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Know when to let go of something

Sometimes events, issues, or groups loose their support. Sometimes they die. Its not always a bad thing.

Sometimes events, issues, or groups loose their support. Sometimes they die. It's not always a bad thing.

Today I met with Laura Russello of Michigan Peaceworks, and she told me about how they are discontinuing one of their regular fundraisers.

The fundraiser has been a lot of fun, but they’ve seen that it’s been lagging a bit in the last few years. So their shutting it down to try something new.

This happesn. People change. The public mood changes. And sometimes events, projects, or issues that were very relevant before no longer seem relevant.

What should you do when this happens:

  1. Admit the truth. I’ve seen groups go into denial when their beloved event or cause stops resonating with the public. You can’t change reality unless you face reality.
  2. Identify your options: Honestly look at your alternatives. You could keep working on a particular issue. For example, even if nuclear weapons aren’t in the news, that you could choose to keep working for their abolition. You could also choose a new topic or event. Or, maybe it’s time for your group to close. What are the different ways you could deal with the new reality.
  3. Evaluate tradeoffs: Remember, everything you do means that you’re spending time and money doing that rather than doing something else, so think carefully about the impacts of your choices. Yes, maybe your current fundraiser turns a profit, what other fundraising opportunities are you missing to pull that event off? Economists call these “opportunity costs,” and you have to evaluate these costs against the benefits of other choices or the status quo.
  4. Make a decision and act: After you’ve thought about it, do something. We’ve all been in those settings where people keep talking about an issue and never acting on it. Don’t let that happen to you. Make a decision and follow through with it.

Laura showed courage in stopping a popular event before it completely whithered into something downright embarrassing. And I’m sure she’ll replace it with something fresh, fun, and that will raise lots of money.

Will you show that kind of courage?

Why meetings are like waiting for the train

Being in a meeting is a lot like waiting for the train.

No, I don’t mean that they both seems to take forever.

I mean they are both easier to deal with when you know what’s coming next and when.

Consider this. I used to live in Washington, DC, and when you had to wait for the train there, you never knew when it would come. So, you would sort of switch from foot to foot, look down the tracks for the train lights, and then go back to fidgeting.

It’s not like that anymore. A few years ago they installed displays that tell you how long until the next train comes and where it’s heading to. Now waiting is much easier to bear. There’s something reassuring to know that the Grovesnor train will come in 2 minutes, but that you’ll have to wait 5 for the train to Shady Grove.

The time displays don’t make the train come any quicker (but then neither did looking down to see the train lights), but somehow knowing when the train is coming and where it is going makes the waiting easier.

The same is true for a meeting, and that’s why an agenda is so important. If people know what to expect, it makes it easier for them to be present.

That’s why plays print programs.

That’s why churches print orders of service.

That’s why when I run a movie showing, I tell people, “We’ll show the movie, then take 20 minutes for small group discussion, then we’ll check in with the small groups.”

People feel more comfortable when they know what is coming and when. Make them comfortable. Have a plan for your meeting or event and share it with them.

Make events run smoothly by letting people know what to expect

When you organize an event, you are fully immersed in it. You know what you expect to happen. You know why it’s structured the way it is.

You know what is going on.

Your audience, however, does not.

That’s why your job as an event organizer is to let people know what to expect.

  • Let people know when they can ask questions and when they can offer their thoughts.
  • Let people know know when they will eat and how that will work.
  • Let people know where the bathrooms are.

Not only will this help put people at ease, it will also make your event run more smoothly.

Plan your follow-up BEFORE the event

When you have an event, your energy and excitement peaks before the first guest walks in the door. By the time the event is over, you’re exhausted.

For your attendees, however, their energy peaks at and right after the event.

Here’s how it looks if you’re an organizer:

Energy curve for organizers

Your guests, however, have a different experience. It looks like this:

Energy curve for event attendees

What does this mean?

First, it means that your attendees are most ready to take further action and to get more involved right after the event, right when your energy is at its lowest.

That means you need to plan your follow up before your event!

You have a golden opportunity to cement your attendees’ commitment to your cause immediately after it finishes. That’s when they will be most receptive to action alerts, fund appeals, or just a feel-good “thank you for attending” email.

So plan that follow up while your energy is high. Plan what you will do to keep in contact with your attendees. Create the infrastructure. Even draft the emails you will send out.

By the time you get back to the office after the event, exhausted as you are, you want to be ready just to do a very little bit of tweaking and data entry to get your follow-up to your attendees.

Follow-up is like gold for increasing commitment to your cause. Don’t lose that chance by neglecting to plan for what happens after your last guest goes home.