Sunday, September 16, 2007

Tips for Workshop Organizers

The Adriana Lira Workshop was the first big workshop I had ever hosted (and by big, I mean bringing in a foreign instructor). I kind of went into it a little blind and not knowing what to expect, but I did learn a lot a long the way. Here are some helpful tips I think other first-time workshop organizers could benefit from:

  • Don't plan a workshop for the end of August. People go away during August. Especially the end of it. No matter how many people want to come to your workshop, most of them won't even be around.
  • Make sure you have at least 10 people (or some reasonable minimum you deem reasonable) who swear on their lives that they will be at the workshop. Before agreeing to host Adriana, I asked around amongst my students and dance friends to find out who would come to the workshop if I decided to host it. Lots and lots of people said yes - some were, I'm sure, just saying yes because that's what they thought I wanted to hear. Some said yes without thinking about the logistics of the workshop - could they afford it, would they be able to get there, would they be available? Whatever their reasons, almost everyone who said they were interested did not sign up, and we were left scrambling at the last minute to find enough students to make the workshop worth it. So, get signatures in blood if you have to, but don't agree to host a workshop unless you are absolutely positive you will get a minimum number of students attending.
  • Have video clips of your instructor performing and teaching. This is especially important if you instructor is not a "big name." People want to see what you are asking them to fork over cash for.
  • Ask your instructor to bring his or her music with them as a carry-on on the plane. Or at least a few "emergency cd's". Adriana had a horrible flight experience - a diversion, a weather delay and a missed plane in Atlanta - and one of her bags was missing for the entire weekend. Unfortunately, it was the bag with her cd's for the workshop. (and all her clothes!! But she had her costumes, and really, that's all that matters, isn't it??). We had to do some creative song substitutions to make the classes work. They worked, but Adriana had plans for each class that she wasn't able to execute because of the missing music.
  • Advertise heavily. Everywhere. On the internet. In your classes. In dance studios. Everywhere. People may really want to come to your workshop, but due to the procrastinating nature of human society, they will not sign up when they hear about it, and then forget to do so until it's too late. If someone told me they wanted to come to the workshop, I emailed them and emailed them until I got a registration. Yes, I was probably annoying. But they registered.
  • Don't park your car in a bus stop in Manhattan. Um, well, that piece of advice is not really limited to workshop organzers - it's good advice for everyone. Don't park your car in a bus stop, or you will have to spend hours in the NYC Tow Pound and pay $185 to get your car back. Yeah, it happened to us after Day 1 of the workshop....

So, those are the little bits of wisdom I learned from hosting this workshop. Anyone out there have some experience in this field? Please share what you've learned!

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