One Smooth Stone in Uganda…

We recently returned from producing an event in Uganda for Opportunity International. Opportunity International provides microloans to impoverished people, enabling them to start their own businesses and discover a stable income source. The CEOs of Opportunity’s banks from around the world gathered to share their vision and align strategy for reaching the poor.

One Smooth Stone’s role was to manage the production and content of the general session, ensuring that the production ran smoothly and messages were aligned. I sat down with producers Gary Vlk (Executive Vice President) and Mark Ledogar (Vice President) to discuss the unique experiences in producing and event in Africa.

BETHANY: What preparations did you make before you left for Uganda?

MARK: We bought a lot of bug spray and made sure we were fully vaccinated! We also carefully planned what production gear to travel with to make sure we were fully prepared for every possible scenario (while not exceeding the airline luggage weight limit).

How did you help Opportunity International attain its goals for this 4-day conference?

GARY: We enabled them to really focus on what was important and strategic. While we took responsibility for what was happening in the ballroom, our key client and the writer were able to spend time outside our ballroom with CEOs and leaders, fostering relationships.

BETHANY: What was one of the challenges you faced?

MARK: Rationing the resources we often take for granted…things like paper, ink cartridges, and electrical converters. These are usually easy to get when we’re in the States, but we had a limited supply in Africa. There was no Office Depot down the street!

BETHANY: What was your biggest surprise while you were there?

MARK: I was surprised by how real the poverty and difficult the living conditions are in central Africa. It’s one thing to see it on TV, but it’s something completely different to see and experience it face-to-face.

BETHANY: What was a personal highlight?

GARY: One day, we got off-property and met a tour guide who took us on a boat ride on the Nile. We experienced the culture and talked to locals to find out what day-to-day life was like. We saw first-hand the impact Opportunity International was making in people’s lives….our guide was actually a recipient of Opportunity International micro-loans and runs his own viable business!

BETHANY: What is the lasting impact this experience has made?

GARY: Since my return, I’ve been inspired to begin planning a trip back to Africa. This time, I hope to take my family to reach impoverished children in Zambia.

MARK: Events are a lot more than lights, sound and hotel ballrooms. Meetings have the power to change lives.

Thanks to both of you for sharing your experiences with our blog readers!

Photo Highlights from Uganda


An African choir performs at the general session

Mark and Gary with a local Opportunity International staff member who served as general session MC

Some of the local wildlife!

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