Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Events Planning 101 Q&A

There will be an "Events 101" panel discussion this Wednesday, November 6, 7PM at Pleasures & Treasures.  It will be moderated by our own Patrick Willoughby, and he sent me a questionnaire that relates to the discussion.  Here are his questions, and my responses, re-posted here with Patrick's permission:

On Nov 3, 2013, at 4:53 PM, Patrick <doubledogg11@gmail.com> wrote:
Tony, I am conducting a meeting this week on the subject of Event Planning 101. The format is interview style by me asking progressive questions to drive a process discussion and educate or inspire members who may want to launch their own event in the future. Questions are as follows:

1. What types of events have you facilitated previously, simple to complex?
Formal Leather Dinner, May 2000.
I had hair back then!

Every kind that most folks could imagine. Fundraisers, statewide car shows, huge weekly dance parties, massive Movie Nights, Men’s Discussions, Cigars & Boots, Gear Nights, Formal Leather Dinners, play parties of every level, Beat & Greets/Hands-On Demos (originally called “Percussion Play Night"), and, I helped design the BELT and HARNESS nights. I created the first Leather Pride ever, anywhere.  Since 1981, I have organized thousands of events (too many kinds to mention here).  It’s just what I do.  I create events, and if they are good enough to repeat successfully, I hand them away.

Gear Night, February 2000
2. How are typical event subjects identified. Request, your idea, team brainstorm
Same as with the Entrepreneurial Imperative: "Find A Need And Fill It”.  I have an unusually keen ability to understand trends by observing crowd behavior.  If I see that there is a need for something new, I do whatever it takes to make it happen, such as the Flog Swarm - I tried to explain it before it happened, but nobody else could see what was crystal-clear to me.  The pieces were all around me, and I could see how they could fit together. So, I basically shoved folks into position and made it happen. THEN, everybody got it.

Whether somebody has the ability to intuitively spot when needs arise or not, the news can arrive in people’s complaints; “How come we never do that thing I want so much?”  That sort of feedback should never be ignored. However, there is a huge difference between having an idea and DOING something about it.  That’s why I structured FMSD to be crowdsourced.  If somebody has a wonderful idea, the rest of us can gather around and support the new idea so that it succeeds.

SDLOG Bondage Workshop, July 2001
3. what resources do you rely on to coordinate an event. Organizations, business owners, support group members, friends, solo performance
It ALWAYS takes a village.  There is no such thing as being a Lone Wolf event organizer - people don’t lend their strength to bossy loudmouths.  Just because somebody (say, me) is visibly ramrodding an event to completion doesn’t mean that there aren’t scads of team-members who are helping to drag it over the finish-line. 

It takes inspirational words from a leader to enroll followers, so that they can lend their resources gladly, and make the event succeed.

Every aspect has to be included - the venue (getting the bar manager to agree to allow the event), the cost (if any), the lead-time for announcing the event (at LEAST a month in advance, preferably two, then announcing it again three weeks beforehand, then one week, then three days before), the ability to spread the word across multiple social-circles (“marketing", 2014-style), and...

Thanking the team (in GREAT detail) afterward. This is not optional. A true leader’s job is to observe during the event, and then lavish lots of HONEST feedback, coming from love and friendship.  If somebody screwed up, then approach them with affectionate suggestions on how to do their job even BETTER, next time around.

If somebody did great, then let them have your honest thoughts with full force. Volunteer-types have a specific personality, and they are keenly sensitive to being taken advantage of, based on ample past experience.  A wise leader knows this, and never holds back on honest acknowledgment.  PUBLIC acknowledgment is even better.  Unfortunately, as I grow older and less able, I can’t remember a particular person's name (even if I used to know it), so my approval doesn’t have the same effectiveness.

My legendary RAMPART dance party, November 1999.
I hosted it every Friday for 2-1/2 years.
4. How do you schedule an event to minimize conflicts with other competing events. Pup contest versus bear quake 
Having excellent social connections is essential.  Even so, I struggle with this quandary. It’s a wildly random social network flowing around us.  The best thing is to announce an events months in advance, so that there’s at least some hope of gaining some “mental real estate” among the folks in the community, so that they plan AROUND your event.

Contestants for Mr. San Diego Leather 2003, 
the year that I ran San Diego Leather Pride. 
May 2003 (Tom Dickerson won!)
5. how do you minimize excessive reliance on the same resources. Bar owners, volunteers, sister organizations
Be open to possibility.  Ask around for options. If you declare a need for a new type of venue (to fit a specific need) on Facebook, as one example, you’ll get back at least three new, valuable ideas that you would never have found on your own.

Motorcycle Interclub Meet at Pecs, July 2000
6. What are the most common failures, issues, problems you have experienced or witnessed? 
1. Bossiness, as opposed to “inspiring the troops”.

2. Not trusting your followers. If they say “ummm - The music is too loud”, your job is to DO something about it, and right away.  NOT to argue with them and tell them that they are mistaken. Each event has to re-shape as time goes by, to fit the crowd, NOT the other way around. Theory has to mingle with reality, every time.

3. Using only ONE social circle (your own, which isn’t nearly as big as you think), and expecting a big turnout, if that’s the goal. It’s best to have at least one team-member who has a HUGE following… The Center, or FMSD, or the Imperial Court, or AIDS Walk, or Auntie Helens, etc. 

Otherwise, three people will show up at your fundraiser, people will wonder why they showed up, your heart gets broken, and we all lose another new leader due to “Rookie Mistakes”.  That’s why I mentor SO many folks, whether they welcome it or not. I know how important MOMENTUM is, in order to create new traditions that the public looks forward to, and will eagerly tell their friends to accompany them next time. 

I also have to include:

4. Failing to love, acknowledge and treasure your team at every stage: Before, During and Afterward. They won’t come back next time. When a club president whines “I have to do everything myself - Nobody will volunteer!”, I look at them, and I know the central source of the problem. No volunteer (no matter how masochistic) likes to be taken for granted, worked to death, and then replaced with some other poor schnook the moment that the first one burns out. That’s abuse.

Inspiring a large team is always better. More work gets spread around, more new people can observe the process and learn from it, and if it’s handled right, every participant will feel that they have a stake in the glorious success that covers us all in a golden glow of shared triumph.

SDLOG Dinner, January 2004
7. What's the best advice you can offer. 
The best currency is not MONEY (despite arguments to the contrary), it’s CREDIBILITY. No amount of money can buy credibility. It has to be earned every single day. Here is how:

- Staying in integrity (never being a flake), 

- Staying with a project with all of your heart, even if the first one has a tiny turnout. 

- At every event, thank folks for coming, and MEAN it. Let them know that they did the right thing by “voting” for you and your event. Don’t publicly and audibly moan that “NOBODY CAME TO MY EVENT”.  That tells your core group of followers within earshot that they are “nobody”.  I wish I could say that this was uncommon, but it’s not. Aaarrrgh.

- Never dream small dreams. The bigger the dream, the more it will excite discussion all over the Internet in places that you would never find on your own. Big dreams go VIRAL, and expand outward. Small dreams die the INSTANT that they come into being, and then everything just stops:  

1. “Let’s create a club!” 

2. The club is created. 

3. “Now what?”  “I dunno - what do YOU want to do?”

4. Repeat step 3 endlessly.

Waxing Demo, November 1998.
8. What do you need help with that someone attending this meeting could offer and better learn the process themselves
I have two HUGE “Family Reunion” events coming up (so far), that will be wildly diverse - Men and women of all flavors:

1. The next Flog Swarm is going to be HUGE, outdoors, and much, much more loving and Tribal. Music (so that everybody can be flogged with the beat), drummers, sage burning, and periodic pauses, so that folks can switch positions if desired before continuing onward.

2. I will be making the big announcement in a week or so, but I am enrolling people in the dream of July 2014’s San Diego Pride Parade containing the largest Leather Contingent in the history of the world. We are aiming for a MINIMUM of 800 people in gear. It will also be the FRIENDLIEST contingent as well. One long, transformational explosion of love and Family for the onlookers to be dragged into with big, happy smiles. More details (such as motivation and payoff) will be coming soon.

Being old, deeply experienced and wise is a HUGE advantage, and that’s why I lend my credibility to so many people. It’s horrid to start from zero, and I see it too often. It’s my self-appointed job to be a Saturn rocket-booster….to get a new leader up to orbit.  After that, it’s his or her job to make it to the stars. I can’t do that for them, but I can love them and support them unconditionally during the process.

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