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TRIP LEADING TIPS

By Mike Boisvert.

Overview

GayOutdoors is a club run by and for its members. Outings take place because some members are willing to organize them and other members are willing to attend. The club then is only as good as the efforts its members put into it.

Our members who organize outings are into what they're doing, do it for the sheer enjoyment of it, and enjoy sharing their experience with others. Our members organize activities because they want to. It's an opportunity for guys who have participated in previous activities to give back a little and organize one of their own. Since you would be organizing something, you would qualify for being named our Member of the Month! 

If there are no activities near where you live and you'd like to see more, the simple answer is get involved. First, if there is an activity taking place near to you and you can attend, then go along and take part. It is only through member support of activities that demand in an area increases.

Second, you could get involved and organize an outing. Nearly all areas of the country have hundreds of members registered. Try posting a couple of activities in your area and then get the word out for more people to register on the our website to attend your activities. Something as simple as a day hike can get things going. Send an invitation to everyone on your GayOutdoors Buddies List. Get the word out by posting it in local gay events/resources website. Post a notice in gay bar bulletin boards. Post the activity with any forums you subscribe to or other gay clubs you belong to. Call or send an email to everyone you know or anyone you think would be interested. You can also send something to your nearest gay newspaper and have them post it in their Events Calendar.

Third, handle any questions that come in about the activity, and make any necessary arrangements (campsites, lodging, carpooling, special equipment requirements and so on). Then, finally, just be there and enjoy the activity along with everyone else!

An event can be social in nature such as meeting up at a local bar for a "Happy Hour" [GO Rendezvous]; hosting a potluck dinner, BBQ or slide show at your house. A meetup at a movie theater to watch an outdoorzy type movie like "Into The Wild", attending the Banff Film Festival, or viewing a nature based IMAX movie is also a lot of fun! 

We recently had a poll of members to get a sense of what trips most interest them. We highly recommend you take a look to help you plan a successful trip! >>View Member Survey

Organizing An Outing

What do I get from organizing an outing?

Aside from the exercise and fresh air, by organizing an outing, you will meet and hang out with some great guys. You'll learn something new from someone who goes along, and someone will learn something new from you as well. You'll get some organizing and leadership experience. Don't forget that the activities have their own intrinsic rewards. And you'll be eligible to be chosen as our Member of the Month! 

What types of outings should I organize?

Organize what you like to do or would like to try! Do you have a favorite place you would like to share? Maybe there is a place you would like to explore? There are some guys in the group who would appreciate a light, easy-going event. Usually you can find information to plan a trip from articles and trip reports on our website, from a guidebook, from the Internet, or from talking with other GOers. Post an event that you'd be comfortable doing - don't drive yourself crazy!

If you wish to get guys together for a weekend getaway at a lodge, hostel, cottage, campground, mountain hut or even your house, that's great! Have the guys split the costs with you.

You control the outing. You control the horizontal, you control the vertical. You decide the maximum number of guys you'd like along, and you can establish a minimum.

But it'll be too "lame"... There are some people in the group who would appreciate a light, easy-going activity.  Put together a "Happy Hour" at your local bar for outdoorzy guys to meet-up. This is a great way to get a group started where you live! Light hikes not far from your town are great for beginners and for people who are trying to get fit. A leisurely day paddling on a river or lake removes the tensions of the day. Get together at a beach or swimming hole for a day, relax in a campground for the weekend or have a BBQ at your house. In winter, put together a easy day of snowshoeing or cross-country skiing at a Nordic Center where the guys can rent equipment.  

I don't know what outing to do...There is all kinds of information out there on the Internet and there are great books out there with ideas for activities. Our website has some great articles and check our trip reports/photos section to help you. Don't be afraid to ask questions in our forums. Most states have a 50 Hikes series published for hiking. There are books on places for mountain biking, cycling, paddling, cross-country skiing, etc. - you name it!  And you can always Contact Us.

Don't forget to check our Frequently Asked Questions - we have a section on organizing events.

Outings That Involve Money

Money generates a lot of problems, even small amounts.  I would STRONGLY recommend that you NOT do something that involves you putting significant money out upfront.  If it cancels, or people drop out, or participation is less than you think, you may be stuck with significant costs.  I've lost money from putting up money up front, as have others.  Being in this position is VERY anxiety producing.

If your outing is going to involve costs, I personally think it is far better to  ask guys to place a deposit to be officially signed up, if not the full cost. Some lodging accommodations and outfitters will usually hold your rooms/spots with no money in advance until they have received a deposit by a certain date.  I usually ask guys for the "full amount" by that date instead of having to ask for the balance of the money later on. And I make sure they understand the cancellation policy so they know how much money they stand to lose. 

Another option is to have guys make their own reservations for a campsite, motel, Bed & Breakfast, rentals, rafting trip, outdoor workshop, etc. Give them the phone number to call and the Group Name to put the reservations under. You will probably forfeit sharing a group discount but at least you did not lose any of your money and deal with any last-minute cancellation issues.     

Leading Tips For Beginners

1. Lead an outing that you've done before and would like to share with other members. Or go on some outings lead by others, talk to leaders about what's involved with running an outing, and find out what issues come up [problems tend to occur].

2. Lead an outing that is very easy, before you lead an ambitious trip.  A simple hike would be reasonable.

3. Outings that tend to have a lot of problems are ones that involve a lot of people, involve money, involve important time deadlines (the ship leaves the dock....).  If you are not used to leading trips, I'd try to avoid these things  for your first trip, as you will be getting into some complicated problems.

4. YOU WILL HAVE NO-SHOWS!!  (sigh).   These fall into two general categories:  Those who have something happen (injuries, illness, work requirement), and those who just decided not to go (usually offer some excuse).  Nothing to be done about this, just be grateful they let you know.  The guys who just don't show are the ones who raise my ire.  You sit at the trailhead.  Time to show up passes.  They said they were really coming.  How long do you wait?  The leader problem.  Best to have a "drop-dead" time with your trip details, and STICK TO IT. Otherwise there is no end to the wait.  I usually indicate I wait no longer than 15 minutes and if they are running late, they can just hike on the trail to catch-up with us. 

5.  Unless your outing is a simple hike, where you don't really care if 5 or 25 guys show up, you should communicate with people as the time approaches.  Our system automatically reminds everyone about the outing a week before by sending them an email. Use the "Email All Participants" button 4 days before to share weather conditions, gear tips, and ask them to cancel if they can't make it. You'll have some drop-off there.  If you have a waiting list, our system will move them to the 'active' list as guys cancel and send them an email. If a guy is moved from the waiting list to the 'active' list the night before or morning of, there is a good chance he won't make it due to the last minute notification.

6.  If weather is a real issue for a go/no go decision, use the "Email All Participants" button to keep in touch with everyone. First send them an email that you are thinking of cancelling the outing and that you'll be sending a subsequent email at such a time/date for the final decision for them to check their email.  You can also give your phone number for them to call you if they would be unable to get to their email.

7.   Communicate with the guys signed up on your outing.  I use the "Email All Participants" button on the trip page.  People ask questions and you should answer them timely!  [Note that guest members cannot send out emails to other members including the trip leaders.] If there is some issue (such as weather uncertainty), that may cause the trip to be cancelled, it is better to get the issue out there.  Some may cancel because of the uncertainty, but everyone usually feels better that you are paying attention to the details.

8.  If there are logistic problems with the outing, email the participants about it, they may have ideas, or may be able to help.

9. If you have uncertainty about doing a particular outing, or if you are interested in doing something, but don't know how to proceed, post about it in our Forums. Generally, people will try to give suggestions or help.

Trip Leadership

Setting the example is probably the most important leadership skill. It is the most effective way to show others the proper way to conduct themselves, and is even more effective than verbal communication. Without this skill, all the other skills will be useless. One way to think about setting the example is to imagine yourself as a member of a group and think about how you would like your leader to act.

Be enthusiastic and be humble - share with others that you are tired and out of breath. Don't be an egomaniac. You don't always have to "lead" the hike...include the participants in decisions, ask their opinions and  suggestions. Keep a sense of humor and have a sense of caring by regularly checking in with everyone to make sure they are doing ok. Some guys want to enjoy autonomy and independence so give these guys their space and freedom. I think it's important to find that balance. I would NOT want to feel as if I'm with a camp counselor....so I keep that in mind too. I don't think it's necessary to be controlling, and I personally, would be put off with that kind of behavior from a leader.   We are all leaders. 

SHOW UP ON TIME AT THE MEETING PLACE. 

To make sure everyone stays hydrated, make an effort to let other guys see you take a drink. To make sure everyone's energy levels remain high, make an effort to let the other guys see you nibble on something.
 
Take rest breaks as needed but don't overdo it. It's important to keep the activity moving!

Always keep a close watch on someone new as they are the ones who tend to be unprepared, take a wrong turn, or lack the stamina to complete the trip.

Carry a first-aid kit even if you're not an expert (other guys will help you out to treat injuries), a headlamp if you are forced to finish in the dark, and of course a map.  

On the Trail...  

(1) Huddle the group together before you start and have them introduce themselves.

(2) Take a head count of all members and recount during rest breaks. Other techniques to not lose anybody is assign each person to a "buddy" or have someone volunteer to remain the last person (sweep) at all times.

(3) Instruct the group that if they get ahead of you to stop at all trail intersections, unmarked trails intersections or any turns that don't seem obvious. This prevents anyone from making the wrong turn.  

(4) I like to be in the lead to set the pace of the group. The pace of your trip should be as fast as the slowest person. Nobody should be left behind.

(5) Monitor the "fun" scale of your trip, especially during a strenuous trip or bad weather conditions. If the group is "too" quiet and appears not to be enjoying themselves, perhaps it's time to quit and turnaround. Nobody will argue with your decision. 

Slow Person

You should know fairly quickly (within 30 minutes) when someone is falling so far behind that he probably won't have the stamina to complete the trip. Depending on the nature of the activity, he could put the entire group at risk so you should address this immediately! Pull him aside away from the group...don't embarass him...and discuss what's ahead. Once he knows that there is a lot more struggling ahead, he will decide to turn around. I usually offer him an easier hike to do upon returning to the car so he feels like he did not waste his day driving to meet us. It's easier to have him turn around alone earlier on than later when he may have difficulty finding his way back.  

A couple of times I had someone refuse to turn around. In that case I told him that he was no longer part of the group, that we would no longer wait for him and if he ran into any problems we won't be there to help him. Guess what? He turned around :-) 

Summary

Overall you have the responsibility to make the "go" or "no go" decision before the outing. During the outing itself, the "turn around" decision is also yours. Take a head count before you leave, keep the group together and monitor the condition of the group. Have a "First Aid Kit." Locate an alternate leader if you are unable to keep your commitment. Have fun! Be aware of weather conditions so as to advise participants on proper gear. Wait at all junctions to insure that all participants follow the leader.

GAY OUTDOORS is the world's largest gay, bisexual and gay friendly men's adventure club. We are here as a simple Internet Bulletin Board that allows members to post outdoor activities and post trip reports/photos for gay, bisexual and gay-friendly outdoorzy men so they can enjoy the beauty of the greater outdoors with other like-minded men. Outdoorzy men of all skill levels are invited to join.
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