A HINT for your personal motivation (Clue: it will get you more 2017 campers) - Joanna Warren Smith

Summer Camp is Only 10 Months Away!

I say that not to encourage additional R&R but rather to provoke you into action.  In order to present the best version of your camp in 2017, you need every minute between now and opening day to refine, design, plan and execute.
But first, let’s start the camper recruitment process!  No matter how good you think your program was last year, campers will not 'magically' return and new prospects will not 'materialize' unless you are intentional about monthly connections with each of 5 Networks … 2016 Parents, 2016 Campers, New Acquisition Prospects, 2017 Parents and 2017 Campers.

Take Action Now!

  • Affirm for 2016 Parents that they made a good investment.  Before you send an Early-Bird Sales Promotion, give parents insight into what their children accomplished at camp and what they’ll be able to achieve next summer.  Private camps often communicate personally with families while not-for-profits usually do more generic communications by gender and ages.
  • Reconnect 2016 Campers emotionally.  By snail or parent email, encourage campers to use what they learned about themselves at camp in school to have a great year.  Or give them a link to view the slide show that you presented at the closing ceremony.  The purpose here is to keep kids ‘thinking camp’ so that at whatever point a parent asks ‘Do you want to go back to camp?’ the answer is an enthusiastic and resounding 'YES!'
  • Reach out to Potential Families.  Those who inquired for 2016 but did not attend, those who toured this summer and 2015 (plus previous) families who missed last year are the most logical first outreaches to capture new acquisitions.  Use short, powerful message of the benefits of your camp with captivating visuals.  The most successful of these campaigns are personalized or targeted to each specific group.  Parents report in focus groups that they want to be ‘courted to the sale.’
  • Affirm the choice made by 2017 Parents.  Warmly and professionally confirm registrations, thanking parents for their trust in you.  Be certain that automated messages reflect your personality and further your relationships with parents.  Please don’t assume that what you’ve been sending for the past few years will work now.  Camps all over the country have been horrified when they follow the communication trail that a registration commences.
  • Welcome 2017 Campers.  Send a postcard directly to campers, give a gift or both.  Just be certain to do something that will heighten camper anticipation.  The price of the gift is not the issue, the connection to camp is.

Start the recruitment year off with a full-court press and do it now for maximum impact.  And please, if your website is not current, get your 2017 Rates/Dates and new programs/facilities up ASAP!!!


Do you have an issue you want to tackle before the summer starts? Give me a call at 310-451-1876 or email joanna@camp-consulting.com

(Note from Travis:   We are so thrilled to be posting the always brilliant HINTS from camp consultant Joanna Warren Smith!  If you don't already you should sign up to receive these HINTS in your email - in the left-hand column of Joanna's website: http://camp-consulting.com/) 

You gave it to your staff, why not give it to yourself?

There is a support/cheerleading/push-you-when-you-need-it group for you

It is up to you to find it. 

Yep, that should come from your CEO or your camp owner or the Board of Directors but you can't count on that.    

People that should rarely do.   Should weighs on people.  It makes them feel like they will fail and everybody tries to run from failure.  

Instead, why not find your own support team?   

A small group of people that will have your back and will hold you accountable to create great stuff for your camp and not fall into I really should answer these 73 emails. 

At CampHacker we call that a Mastermind Group.   I've belonged to many Masterminds over the years and I'm working on gathering up just the right folks to start a new one for myself. 

If you know just the right group of people and you want to bring them together as a Group please check out our post How to Begin and Run a Mastermind Group for Summer Camp Leaders.

We believe so strongly in the power of Masterminds that that process is going to become a central tenant of what CampHacker provides to our clients.   

We hope you'll join one of our year-long, facilitated groups.  We look after all the organizing, note taking and accountability reminders for you!

Apply to join a CampHacker Mastermind Group

Four Secrets Comedians Use to Keep Conversations Alive

Why you should hone up on your improv skills for that next job interview!

Author Samantha Field from Life's Secret Sauce (shot at Camp Big Canoe in 2011

Author Samantha Field from Life's Secret Sauce (shot at Camp Big Canoe in 2011

How many times have you been in a conversation and suddenly the topic changed and you’re left with nothing to say? You waited for that perfect moment to interject your two cents and now everyone is on to a new subject and you’re stuck trying to find something to say. It’s frustrating; you had the perfect joke prepared to bring everyone to tears but now you’ve missed your chance.  Don’t fret, the cure has arrived!

Refining your improvisation skills may not be at the top of your to-do list but the ability to react to changes within a conversation in an instant will leave others awed at your social prowess. To improvise doesn’t mean you weren’t prepared, but instead are in a situation for which you could not prepare.  Similar to improv comedy sketches, conversations flow and move from one topic to the next without hesitation.  Improv Comedians are masters at keeping a dialogue moving, they are prepared to make things up on the spot no matter where the conversation ‘turns’. This isn’t a natural gift, but a skill that is honed and perfected through practice.  They play games, practice scenes, and stretch their minds so they are prepared no matter the situation.  You don’t need to be ready to lead open mic night at the comedy club, but using these techniques of improv will help navigate even the most treacherous of conversations.

The following 4 rules come to you from one of the most famous women in the comedy scene, Tina Fey!

  1. Agree

  2. Yes And

  3. Make Statements

  4. No Mistakes, Just Opportunity

But how do we use these simple rules of improv in a world of complicated conversations?

Rule 1- Agree

Show Respect for what your partner has created

There isn’t much that can derail a quality conversation faster than staunch disagreement with whatever the person has said. A quality conversation is give and take, two or more people exchanging ideas and information.  But, any conversation will soon come to a screeching halt if neither party can find common ground. The 1st rule of improv, and one vital to quality conversations, is to show respect for what your partner has created.  In improv scenes the agreement is literal, you accept what was said and build from it to keep a scene moving and continue the storyline.  This doesn’t mean you must agree with everything someone says, (have you seen Jim Carrey in Yes Man?) but for the conversation’s sake, agree to disagree and keep the dialogue moving forward.  Respect the ideas of those in the conversation and being willing and able to change topics to avoid a disagreement can help build a strong foundation for the conversation to grow.

Rule 2- Yes And

Contribute something

Whether it’s a sketch comedy scene or a conversation in the boardroom when all eyes are focused on you do you know what to say next? The easiest way to keep a conversation moving is to agree (1st rule) and then ADD in your own thoughts or ideas on the topic. In improv, when one participant adds a new idea to the scene it takes the pressure off the first actor to come up with a new subject.  We’ve all been in one of those conversations when it’s pulling teeth to get the other party to engage in what you’re saying. Perhaps you were the person getting your teeth pulled?  Adding to the exchange to create new topics for discussion shows you’re paying attention and being active in the conversation.

Rule 3- Make Statements

Don’t ask questions all the time

Always add value to your conversation. Open-ended questions are great at keeping a conversation flowing but if your only input is asking more questions, your conversation may seem more like an interview to everyone else. Remember, you’re more interesting than you give yourself credit and others want to know something more about what you’re thinking or your own insight. This gives room for the conversation to grow and develop.

If you can’t think of anything to say try building from information earlier in the conversation. For example, if you asked where someone is from, add your opinion about that city. Have you been there? Did you ever want to visit? Maybe you read something interesting about the pizza there. Keep talking until whoever you’re speaking with has found a topic in which they can expand. This approach provides more information from you and will keep the conversation moving forward in a more natural manner.

Rule 4- No mistakes only opportunity

Learn to adapt and stay positive

Sometimes conversation don’t go as planned. This is okay. There are so many variables involved in each conversation and you can’t control everything. You have no control over the emotions of the others involved, or how their day has been going up to this point. Remember that there are no mistakes, only opportunities and each experience can provide a new learning opportunity. Stay positive and adapt to new situations. Just as an improv comedian needs to adapt and change direction to get through a scene, using these tactics help to maneuver difficult conversations.

Enjoy each opportunity to practice. Regardless if you feel like it was an unsuccessful conversation, it should provide lessons that can be taken into your next situation. Learn the rules, don’t be afraid to make mistakes and know that trying is better than avoiding the situation!

Using the 4 rules of improv to help guide your choices throughout a conversation leads to more flow and less likelihood of awkward pauses. Just like the professionals in improv comedy this skill takes practice. You won’t become a professional conversationalist overnight. Everyone makes mistakes along the way, even if you have been doing it forever.

To learn more about conducting meaningful conversations, ridding yourself of social awkwardness, and building bulletproof confidence in any social situation visit out site Life’s Secret Sauce. Just for joining our community we will provide you with a FREE E-book of 5 ways to always have something interesting to say in a conversation.

(Note from Travis:    We're excited to feature this article from Life's Secret Sauce - Sam Field is a camp friend and former Camp Big Canoe staffer!)

Life’s Secret Sauce, founded by Brandon Slater & Samantha Field, has been designed to teach young urban professionals how to have engaging and meaningful conversations as well as increase their networking skills. As public speakers in the Cruise industry they have learned what it takes to build relationships, connections and engage in great conversation without distraction. Currently they live in Miami with their Shiba Inu puppy, Azumi, and enjoy hiking in Alaska throughout the summer months. To learn more click here!

I can't believe you hate what I do.

Summer camp changed my life and I think it will for your child, too. 

Until I was 11 years old I never felt like I had a place to fit in.

I grew up in a small, rural community and I didn’t like sports.  That put a bit of a target on my back.

I had a great family life with many wonderful opportunities (like I said in my bio – growing up on a farm was amazing) but I never found that I could be open or honest with the kids I spent every day with.  Somedays it felt like the only people who noticed me were the ones who picked on me.

It turns out I needed a place that would accept my nerdy self and still push me to be more.

It took me four years and one particular event for me to understand that that place was Camp Kintail

When I was 11 years old, on a hot July day, my counsellor asked to speak to me outside during our rest hour.  His name was Ian McLean and he said something to me that changed, well…, everything.   On that afternoon, on a picnic table on Cabin Hill, my camp counsellor said to me “Travis, you’re going to make a great camp counsellor someday.”

As many of you who have been bullied know, one of the most important things to do is to keep your head down and hope that no one notices you.  What had I done to cause him to say that to me?   How was I living differently at camp than I was at home?

Only 1 Adult

Since that simple vote of confidence my life had changed from “let’s be safe (and read as many books as I can)” to “I’m going to be someone important.”  What an amazing gift.

That gift wasn’t just that he took time to speak a couple of words with me, it was that it was the first time an adult that I looked up to noticed me.

In the years since,  I’ve learned there is some great evidence that it can only take one significant adult one conversation to turn around a kid at risk.

Let me be perfectly clear: I’m not saying I was a kid at risk – I was lonely and often on the shit end of kind of behaviour that many kids use to dominate their social group but I doubt my life was going to spiral into homelessness or rampant drug use.

But now I had a something different:  I had a place I felt I could be myself, I had a hero of mine lay out a plan of possibility and I had a new way of looking at myself.

I had a mission. 

Why don’t you get that?

For the rest of this post I intend to explore the point of view of people who won’t sent their kids away to summer camp. Admittedly, to my mind that means that they won’t be giving their kids the opportunity to have a turn-your-life-around moment like I did.

I find this sentiment so strange it makes me angry.   When I was filling in my Seth Godin altMBA application my answer to the “what do you believe that others find crazy/strange?” question was:   I believe that people who don’t explore every possibility of getting their kids to summer camp fail as parents.  Truth.  I’ve said it more than once.

Please come with me down this path as I explore why people don’t believe in the importance of camp.

3 things to think about

In the prompt for today’s project we were asked to consider “priorities, stories and emotions” so I’ve organized this into 3 questions:  1) What rewards does a family get by not sending their kid to camp? There’s something that people are getting out of a summer that I’m not understanding. 2) What stories do people tell themselves about camp? Stories are at the heart of all understanding (and I don’t mean scary campfire stories… I certainly don’t believe that they have a place at camp).   3) What feeling does the idea of summer camp give them? This is probably the biggest factor in a decision about what your kids should do during the summer.   Like Seth says: everyone is saying “people like us do things like this.”

What rewards does a family get from not sending their child to summer camp?

  1. Time.  No family has enough time these days.   The school year is a blur of practices, clubs and extra lessons.   This family wants some time in the quiet season to hang out together, catch up on movies and talk about books.
  2. Money.  Summer camp costs money.   Even if a program is within budget the payment plans mean that a lot of money needs to be gathered and spent all at once.
  3. Simplicity.   Camp is hard work for a parent. Between the 15 page forms (oops, make that a 15 page form AND an 18 page form), all the emails with reminders and packing lists, and cheery notes from people we don’t know, there is a lot going on to get ready for camp.
  4. Help.   Not every camp-aged-child is a farm kid who’s parents need help with haying but there are lots of families with small businesses, with stuff to do around the house, and even other kids to look after.
  5. Control.   When life is super-stressful and there is too many things to think of a parent just wants one thing that is in their power.  Sending a child to summer camp means a lot of factors that you can’t control.

What stories do people who don’t send their kids tell themselves about summer camp?

  1. This is too unfamiliar.   You’re asking us to make our child go to a place where the food is different, the beds are different, the kids are different, the smells are different and even their care-giver is different?!?
  2. Those “kids” can’t possibly look after my child. How can a college-aged student (for some camps a high-school aged student) really take as good a care of my baby as I can?
  3. I will miss them too much.   What about me?  How can I stand to be away from my kids for 1 or 2 or 4 or 8 weeks?   I barely see them enough as it is.
  4. My son or daughter can’t handle this.   She hasn’t even spent a night away from home let alone a night away from us.
  5. This isn’t going to help a college application.   If everything we are working towards is focussed on getting into a great school how can a summer away from learning programs, volunteer placements or special coaching help build my child’s educational portfolio?

How do people who don’t know camp feel about camp?

  1. I say NO to Wet, Hot American Summer and Meatballs.We’ve seen the way camp is shown in movies and TV – if the staff aren’t spending their time gettin’ with each other they are getting dragged off and sliced up by some crazy lunatic.
  2. What if my child doesn’t get noticed once in their time at camp?  Everything you show me about your camp, in pictures and on video, is loud, busy, fast, and, did I mention, loud?   How can I possibly believe that my introverted little boy will ever even be seen at this camp.  Will a counsellor know their name? What happens if they run away and no one picks up on that for 2 days?
  3. Bored kids bully. I remember what it was like when I was a kid. All this time “chillin'” in their bunks or hanging out on Cabin Hill is going to be prime time for the big kids. Why would I put my kid through that?
  4. Strangers can never look after our kid the way we can. My daughter likes her food a very particular way.  If she doesn’t like her bunk she’ll never speak up and say anything she’ll just suffer in sleep deprivation for the whole two weeks.

We wish inclusively

Thank you Ben and Rosamond Zander.  I love that as a solution to finding common ground.   What can we wish inclusively, these parents and I?  How can we find a common ground?

I believe that we all wish the same things for children: that they have a chance to grow up happy and to accomplish more that what we accomplished.

In caring so deeply for kids and teens I can dig down and find empathy for the people who love them most.

As I worked through this exercise I was reminded of that great Elie Weisel quote: The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference.  These parents don’t hate summer camp, they just don’t see it as important.

Or, as our business partner James often says “we need to stop being one of those businesses that blames its customers for not liking it.”

If people don’t “get” camp the way I do… maybe that’s on me.


To all the parents (and want to be parents) reading this:   Why don’t you send your kids to camp?

Golfer Ben Crane's 3 Questions that will improve ANYTHING


I find the Building a Story Brand podcast to be helpful and insightful on each episode.

I loved these lessons from golfer Ben Crane. He sends a voicemail to his team at the end of every round of golf with the answer to each of these 3 questions:

  1. What did I do well?
  2. What did I learn?
  3. What am I going to DO about what I learned? 

These 3 questions really give you a chance to focus on the positives and build from what you did. 

If you are a supervisor it would be a great check-in mechanism to have your people send you the answers to those questions every Friday.

Why not create a simple Google Form and have an automatic email that goes out every Friday at 11:47 that asks your staff to fill in the form before they finish work for the week. 

The Form works on phones so it would be a simple check-in that would also allow you to monitor growth over time.