Camp Creates a World of Magic: The Trail to Innovative Thinking Begins at the ACA National Conference

by Marla Coleman

A once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for camp directors is here: learn best practices from the front line by benchmarking a world-class organization! When the 2001 ACA National Conference convenes February 21 in Orlando, conference participants will be immersed in the one-of-a-kind learning environment of Walt Disney World. With the resort as a backdrop, an inspiratio, and a living classroom, Disney Institute facilitators will herald new ways to combine creativity and innovation with leadership excellence and quality service. This professional development experience is coined the "Disney Difference"; it’s a comprehensive passport to Disney’s "world."

Learn Recruitment Practices from Disney Managers

Headlining the series of seminars, each led by Disney managers who will provide a detailed account of how their best practices can be adapted to impact the success of our camps, will be Kristi Breen. Kristi, the college recruiting manager of the Walt Disney World College Program, which recruits, trains, houses, and educates 3,000 college students from around the world every semester, will talk about what the camp industry can learn from the Disney company and how ACA and Walt Disney World can partner.

Similarities between camp and Disney begin with family-oriented operations where individuals are situated in our "worlds" and continue with emphasis on guest service and recruiting the right fit talent. Kristi’s effective question is "how do you build loyalty in your college student work force?" Michelle Reynolds, who heads the Disney Heritage and Disney Ambassador programs, will join Kristi at the podium. Michelle will draw on the history of the successes of the Walt Disney World College Program and the best practices that have been developed in the past twenty years for more than 35,000 students.

Learn to Dream It and Do It

If camp creates a world of magic, then ideas are the life of the camp business. The Disney seminar on creativity and innovation focuses on the intrinsic value of developing a corporate culture that "encourages everyone to dream it and supports them to do it." The program shares Disney’s philosophies for nurturing creative excellence. Specifically, the facilitator will coach conference participants to learn how to:

  • recognize components of the Disney culture that foster creativity and innovation and how to transfer those components to their camp
  • identify leadership behaviors that nurture and encourage creative ideas
  • foster a creative, collaborative environment
  • discover methods for allowing creativity to flourish at all levels of a camp
  • recognize the significant role diversity plays in securing creative and profitable ideas

Learning objectives for the seminar on leadership excellence will center on tapping into personal leadership potential while also transferring that energy into a motivational force for the entire camp. "Story-
telling, synergy, and values are an intrinsic part of the leadership structure guiding the extraordinary success and perpetual growth of the Walt Disney World Resort," say Disney managers. The program will help attendees:

  • examine the components of leadership excellence
  • model passion for the organizational vision
  • encourage accountability and ownership
  • develop a leadership action plan that helps create alignment between organizational values and individual values and behaviors
  • gather insights, make comparisons, and share successes
  • enhance team performance

Learn to Treat Every Camper as a VIP

Completing the triad of enlivening presentations of Disney management techniques is a session on quality service. With the Walt Disney World guest service model as a guide, the program’s thrust is exceeding customer expectations. This exploration of Disney service practices illustrates how to treat every customer as a VIP. Specifically, during the program participants will:

  • observe strategies and methods to communicate a service theme
  • deliver consistent, measurable quality service that exceeds customers’ expectations
  • experience Disney examples of attention to detail
  • begin developing a plan to adapt Disney methods to camp
  • promote accountability for and ownership of the customer experience among employees
  • achieve a fully integrated service solution that ensures a seamless customer experience

This ACA National Conference is an immersion into Disney’s conceived culture and a special opportunity for ACA members to use this gold standard as a model for sculpting their own camp culture. It’s a chance to discover and infuse the motivational enchantment of Disney and to unleash a steady flow of new ideas to spark the magic in our own camps.

Marla Coleman is owner/director of Coleman Country Day Camp in Merrick, New York. She serves on the ACA National Board of Directors and is a member of the ACA National Conference Program Committee and the ACA Public Awareness Committee.


Originally published in the 2001 January/February issue of Camping Magazine.