Resist the temptation. I know it seems correct, but you must fight against it. How can I fight against it, if I don’t yet know what IT is? That is what they call a hook. When getting ready to hire your staff for your Virtual Camp, the initial plan is likely to hire back only your most senior staff that you need to run the program and everyone else gets the Happy Gilmore, but as I said. You must resist! Let me explain.
In-Person vs Virtual
I don’t need to tell you (but I want to) that there are major differences between in-person camp and virtual camp. Here are the three biggest off the top of my head:
- Spelling (except the camp part, unless you spell it with a K. In which case, the rest of the article is not for you. Go now, please.)
- The presence of Denzel Washington (for those of you that don’t have Denzel coming to camp or part of your virtual camp, this may not apply)
- The fact, that you know, one is in person and the other is not.
And yet, despite these differences, we are planning to hire the same staff and the same way as we always have. (You can’t see it, but I am shaking my head. I’m not mad, just…disappointed.) If last year you offered Soccer Camp and this year changed to French Cuisine, yes it’s possible that you could use the same staff, but would you just assume that Kylian Mbappe could whip up a soufflé? So why would you think that it was automatic that your in-person staff will be a good fit for your virtual programming?
Now I’m not saying they aren’t a good fit. In many cases, some of the things that make them great in-person staff will also be the skills or attributes you will want in your virtual staff. And in many cases, a desire to show a degree of loyalty will play into this. That’s not bad. You will likely be running an in-person camp long after this, so it should be a factor in your decision. I am simply proposing it is not the ONLY factor. And maybe not even the most important.
“So what SHOULD I be looking for, Mr. Smarty Pants?” you ask. Well first of all, no one calls me that anymore…except my mother. And since I know she’s reading this one too (thanks again Mom, love you!) I guess I’ll answer you. But just this once.
Virtual Staff: First What, then Who
First of all, you need to have a thorough understanding of what you are planning to do. Are there pre-recorded videos, are there live chats, both, neither, something…actually I those are all of the possible options. Once you’ve got a handle on what, you need to start on how. What will you need to pull this off? Do you have the skills and/or expertise necessary? If not, perhaps you should reconsider the plan, but if you are determined to go forward (are you sure?) then that is your starting point. You need people to fill the gaps in your knowledge with expertise in the direction you are heading. And if it’s a land of which you know not, it’s unlikely that any of your former staff have a stamp in their passport either.
Virtual Staff: Hats not Heads
- You have your plan and your destination, now you need to make a list of the means it will take to get there. Start with the technical, do you have the people in place who know how to accomplish your plan. If not, you might think about hiring them because it’s March and while winter is coming, last I checked summer comes first. I don’t think plan A (I’ll take an online course and get up to speed) or plan B (how hard can it be, I’ll just wing it) are realistic at this point.
- Once you have technical staff in place, you’re likely going to need staff for the content, let’s call them “on stage staff” for the sake of clarity. This is where there might be overlap between former and future staff, but perhaps not as much as you might think. Someone who’s great at building relationships with the campers is not necessarily good on camera or on stage and while normally that’s ok, in this case: charisma is everything. You need people who will grab and keep campers’ attention. I have told my staff many times, while there is a level of respect due to someone who is talking: it is their job to entertain, not the campers’ job to be entertained. If you aren’t interesting or engaging, why should they give you their attention and their time? Isn’t their time valuable too? Is it ok for you to waste it by being boring? So choose your on-stage staff carefully. If they aren’t able to grab their attention and keep it, your virtual camp sessions will end up like this guy. Be selective about who you put in your content because your campers are certainly going to be selective about to whom they give their attention.
- Next, you need people who are the creative juice behind the scenes. These are the ones who will be spearheading what gets on the screen. These could be the same people that are on stage, and if the budget is tight, that might even be likely. But just like relationship building doesn’t equal charisma, charisma doesn’t equal creativity. If you know that you are going to have to combine these two positions, or there will be a lot of overlap, then try for a good combination of both (or two part-time positions). Because they will need all of their creativity. Taking what you would do in-person and putting on a screen will be engaging for between roughly 45 sec and 1 min (depending upon difference #2 referenced above). It will need to different. And if there is competition in your space, it will likely need to have something to differentiate you from the crowd. You need to give them a reason to choose you. Your creative team will be the reason.
- Lastly, you’ll need a team for the management. Taking the phone calls, helping people get registered (if you aren’t already using a camp registration software, I happen to know a good one), all of the stuff that normally comes along with camp. But they’ll need an extra level of familiarity with the content to answer questions related to getting connected, participating in the activities, etc. Again, likely there could be some overlap in some of these other positions, but you are looking for the attributes that make a good customer relations representative (which has little to do with some of the other skills mentioned above).
“If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always got.” (the internet is awesome, by the way, because this quote has been attributed to everyone from Mark Twain to Tony Robbins. In fact, in the footnotes, I am going to list everyone who just on page one of a google search). This is good advice to take note of, because you likely have never done this before…which means you should expect to do things differently, and that starts with your staff. Hire the staff for where you are going and resist the temptation to act as if everything is business as usual. Find the people who will push your program and mission forward and help you stand out from the rest and your summer will be as successful as it can be!
Google page 1 search
Tony Robbins, Henry Ford, W.L. Bateman, Jessie Potter, Joseph O’Connor, James Lewis, Mark Twain, T Harv Eker, T.D. Jakes, J.D. Houston, Author Unknown (that’s my favorite), Steven Hayes, Megan Miller, Zig Ziglar, Albert Einstein, H.M Ward, and Dare ‘kanmbi
Written by: Jeremy B
Despite a lack of any discernible talents or personality, Jeremy was a Day Camp Director for over 16 years in the PNW, where he was born and raised. He lucked into marrying the woman of his dreams and has two wonderful children who, thankfully, take after their mother. In his spare time, he enjoys playing the harp with his spin-metal band Doomloop, long walks on the beach (alone), and a little respect. He also writes words sometimes.