as I was about to finish. A hand went up right at the back, and a voice called out to me that that particular table represented the North West Events Team, and they had decided right there and then that THEY were going to take on the 365challenge themselves, as a team. That prompted cries from around the room that this was going to get competitive, and other teams might just have to have a go too!! Can you imagine how much of a buzz this was creating?

I came off the stage really buzzing myself, to comments like " that was really great, what an idea" from the people at the table I'd been directed to. I was invited to stay for the last presentation before my meeting with the New Business Executive, and I'm really please I was able to. It was by a guy called Findlay Young, another cancer survivor, who has been celebrating his TWO all-clears from cancer by running ... literally running ... around the world. He raised £40,000 for CRUK through that amazing effort but has plans for even more spectular efforts next year. He was truly inspiring and from already being buzzing, after his talk, I was truly "Fired Up!"

So when I met with Suzanne, the New Business Executive afterwards, it was great. Lots of energy, ideas and creativity flying around, with her as excited about the 365challenge as I was, and coming up with additional twists to consider. It is really early days still, of course but she will now go away and talk to various people within the organisation to see how they can help me take 365challenge to another ... and another ... and another level.

And next week, I get to do it all again to the Volunteer Managers conference!

I can't wait!

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