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Sweat the small stuff, says ‘top’ admin

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Karen Gardner stands the steel pin within a big piece of machinery. That pin may seem small, but it enables the larger components of the machine to operate effectively.

“Everyone else may be so busy with the big picture that some things fall through the cracks. I work with those things that fall through the cracks,” says Gardner, who is the administrative and events coordinator for the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis. She recently was named “America’s Next Top Administrative Professional.”

Here are some little ways she makes projects run more smoothly:

• Streamlining event setups. Two of the museum’s annual events bring in about 6,000 people to each event, including dozens of community groups that set up booths. Gardner’s “small” contribution involved figuring out everything each group needed from the museum and then packaging that information in advance with a questionnaire and letter.

A completed questionnaire tells Gardner, for example, whether a group needs a special electrical hookup. The letter tells groups where to park, what materials to bring and when security will be working.

• Bringing interns under her wing. “People forget that there’s a lot that interns don’t know, from where to find pencils to whether they’re dressed appropriately,” she says. Each summer brings three new interns to the museum, and Gardner says they often seek her advice.

The way she sees it, the quicker she can bring them up to speed, the better assets they’ll be. And the mentoring goes both ways: “They tell me things they know about, like the latest computer tricks,” she says.

• Pitching in, no matter what. “I will do anything! If someone needs to slice veggies for a food demonstration or break down boxes, I don’t mind. My main concern is the experience each visitor has. It’s got to be extraordinary.

“And little things make a big difference in the workings of a museum.”

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