The Calgary Stampede is on my bucket list.  Just like having a successful training event, planning a visit to the Stampede will be quite a lot of work. But I may have only ONE opportunity and I better make that opportunity count.

Part of the reason I think it will be difficult to plan a trip worthy of being on my bucket list, is that the Canadian news is flooded with speculation and footage of the Royal Couple’s trip to Canada. Part of that trip is attending the Calgary Stampede (which is the fourth most popular Canadian event.)  Speculation has it that the Royal presence is expected to increase attendance to the Calgary Stampede. You know what that means: when I go to book anything it will be that much more difficult.


I was amazed at the number of articles and ‘planners’ and ‘trip advisors’ that existed for the Calgary Stampede.

That is, I was amazed until I spoke with my friend Penny. She took her boys to the Stampede a few years back and insisted that they ‘do it right’. Her rationale was this opportunity doesn’t come around every day. Penny’s advice was to start researching events, planning (and booking) AT LEAST A YEAR in advance. [Note to self: I guess 2013 is now the earliest we’d be going to the Stampede.]

If you want ‘prime time’ you always have to book in advance and that includes seminars, webinars and events. While last minute bookings do come up, you need to give your audience some notice (and notification).


Penny also suggested the best way to start your Stampede experience was with a real Chuck Wagon breakfast before you watch the Opening Parade.  I never would have thought of that, but what a great idea to get into the mood and start the day off right. (And don’t forget to get tickets for the Chuck Wagon Races!)

I have written about instructional design before. You need to talk to your potential audience what are their challenges (so you can address them) AND you should talk to subject matter experts to get their perspective on the challenges and solutions. (I can’t stress this enough if you are a small or medium business. You should look to the 80/20 Rule: for the 20% of the content with 80% of the impact.)


Another consideration is fitting in. Penny suggests (/insists) that you should be ‘outfitted’ for the Stampede. While some articles suggest assembling quite a lot of ‘cowboy attire’,  Penny’s ‘shortlist’ includes the following: cowboy hat, proper cowboy shirt, jeans and of course, the requisite cowboy boots. I WAS SHOCKED, simply shocked. Why would I buy cowboy boots when my youngest’s feet were still growing??

But think about it. If you were invited to a themed party, didn’t you have more fun when you dressed up and really ‘got into it’?

The training world has similarities. We try to reach our audience and ‘fit’ their culture by speaking ‘their’ language and using examples that fit ‘their world’.  I’ve written posts that stress the importance of being audience oriented. Dressing the part can be part of this: make sure you fit in and make your audience feel comfortable. (Don’t wear a suit to a casual hands-on cooking seminar.)


Here’s a quick ’roundup’ of the some training lessons learned from planning/booking a trip to the Calgary Stampede:

  1. Research: including TALKING TO LOTS OF PEOPLE.
  2. PLAN/Book in Advance: to avoid disappointment and coordinate calendars (yours and your audiences).
  3. Try to put your audience first and fit in with their culture, use their language and relate to their world.

Don’t expect to ‘wing it’ or you may fall off your ‘high horse’: You need proper planning and preparation.

Now I’m not expecting you to ‘dress in character’ for your session, seminar or webinar… but does anyone have a pair of size 9 or 10 Cowboy boots available??

Until next time: “Ride ’em Cowboy!”


Image courtesy of Sue Ratcliffe. Sue’s work can be seen and purchased on her RedBubble Page.