Editor's Note: Download Recreation Road Show PDF
Do recreation professionals ever wonder if anybody knows exactly what you do? Do people know how hard you work to make sure their leisure time and that of their children is wholesome and fun?
Has someone ever said to you, “I wish I had your job, just doing all these fun things all day,” when, in fact, while others are having fun you’re working?
A Recreation Revelation
I discovered this phenomenon soon after accepting the director’s position in 1997. Most people didn’t know what went on behind the scenes to make the myriad youth and adult sports, recreation programs, special events and other activities happen.
I found myself at a disadvantage when attempting to battle for an equal share of the budget pie and general support for the programs. If the ruling body, the movers and shakers and the public didn’t know what my colleagues and did, they weren’t savvy as to why the budget should support our efforts.
Coming from a public-affairs background soon helped me decide that we needed to develop a “Recreation Road Show", to tell various community groups that represented the “movers and shakers” who we were, what we did, and why it was important to them.
Putting It Together
The essence of the show is simple--putting it into an interesting and motivating package is more of a challenge.
Our road show revolves around a Powerpoint presentation that can be tailored to different groups.
With a laptop and LED projector at our disposal from the Information Technology department, we load the Powerpoint, pack it up, and off we go.
Interaction And Insight
A team of three--me, the recreation administrator and the library administrator--do the presentation. At times I substitute other management staff to give them exposure as well. I present division (leisure services) overviews, and the two administrators or other staff present details on each of their functional departments (recreation and library).
Tag-teaming makes for a more active presentation. For one thing, changing faces and voices from person to person is more interesting for the listeners. Also, positioning ourselves in different parts of the room and interacting with each other and the audience in a more informal way keeps people attentive.
We give the audience facts and perspectives that they may not have thought of themselves. For example, I point out that many members of our division staff live in the city or county, thus putting more than $1.1 million back into the local economy annually. Also, I inform them that we deal with more than 120 local vendors, contributing more than $400,000 each year to the local economy.
The two administrators present similar information within their areas. For example, the recreation administrator states that there are 400 acres of park land and 52 sports fields supporting 11 different youth and adult sports … and that we maintain more than five miles of irrigation pipes along with plumbing in 40 facilities, and only two full-time irrigation/plumbing technicians to do that.
We try to keep the material fresh and updated. For instance, I am currently noting that, in spite of and maybe because of, economic downturns, it is important to maintain strong local parks and recreation programs. People are not traveling as much, and are looking close to home for their family pastimes.
Justify The Facts
I have found these road shows to be extremely beneficial for several reasons. One, members of city council and senior staff are often members of these groups, such as Kiwanis or Rotary, so I can present our value to the community in a setting other than public or staff meetings.
Also, the groups are composed of taxpayers, so informing them translates to greater support around budget time. Another benefit is that we often get questions, comments or suggestions that help improve our service delivery.
I even give this presentation once a year to my entire staff of 60 in parks, recreation and library. With so many diverse activities, it’s not unusual for a staff member in one section or department not to know what goes on in another part of the operation. It is important to keep the internal audience informed as well as the external.
I am sure our presentation can use improvements, but I am happy to share the updated version, which is linked at the top of this blog. Just click the link and it takes you to the .pdf. Use it any way you need to help form or improve your own Recreation Roadshow. And if anyone has additional ideas or comments on how to promote the value of parks and rec to our communities, please write me or PRB, and share them!
Randy Gaddo is Director of Leisure Services (parks, recreation and library) in Peachtree City, Ga. He can be reached at (770) 631-2542, or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org