My Soapbox: Lajuana Miller, 2012 World Choir Games
Next July, when 20,000 participants from 70 countries descend on the city for the seventh annual World Choir Games, Lajuana Miller will be ready. As director of volunteer services, Miller will manage more than 3,000 volunteers during the 10-day event, which is estimated to have an economic impact of more than $73 million. Soapbox’s Evan Wallis talked with her about how it feels to manage a group of volunteers almost the size of her hometown.
Why do you think people should care that the World Choir Games are coming to Cincinnati?
The WCG have never been held in North America. Their first time to the United States is Cincinnati. That’s a big deal. People should care because it gives us an opportunity to be on the world stage. We can show we are a world player, a world-class city. People will want to come back independently from the WCG because they enjoyed the city so much.
What do you think will surprise people the most about the games?
Americans will be surprised most by the diversity of talent they will see. There are choirs from all over the world. For the different choirs, I think they will be surprised to experience how friendly and well received they will be in Cincinnati.
Why did you want this job, and what does it mean for the city?
It is in alignment with things that I have done before. I’ve been an event planner for large-scale events. I have a lot of contacts relative to being able to recruit volunteers. My responsibility to the city is to engage people and let them be a part of this event as well as understand the importance of the games. We need to fly our flags high for Cincinnati. People need to know this is going to be the best WCG games ever, both from an operational perspective and from a visitor’s perspective, so they want to come back.
How is this job like, or different, from your past jobs?
Diversity. This amount of diversity has never been a part of my job. I have never been a part of world event. We have 70 different countries coming, so there will be many different languages. We have to have interpreters and a lot of other help to make this run smoothly. Ultimately, people are people and they need and want to be treated nicely.
What are some of the jobs volunteers will hold?
Volunteers might be involved in marketing and communication, maybe specifically social media, doing a play by play of what’s going on at the WCG. Helping to make linkages to people who are in foreign countries who want to know what is going on in Cincinnati. Obviously, interpretation services, help with set up and tear down of sites. We will need people who greet the choirs at hotels and airports, so they can do the simple things such as arriving downtown without problems. We need people every step of the way.
What would inspire you to volunteer for a cause like this?
I want Cincinnati to be viewed positively by the world. Maybe you just like music and you want to see the competitions up-close, or maybe you like the camaraderie of working with other volunteers. A lot of the time groups continue to volunteer together because they enjoy their time so much. I think it will be such a festive occasion that everyone would want to be involved.
How do your past jobs help you with this one?
I’ve had to manage volunteers for events up to 150,000 people. I did everything from managing where vending booths, where volunteers needed to be, where the police needed to block off roads. It made me well suited because I understand the full range of things that volunteers have to participate in. If you’ve only worked on one aspect, you don’t understand that marketing and communications volunteers are tied to the people taking tickets.
What has been the best part of your new job?
I’m really good at event planning, but I have never dealt with something this large. It’s making me elevate my game and really challenging me. I have really enjoyed the expansion of my learning to create an event that is on the world stage.
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All photos by Scott Beseler