Saturday, 15 June 2019

SELA Skills Lead to Sports Success

Zak Nicholls, Cohort 2018

Alongisde SELA, Zak Nicholls this year led the delivery of the Institute of Chemical Engineering's Frank Morton Sports Day in Sheffield, and was delighted that this event was recently recognised as Event of the Year in the Sheffield Students' Union Activities Awards. Here, he reflects on how learning from SELA helped him succeed in planning and hosting the event.

The journey of planning, the IChemE Frank Morton Sports Day, a national event for undergraduate chemical engineers, was a mammoth task, bringing together the two biggest student-led events Sheffield has ever seen. We took on the challenge with support from Sheffield Students Union (SU). As Sports Coordinator, the organisation of the daytime fell to me and my friend Sophia along with guidance from the SU Events Manager. It was a great opportunity to practise and use skills I learnt through SELA.

The workshops which gave me the skills to help with the event was the Project & Workload management which was delivered by Richard Wheatley at Dyson. This enhanced the skills I already had in time management. From this workshop, I learned the importance of using tools to plan - an app or sheet of paper to keep track of what was required to be done ensuring productivity. Along with this, Richard gave us some hints and tricks on how best to handle the workload, the key point was the sectioning of a large project into smaller pieces so the progress can be measured.

Furthermore, I used skills developed through SELA Bootcamp, from negotiation to de Bono’s lateral thinking hats. The negotiation workshop provided me with knowledge of the most effective way to negotiate in a professional environment which I used to secure the best price for the venues as, being a student-led and funded event, we had to run the event at the lowest cost possible while also ensuring we had sufficient funds to cover the event. The thinking hats showed me that you can get too involved in a project and become unaware of problems; therefore, throughout the planning process, I took the time to step back and challenge the plan. Through the challenging process, we recognised organisational inefficiencies, which we were then able to iron out.

In early November SELA took part in the developing and pitching a business case workshop, which taught us how to sell an idea. This was useful as we were having to do this for Frank Morton selling tickets to students. I learnt the use of specific language and the ways in which sentences/statements are phrased are important to convince people.

The journey through planning the event was enormous and I learnt a wide range of skills from how to manage finance to dealing with conflicts along with organisational regulations for events. The task we truly struggled with was to source the equipment needed for the 22 Sports across 14 venues. During the planning process I noticed the challenges of putting training into practice. This made me realise that to be an effective leader you must be resilient and prepared to adapt training to suit each situation. The SU set up began and this is where the realisation of how far we had come as well as how far we had to go hit us. The feeling was excitement as the course of the next 36 hours were still unknown to us.

Looking back on the day it was a rewarding but challenging experience, working for 25 hours straight, to ensure the event ran smoothly. Reacting to problems as they appeared, all to ensure the effect on the participants was minimised. Our motto for the day was “It’s only a minor problem”: we recognised that you couldn’t plan for every eventuality and to be an effective leader you need to be able to response to situations, this allowed us an adaptable approach.

Without the knowledge and expertise of the events team and the skills I’d learnt through SELA, the event would not have been the success that it turned out to be. Without the dedication of the Frank Morton 2019 Committee and the Students Union Events Team throughout the 8 months of planning, the event would not have been possible. A big thank you goes to the Events team who backed the event, the first major student lead event they had backed. The skills I learn through SELA allowed me to be effective with my time and project management allowing me to take a major role in the planning process along with my other commitments.

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