During #WeMakeNBF Appreciation Week, there’s always a reason to celebrate our hard-working group of Volunteer Team Leaders! As such, we wanted to recognize a few individuals who made an exceptional contribution to our customers’ experience at NBForum 2017. Let’s start things off with the lovely Daniela Alén.
Daniela was one of the leaders of the Cloakroom Services team. She and her co-leader were in charge of a team of over 25 people. She rose to the team leader position after spending 3 years volunteering with NBForum. We sat down to speak with Daniela about her experiences with us!
Nordic Business Forum: Hi Daniela! Now that you are coming to the end of the NBF Leadership Program 2017, what has your volunteer experience been like with us?
Daniela Alén: It has been amazing! I have been volunteering a couple of times at other events and nothing ever really compares to Nordic Business Forum. As a volunteer, the main benefit of working at other events is that you can get free tickets to go to the events, but no one does it like NBF. Somewhere else, you will get the ticket but you feel like nameless people who don’t matter to the organizers of the event. My experience with NBF was completely different, and the bar is set so high in my mind now! NBF is so unique in the way that they treat volunteers and how much respect they give them — they don’t just want to use you, they really want to bring value to you and your experience.
NBF: At NBForum 2017, you were one of the heads of Cloakroom Services, which was praised for not only organizing the cloakroom but also mending some jackets. Did you or your team have experience doing this?
DA: Not at all! There were a few of our volunteers who had some sewing skills and knew how to fix buttons and jacket loops, but I did not know how to do that at all to be able to teach them. But I didn’t need to know; the people who knew what to do were teaching others. They had this little nice corner of the cloakroom where they would sit and teach each other how to do the fixes, and they were having fun at the same time. It was so great to see it happen naturally because so many of them had never done anything like it before, but they were happy to learn!
NBF: The volunteers in the Cloakroom Services team were particularly international. Did you face any challenges because of language or culture differences?
DA: Definitely! This year, for the first time, all the training sessions were supposed to be done in English, and there were a lot of people who joined us who did not speak any Finnish at all. And yes, we had challenges. One of the biggest challenges was getting people to talk during the trainings. At first, if we were, for example, asking open questions to the group, no one wanted to answer. We thought that it was because we suck as teachers and that they don’t like us, and they didn’t want to participate because of that. But after some time, we understood that the real reason was because we had people in the room who really spoke only Finnish and were too shy to speak in English, so they didn’t speak at all. I could totally understand because, if it was me who had to talk in a big classroom in English after not much practice, then I would also be scared to say something wrong.
When we understood this, everything changed. We could help them see that we are not fluent either; we were not native in English, but we were still training them, so it’s OK to make mistakes. This even happened to me: we were talking about this Finnish food called maksalaatikko and I tried to explain it in English, but I translated it horribly wrong. I said it was a “liver box” but it’s really some kind of casserole or something. But we did things like that and we all laughed about it, and then I think they understood that we are not Gods and we can all talk and make mistakes. From then on, we had more open discussions and participation from more people! And everyone said that they learned more English this way.
NBF: That’s a wonderful icebreaker! Building that level of openness is essential with a large group. Based on your experience as both a team member and leader, what are the qualities of a successful volunteer?
DA: You have to be open-minded and ready for anything. If you are open to opportunities and think of anything that comes up as an opportunity instead of a threat, then you can be successful. But for that, you have to have the right attitude. With a good attitude, you can go so far!
Speaking from the Cloakroom team, I think it’s easy for people chosen for this position to think that they are almost the leftovers from the applicants because they aren’t in the main event hall all the time — but this is not true at all! We wanted a certain type of people and we choose people for the cloakroom. There is no such thing as leftovers. We really had a list of what we’re looking for, and attitude was key! Our team, just like all the others, was handpicked because we appreciated their strengths and want to give them a job that they can do well. We know that they are important and we want to make their experience fun.
NBF: Feedback from both the audience and the volunteers point to them all having a very enjoyable experience with the Cloakroom team! Before we say goodbye, we have to know, what’s next for you?
DA: I’m still finishing up my studies now, and after that I will be looking for a job. It’s difficult to think that I won’t have NBF to fill my time anymore, but I will be looking for something where I can really use these skills that I’ve learned over these last three years. It may sound corny, but Nordic Business Forum has really changed my life. I am excited to see where the future takes me.
Stay tuned for more interviews with some stand-out students from Haaga-Helia University of Applied Sciences, our partner for our main event in Helsinki and our volunteer recruitment. Have a question about the NBF Leadership Program? Get in touch with Daniela to ask her questions about her experience. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter to keep up with the latest news and announcements from our HQ!