Asking the experts: HOW can we improve collaboration to create a positive impact?

This month at Positive Impact we are asking experts in the event industry of their top tips on collaboration; whether this be collaborating with colleagues in the workplace, collaborating with your local community, or collaborating with event companies all over the world.

Fiona Pelham, CEO of Positive Impact:

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"My main tip on collaboration is something I actually struggle with doing- that is to listen to the other person and what they are trying to communicate. The piece that I find a bit easier than that is to recreate, repeat, or reword what they are communicating so that they really understand that you understand them.

A second tip I would have for collaborating is just think beyond all the barriers that exist; something I really enjoy is imagining that anything is possible and going into collaborative conversations with that mind-set. Sometimes this method does not work because the people that you are collaborating with are used to rules and used to parameters, and cannot really think on a very big scale. But I have to say that as a small business owner, I have been running the businesses I run for over ten years now, we have definitely been involved in more world-shaking, world-changing projects because myself and—through my training—the rest of the team have taken that approach."


Janet Sperstad, event professional and senior professor in event management at Madison College:

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"We collaborate when we have an open mind. What collaboration really is, is that you listen not with pre-conceived notions but you listen for new ideas and you change perspective. Our brain is a prediction model, we’re always looking to predict, so we immediately think: 'okay I know what they're going to say, I know what the answer will be' and that shuts off parts of the brain that allows us to think more critically.

Collaboration happens when we shift perspective and we take someone else’s view and bring it into our own and create new ideas and so looking at people as a gift, that everyone has a unique perspective and something to offer. And if we change our perspective, what am I suppose to learn from this person, what is it I can take away, we will listen differently, so that mean we will open our mind differently, open up our whole mind."


Sandja Brügmann, international speaker, author, and founder of the Passion Institute:

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"Collaborating has become the cornerstone on my own leadership journey. The vision is the same: how do I create positive impact in the world through my life? Where before I was focused on the big vision, now I am more focused on the individual people I collaborate with. My focus of where I nurture is on the individual level of one-on-one relationships. Nurture each relationship; the basis of that is shared values and shared vision. You can certainly collaborate with people who aren’t necessarily clear on their vision yet, but know the general direction [of where they want to go].

Primarily find people that are at your same level. [People who have] a very clear vision, very clear values, because then your growth journey and the results you create in the world are going to be much clearer from action to results.

I used to not like being given feedback because I would take it personally, or it would be hard for me. It depends on how you see it: if you see it as a critique, then it is really difficult to grow, and you push away the very ability to help lift each other up. During this feedback session, I know there were things that were said that would have been difficult for me to deal with in the past, and now it’s like ‘that’s so interesting did I do that?’ ‘How can I do things differently next time?’ It’s really helping me to be a better facilitator and doing a better job in the world.

Julie Pazina, National Director of Sales at Edlen Electrical Exhibition Services:


“So much of collaboration comes down to positive communication between others. [We need to] really truly listen to people and truly understand where everyone is coming from. I think that is fundamentally the basis for collaboration is positive communication and listening. 

I was president and still on the foundation board of the Las Vegas hospitality association. [One of the forms of collaboration includes] the ‘Fill a Bag With Cheer Program’. It’s something that is really meaningful to our group and we work every year to find a different school so it does mean working with the Clark County School District to find a school which has a high percentage of students that are really in need & that are in distressed situations, and we put a bag together at the holiday time every year. Filled with blankets, shoes, all sorts of clothes, healthy snacks, toys, school supplies, to really try to make the holiday season a little bit brighter. 

We work as hard as we can from so many different members of the association, different members of the community to help the school.  The councillors of the school are able to identify the kids most in need and to provide the space to really make these kids’ holiday dreams come true. 

Everyone in our industry can definitely say that multitasking, and being conscientious are hugely important because you have to follow up on so many details; it can become very important to become multitasking and very organised. Every experience we have in our lifetimes brings us to where we are today. I look back to things I have learnt whilst I was a child, the things I have learnt from when I was on the show floor, as well as the things I have learnt when I was with Fill A Bag With Cheer: they are all things I have used on a continuous basis and definitely part of my daily role at Edlin as well as my run for State Senate."  


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Sylvia Schenk, chair of the working group on sport at Transparency International:

"My experience always needs one or two people to start the process and, at least for the beginning, to continue to work on it. [This allows us] to bring people together, to share information and so on and then usually after a specific time it gets a dynamic of its own: so for example we are collaborating now three and a half years on the international level with organisations like Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, football professional players, international organisations, trade unions and others on the issue of major sport events, human rights and anti-corruption. And in the beginning we first invited them to Germany.

In the beginning everybody was curious on the one hand and on the other hand sceptical how it will help each of our organisations and what will it be about. And then after two meetings we realised that every organisation is winning by joining- and now we have a really good relationship and many successes. If you see that a change can be made, take that step and invite people to join and its okay if people are wary at first, but keep doing it, because then it will become normal to come together and sharing."