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Courage in Creativity - 8/3/2016 -

Apryl Motley
3 Questions for Patricia Fitzgerald, Editor, School Nutrition Magazine — and a bonus Big Idea at the end

By Apryl Motley, CAE

On the eve of the 2016 AM&P Annual Meeting, we caught up with one of last year’s presenters — Patricia Fitzgerald, editor of School Nutrition Magazine and acting senior director of communications at the School Nutrition Association — and asked her to reflect on her AM&P speaking experience. Given the topic of her 2015 presentation, "The Courage to Be Creative," with co-presenter Maria Robertson, senior director of marketing communications at the International Society for Pharmaceutical Engineering, we were especially curious about how she’s kept the creative juices flowing this past year at her association.

Sidebar: How have you continued to boost creativity at your association?

Fitzgerald: I spent a good deal of 2015 and 2016 in a creative mode as my team worked on a complete redesign of School Nutrition Magazine. It was the first graphic redesign since 2007 and the first reworking of the content mix since 2003. It launched with our June/July 2016 issue.

We did the whole process in-house; it was the third redesign of this magazine for me and the fourth for our creative director, so we had a lot of confidence in managing the process ourselves, but also wanted to tap some independent feedback. Our creative solution was to identify a handful of trusted design/editorial friends and ask them to serve as members of our redesign team, paying each of them a set fee for their time and expertise. 

Following the AM&P meeting last year, we also decided to make "creativity" the theme of one of our issues for School Nutrition Magazine. The April 2016 issue included an article on getting past barriers (based on my presentation with Maria) as well as pieces on creating a culture of creativity, individual and organizational benefits, a team-building exercise with a creativity focus, and various sources of inspiration like Ted Talks, websites, podcasts, and apps.

Sidebar: What was your experience like as an AM&P Annual Meeting presenter? Did anything surprise you?

Fitzgerald: I was pleasantly surprised that we had such great attendance, retention, and participation at our session, which was slotted late in the afternoon on the second day of the conference. That's a tough time-slot, so I had been trying to keep my expectations low. 

Sidebar: What was your biggest lesson learned from being a presenter?

Fitzgerald: Since we had a number of activities planned with the audience, we had to develop different contingencies based on how many people were in the room — and how many of them were engaged participants — to ensure we were properly managing our time for the entire session. That was the greatest challenge, especially with the late-afternoon time slot. We felt strongly that interactivity is essential to a successful presentation, but it was my single-greatest source of stress.

As a presenter, the greatest lesson I’ve learned since entering middle-age is the value of printing my notes in 18-point type.


During the session, participants were asked to identify one big idea that they would like to implement at their associations. Then, they were tasked with identifying the top 3 barriers they might face (i.e. personal, boss, team/peers) along with three ways they might conquer each barrier. Trying this simple exercise might help you boost creativity, too. 

Apryl Motley, CAE is a communications consultant and freelance writer. She is a frequent contributor to Association Media & Publishing’s Signature magazine and a member of its Content Creation Committee.


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