COM0014 – Do People Know Your Story?

I cry at parades.  It doesn’t matter if I am participating in the parade or watching the parade, you can be guaranteed that I will, at some point, be crying.

It’s not a sad cry.  It’s not necessarily happy either.  It’s just an overwhelming sense of collective energy that builds up inside of me.  A sense of wonder and appreciation for each and every role, from the spectators lining the streets, to the marching bands stepping in unison, to the participants happily waving from their floats.  And witnessing these roles all come together in a shared, connected experience.

The Cannington Haunted Trail and Maze is an event that operates much the same way.  There are many different roles to be performed by many different people.  And in the end, we are all rewarded by knowing that the culmination of our efforts produced an amazing show.  I suppose that is part of the reason we participate each year in our local parade.  We believe strongly in  contributing wherever possible.  We believe that there is strength in numbers.  We welcome opportunities that unite and fortify our community.  We see first-hand what wonderful things can happen when we collaborate our efforts.

COM0014 – Personal Brand – GRIT

Grit.

It’s a word I honestly don’t think I ever had in my vocabulary.  I never really considered the word before.  I certainly never used it to describe myself or how I meet and overcome my challenges.  Yet, here it is.  Grit.  After much introspection and searching for a word that would pull so many of my thoughts, feelings, experiences and characteristics together, I have finally come full circle to the word grit.

Grit is what you pulls you through.  It’s a raw blend of passion and perseverance, of digging deep when you think there is nothing left in you to give or do.  It’s swimming when you are sinking.  It’s believing in yourself and your cause and never giving up.

I didn’t recognize it, but it’s been with me all along.  When I lost my mother at the age 11 and fumbled through my adolescence and adulthood, when I was dealt a life-threatening illness at the age of 36 with three children under the age of 5, when my marriage fell apart at the age of 40.  Heck, when I struggle through this Social Media course at age 48.  Grit is what gets me through.

Life experiences aside, grit has also revealed to me some new-found skills and positive qualities that I never dreamed of embracing.  In particular, with my involvement with the Cannington Haunted Trail and Maze, a community event that has grown in the past 9 years to become a professionally-operated haunt that is a signature event in the community, attracting over 1600 visitors and 120 volunteers each year, and growing.  Through this event, I have become a leader, an ambassador for the community, an event coordinator, a volunteer coordinator, a fundraiser, a marketer, a builder, a painter and a passionate haunter.  I have developed relations and collaborated with the municipality, the schools, local businesses and organizations, and community members.  And best of all, I have been blessed to see the true benefits of this event in the community:  the youth that are able to feel they are part of something, the collaborative efforts of others, and the funds we raise to donate to local organizations.  I am passionate about this event and the people involved, and devote my time and efforts to keep it going, despite the challenges it faces.  Because I have grit.

We all have dreams to pursue and goals to achieve.  We are all faced with challenges and setbacks.  And we can all overcome those challenges and find in ourselves the strength  we didn’t know we had.  Dig deep.  Believe.  Persevere.  Find your grit.

COM0014 – Blog #3 – Reaching Out to a Rural Population

Brock Township

A very diverse population exists in rural communities and they are faced with unique challenges and opportunities.  This is important to understand when determining a target audience for a rural organization and how to best communicate with that audience while recognizing these differences.

I have been fortunate to work with the Brock Community Health Centre since its inception.  As the “new kid on the block” ten years ago, the organization was no different than a newcomer just moving into the neighbourhood.  It took time and patience to gain the trust of the community, and it was clear that building relationships, being involved, and communicating in a very open, transparent and humble manner was the key to acceptance.

Our target audience is as diverse as the population – there are farming families who have lived in Brock Township for generations; blue collar workers who moved from the city to raise families; and an upswing of educated and trendy millennials.  They range in income, lifestyles, education and age, although seniors and youth are our priority populations.  Community health centres address the social determinants of health, so we aim to assist people who face barriers such as income, employment, transportation and isolation.

The advantage of connecting to a rural audience is that most people are well connected within their community.  Once the Centre gained the community’s trust, partnerships were formed with the Township, local schools, and allied organizations, and personal relationships were developed.  Connecting to and working with established groups such as churches, seniors networks, schools, coffee shops, Lions Clubs, etc., allowed us to communicate with our target audience.

Cannington Cafe

Currently, face to face contact, networking and print publications (newsletters, flyers, advertisements in the local paper) are our prime sources of communications.  We look forward to launching our social media presence in the very near future to connect more broadly with our target audience, to listen and respond, and to complement our overall communications strategy.  Our primary platform will be Facebook, as this is widely used in our community now to share programs, services and information and we will easily connect to existing networks.  We will also use Twitter to connect with our allied organizations and will explore YouTube, Instagram and Pinterest for our youth programs.  In this rural community, talking on the street still seems the preferred way to communicate, but social media will allow us to greatly expand our reach.

COM0014 – Blog #2 – Spinning a Social Yarn

Storytelling is a powerful way to share ideas, experiences and emotion.   It allows us to connect with others in a way that is engaging and meaningful.  Storytelling roots back to the beginning of time and continues to be an effective way of communicating, although we can now reach a much larger audience through the advance of technology and social media.

By harnessing the power of storytelling, your online content can move beyond a basic format of information, ideas and/or opinions to a clear and concise expression that is unique to both your target audience and your personality and communication style.  Whether that is personal or professional, opinion-based or factual, you can allow your true authentic self to be exposed in your story.  This, in turn, allows your readers to connect with you on a personal level and to feel inspired by your content and motivated to interaction.

When you build a personal connection with your readers, they are more apt to be engaged and take action.  Ultimately, your end goal is to encourage the reader to link to your webpage for more information, make a purchase or donation, or comment on or share your content.  By engaging with your readers, you allow them the opportunity to feel connected in a meaningful way, provide additional value and impact to your content, and better understand your own audience.

Resources:
http://ccol.algonquincollege.com/com0014/lesson-2/lesson-content/
https://gathercontent.com/blog/voice-tone-style-whys-wheres-hows
http://brainsonfire.com/2013/09/20/stories-currency-human-contact/

COM0014 – Blog #1 – My Sister, Our Daughters and … Harry Potter!?

Ahhh Florida.  Famed for its glorious sunshine, warm weather, orange crops and themed attractions.   A perfect place to enjoy a week-long family vacation, which I was able to do last November with my sister and our teenage daughters.

The idea of a Florida vacation was prompted by my family’s obsession with Harry Potter.  We had all recently read the series with great fervor, and were delirious with excitement to visit the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, a feature attraction at Universal Orlando.  This two-day experience was the focal point of our vacation, so we booked a rental villa in Davenport, close to the theme parks, attractions, restaurants, supermarkets and gift shops, and planned our itinerary around it.

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is nothing short of magical, even if you haven’t read the books or watched the movies.  But, if you have – and everyone should – there is such an appreciation and sense of wonder and familiarity to be immersed in a fantasy world that you have already imagined.  Two distinct areas are featured:  Hogsmeade, which is the charming wizarding village depicted in the books, and Diagon Alley, an expansion of Hogsmeade that replicates the wizarding alley and shopping area.  The Hogwarts Express train allows you to travel between the two areas.

The Village of Hogsmeade

Hogsmeade is located at the foot of Hogwarts castle (School of Witchcraft and Wizardry) and features gift shops and restaurants from the novels including Ollivanders Wand Shop, Honeydukes, Zonko’s Joke Shop, and The Three Broomsticks.  Within the castle is the flagship attraction, Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, an amazing motion-based dark ride simulation that drops and swoops and turns and spins, and incorporates multi-dimensional technology and thrilling effects.

Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry

 

Diagon Alley

Diagon Alley features live attractions, restaurants and shops including the Knight Bus, a second Ollivanders store, The Leaky Cauldron and Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes.  The flagship attraction in this section is Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts, a 3D dark ride simulation of the wizarding bank in the books/films.  Word of advice, you have to try the butterbeer!

Having a rest and enjoying a glass of butterbeer. Mmmmm.

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter was an enchanting journey that I was thrilled to share with my family.  We will treasure many memories for years to come.  Have you had the fortune to experience this amazing, magical attraction?  What was your favourite memory?

An Emotional Release

“Just when the caterpillar thought the world was over, it became a butterfly”.
– Taoist philosopher Chuang Tzu

Butterflies have long been recognized by religions, native animal symbolism, cultural myth and lore as a significant representation of life, transformation and rebirth.  Many cultures relate butterflies to the human soul.  It is fitting then, that in the small community of Beaverton, Ontario, where residents gather annually on a Sunday afternoon in June for a community memorial service, that they release butterflies in honour of their loved ones.

The “Brock and Area Community Memorial Service and Butterfly Release” is a well-attended event and is deeply appreciated by many.  I am happy to help the planning committee by taking orders for the butterflies.

But it’s difficult.

In the process of taking orders, I am required to ask the caller the name of the loved one that the butterfly is in honour of.  Sometimes it is for a parent, sometimes a neighbour or friend, and sometimes it is for a sibling or a child.  Sometimes it has been a recent death and I will spend the next few minutes listening to the stories that people want and need to tell of their loved one.  And I am deeply honoured that they have shared their story with me.  And I am deeply saddened.

I have talked to the mother of a teenage daughter who was killed on a motorcycle just months prior.  I can’t begin to imagine her pain as I think of my own 3 daughters.  Yet, she is sharing her loss with me, and appreciative of an event such as this to grieve and to honour her daughter.

I have talked with a gentleman whose butterfly is in honour of his wife who passed almost a year ago, who happily expressed to me his good fortune in being married to her for 59 years.

Every story is unique and heartwarming.  Every person is loved and missed so very much.  Every call brings tears to my eyes and often requires me to leave the office momentarily to compose myself.

I suppose it is so difficult because I lost my mom when I was 11 years old.  So every story takes me to a place that I don’t want to go.  A place where I relive, as if it were yesterday, how my world fell apart and how the loss of my mother continues to affect me today.

Brock and Area Memorial Service and Butterfly Release

Brock and Area Memorial Service and Butterfly Release

In a time of loss and grief, we need to find comfort.  I have been told by people who have attended the event that when the names of the loved ones are read and the butterflies are released, there is an overwhelming feeling of peace and harmony.  How beautiful it is that the community can come together at this event to share their losses and to find support, strength and hope.

For more information on the Brock and Area Community Memorial Service and Butterfly Release, please call Brock Community Health Centre at 705.432.3322.

COM0011 – Blog #5 – It’s The Stuff That Dreams Are Made Of

My fridge tells a story.  It is a memoir of family photos and hand-drawn love letters creatively crafted by my daughters, magnets of places we’ve been together, and personal affirmations.  It tells the story of who I am and what I am grateful for.

Kelly Rae Roberts fridge magnet

Kelly Rae Roberts fridge magnet

I regard it as a place of worship.  A place where, in the midst of the day-to day-hustle and bustle of life and the coming and going and rushing around, I can simply stop and be reminded of all that truly matters.

Last winter we took on the arduous task of a kitchen renovation.  With a new fascination of shiny and new, I promised myself that that I would keep the kitchen spotless, and that my fridge would no longer be cluttered with “stuff”.

It wasn’t long before I realized my decision to honour cleanliness over family and personal mementos was not a wise one.  I had missed the point of it all.  So back went the “stuff” on the fridge, albeit a condensed, introspective selection of what had previously been there, and strategically arranged in an organized fashion.

It’s important that we take time from our busy schedules to slow down, to be grateful for our loved ones and our experiences, and to appreciate the things that have brought value and meaning to our lives.  It allows us to have gratitude for who we are and our experiences, and to dream of what is to come.  Like Carly Simon proclaims in her 1987 hit, “it’s the stuff that dreams are made of.”

“Don’t look at yourself in the same old way
Take another picture
Shoot the stars off in your own backyard
Don’t look any further
And you will see
It’s the stuff that dreams are made of….”

Does your fridge have a story to tell?

COM0011 – Blog #4 – May Long Weekend Will Kick-off the Summer

With the May long weekend just around the corner, I’m barely prepared for spring, let alone the unofficial kick-off to summer.   Yet, here I am, making my list of “things to do this summer”, because if I don’t start planning now, I will soon find it is the September long weekend that is just around the corner!

With a family vacation to Florida planned for November, this summer’s activities will have to be fairly lean in terms of costs, but luckily for us, there are a ton of fun and inexpensive activities for the whole family to enjoy that are close to home.  Hopefully some of these interests will spark some ideas of your own.

Around the House

bonfire

Photo courtesy of Living the Country Life

  1. Enjoy backyard bonfires. Whether it’s just me and my partner, my daughters too, or friends and neighbours, a good ‘ol bonfire will always provide a place for people to come together for warmth, conversation, and song.
  2. Watch fireflies. What a beautiful performance these little bugs put on at dusk.  We make a point of looking for them in the long grass and nearby fields.
  3. Sleep on the trampoline. I know, I know.  It sounds odd, but my partner and I do this every year and surprisingly, it is one of the best outdoor sleeping experiences ever.
  4. Spend time porching. An all-time favourite, especially when the weather climbs over 30 degrees.  The front porch provides a cool, welcoming place to mingle with friends and neighbours.
  5. Watch a thunderstorm (from the porch if I am brave enough!).
  6. Plant flowers. And more flowers.
  7. Watch fireworks. The local Lions Club puts on a terrific fireworks display on Canada Day.  We have the option of watching them down at the park with the community, or from our rooftop.

Close to Home

treetop trekking at Horseshoe Resort

Photo courtesy of Horsehoe Resort.

  1. Go treetop trekking at Horsehoe Valley. My daughters and I go treetop trekking every 2 years (my promise to them).  It’s a pretty intense activity, but such a great workout and a ton of fun.
  2. Canoe the Beaver River. Check!  We did this last weekend at the annual Canoe-a-thon, but we will definitely go a few more times with others.  We are fortunate to have the river run through our town, and it is quite a beautiful trip.
  3. Go swimming at the beach at Sibbald Point Provincial Park.
  4. Watch a movie at the Lindsay Drive-in Theatre.  Or two if we can stay up late enough.
  5. Enjoy a free concert in the park at Peterborough Music Fest.
  6. Spend the weekend at Mosport watching the Superbike races.  This is more my partner’s thing, but we have a blast and always meet some great people.

A Little Farther Away

elora gorge

Photo courtesy of The Wellington Advisor.

  1. Go tubing on the Grand River at Elora Gorge. (Would highly recommend!)
  2. Go camping. Over the last few years, we have enjoyed family vacations to Bon Echo Provincial Park, Gananoque and Tobermory in our teeny, tiny trailer.  I am hoping to camp in Algonquin Park this year.

 

A simple list perhaps, but I am a simple girl and find all of these activities to be perfect ways to spend the summer.  What do you hope to do this summer?

COM0011 – Blog #3 – Creating (Not Predicting) Your Future

tarot cards

When I tell people that I read tarot cards, I get mixed reactions varying from excitement, surprise, curiosity and fear.  And what I find typically happens next is that they will share a story of when they, or someone they know, had their fortune told, and … blah, blah, blah.  I have been mistaken for a fortune teller again.

There are two problems with that.  One is that I am not a fortune teller.  So anyone coming to see me thinking they will have their fortune told is bound to be disappointed.  The second is that if I were to tell fortunes, I have failed to empower my client with the knowledge that they have the ability to co-create their future.

You see, our future is not set in stone.  Every single thought, intention, decision and action shapes our life and the world around us.  When our energy is focused on a particular idea, feeling or belief, we begin to manifest conditions and circumstances that reflect those ideas, etc., which then become part of our life experience.

Similar to the premise of the Law of Attraction, you attract what you think.  And so it is essential that we are aware of our thoughts and the correlation between our thoughts and what we attract into our lives.

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So how does that relate to tarot cards?

Tarot cards are a wonderful tool for insight and self-development.  A tarot card reading provides an overview of the conditions and energies that surround your life today.  By being aware of your emotions, patterns of behavior, strengths/difficulties, and other influences, you gain a deeper understanding of where you are now and why you are there.  The cards can “suggest” the direction you are heading, based on your current energies.  That is to say, the likely outcome if you continue on your current path the way you are, without making any changes.

The wonderful news is we have all been given the gift of free will.  We can accept the direction we are heading, or we can decide to change our thoughts, intentions, decisions and actions to better align with our purpose.  By tuning in to our current energies and focusing on where we want to be, we have the power to co-create our life.

What kind of future will you create for yourself?

COM0011 – Blog #2 – A Haunting We Will Go

It was like a scene from a horror movie.  From the window of my hotel room, I could see the streets below filling up with zombies … monsters … aliens … I would have feared  the city was under attack, if I wasn’t excitedly applying latex flesh wounds to my own skin.

Zombie Walk Columbus Ohio 2012

Zombie Walk Columbus Ohio. Photo courtesy of Kyle Schriner, posted on http://www.columbusunderground.com.

Each spring, over 3500 people attend the Midwest Haunters Convention (MHC), “the largest Halloween Show of its kind in the US serving Haunted Attraction Industry professionals and enthusiasts.”  The three-day convention features educational seminars, workshops, a trade show room with over 100 vendors, chartered bus tours to top-rated haunted attractions in the area, and plenty of entertainment.  Presented by TransWorld Trade Shows and Netherworld Haunted House, the convention returns to the Greater Columbus Convention Centre this June 10-12, 2016 for its 13th year.

My partner and I were thrilled to attend this convention for the very first time last year, and are excitedly making plans to attend in 2016.  As an organizer of the Cannington Haunted Trail and Maze, I can honestly say that this event will change the way you think about running a haunt, whether you are a home haunter or professional/charity haunt.  Based on my experience of last year’s convention, here are my Top 5 Reasons to Attend MHC.

Networking
Where else can you share three consecutive days and nights with fellow haunters, experts in the field and haunt-related vendors?  There were so many opportunities to meet others in the industry, share stories and experiences, ask questions and get answers and advice.  From the educational seminars, tradeshow and organized social events, to off-time outside of the convention centre … networking opportunities were everywhere.  Connections were made and lasting friendships were formed.

Educational Seminars
Over 35 educational sessions were offered at reasonable rates over the three days.  Topics included (but were not limited to) prop and set building, business plan writing, makeup and special effects, marketing, costume distressing, animation design and scare tactics.  We took advantage of the educational seminars that were offered to learn best practices in the industry and to get ideas of new products and trends.  Most of the presenters are veteran haunt owners and/or well-known gurus who are happy to share their expertise and personal experiences with others.

Tradeshow
WOW.  All I can say is WOW.  I was completely in awe of the variety of professional vendors showcasing high-quality masks, costumes, props, makeup, special effects, apparel, lighting, signage, and sound effects.  We purchased a high quality fog machine and juice from Froggy’s Fog, dark attraction lighting from Gantom Lighting and some hanging heads from Eville J’s Creepy Closet.

Hanging Heads Pic

Hanging Heads from Eville J’s Creepy Closet

Monster Masquerade Costume Party
My partner and I did not attend the masquerade party last year, and to be honest, will not likely attend this year either.  The only reason for that is we prefer to lounge by the outdoor firepit at the hotel patio and chat with fellow haunters over the loud, sweaty, crowded party.  But in speaking with others who did attend, it is clearly an absolute hit, showcasing some amazing costuming and makeup effects.  The party also includes a body art fashion show (very cool) and many contests and prizes.

Bus Tour to Top-Rated Haunt
Last year’s bus tour led hundreds of MHC attendees to the Haunted Hoochie, one of the world’s most extreme haunted houses.  It is marketed as full sensory assault, and I would agree 100%.  Between the controversial scenes, pounding sound, dizzying lights, and aggressive characters, I left the haunt feeling sick to my stomach, in a good kind of way.  This haunt pushes the envelope to the extreme and was a great opportunity to experience a professional extreme haunt first-hand.  Unfortunately, it was quite expensive as a featured event through MHC ($100 US which included the bus ride and a couple of free beverages), but in the end, we felt it was worthwhile as we had a good scare and came away with many great ideas.   MHC 2016’s featured haunt is The ScareAtorium, “Columbus’ Scariest Haunted Attraction”.  This haunt features two main attractions as well as three 3-minute escape rooms which will be interesting to see given their recent popularity in haunts.

I really can’t say enough about the Midwest Haunters Convention, and what a fabulous event it is.  Since attending last year, we have made many improvements to our haunt, including increasing our marketing efforts, adding new set designs, developing a volunteer recruitment and retention plan, purchasing professional lighting and special effects, creating additional wardrobe pieces, developing a makeup team, implementing a security team, and basically tightening up our operations.  Feedback from last year’s event was fabulous and showed that our efforts had not gone unnoticed.  I can’t wait to discover what we will learn, see and experience at this year’s convention.  Will you be going?

 

Reference:  www.midwesthauntersconvention.com