The Olympics. An event that brings together the best of the best from across the world. An amazing platform for sportsmanship and diplomacy.
I was fortunate to staff the 1996 Summer Olympic Games in Atlanta as a young public relations professional, representing a large corporate sponsor. The experience was truly once-in-a-lifetime, having a catbird’s seat at the opening ceremony and watching Muhammad Ali light the flame, to attending sporting and social events throughout the games. From a communications perspective, I learned many lessons that I still apply today.
Be prepared. When you are onsite at an event, anything you can do to make your client’s life easier will pay dividends. Become the person who has the extra pens, extra portable phone charger, snacks, water and pain reliever. While it may not sound glamorous, the more indispensable you are, the more you build trust and demonstrate value.
Be nice to everyone. From the senior executive down to the administrative assistant to the intern. While you should be nice to everyone regardless, in a business situation you never know who holds the decision-making power today, and who will hold that power tomorrow. I scored many extra perks (think: front row seats to watch U.S. Olympian Michael Johnson shatter world records in track and field) simply by being respectful and helpful to everyone I met.
Sleep is for the weak. At least for a short amount of time. While I love my solid eight of shut-eye, there are just sometimes you have to dig deep and sacrifice sleep during crunch time. Running on fumes, I volunteered to meet a radio reporter who wanted to broadcast live at 4 p.m. Thailand time. That’s 4 a.m. Eastern. I was interviewed live, and it quickly helped me become comfortable speaking and thinking on my feet.
Follow up. My best media contacts for many years were journalists I met onsite in Atlanta. A simple “nice to meet you” note helped establish a connection and gave me the entre to pitch stories or bounce ideas as I progressed later in my career. And this was in the days of hand-written notes; with the ease of email there is no excuse to skip the follow up.
While I don’t like to date myself, these basic lessons are still applicable more than 20 years later. Enjoy the magic from PyeongChang!
Sharon Hegarty is a senior vice president and senior partner in Stratacomm’s Detroit office. Stratacomm provides event production and support as a part of our complete spectrum of service offerings.