Riff: Event Wrangling & Community Magic

(CC) Randy Stewart, blog.stewtopia.com. Feel free to use this picture. Please credit as shown.
If you are a person that I have taken a photo of, it’s yours (but I’d still be curious as to where it is).

A riff in reply to a conversation with Isabella Mori and others (FB iirc) about the notable conference/event/happening called Northern Voice and the reasons it sparked such goodness.

My thoughts about what makes events successful and satisfying: 

It starts with people wanting to be “part of something bigger than themselves” but then must be coupled with the reality of “getting things done” from logistical standpoint.

This is where communities so often struggle/fall apart with diverging visions – once dreaded money enters the scenario, the fun dissipates.

With this is mind, I find the best solution is finding ways to do things for “cheap and cheerful”… like in someone’s cabin, outside in a park, whatever venue is free, or no venue at all (as we did for True North Media House during the Vancouver Olympics).

As far as this organizational wrangling goes, (and this is something Northern Voice did so well), is having well-delegated committee to move things along.

I do know that there was different strong opinions within the organization, which can be useful, but as soon as any organization starts going to much into the “philosophical” boundaries of the event and/or starts pandering to sponsors, rather than letting the event happen organically (“event” being used very loosely here and could be replaced with campaign, activation, happening, be-in or whatever), the magic dissipates.

Northern Voice was magic because of the freeform parts like “Moose Camp“ and there was an element of randomness which was embraced rather than resisted.

Sponsorship was lightweight and clear and not over-bearing, and the fact that “almost anyone” could be a presenter was super important as many people had their first chance to express some selves in front of a crowd at that event.

This is a big difference from the various models of “sponsors get to speak” or a bunch of free speakers and then paying some out-of-town knucklehead to show up and do their stump speech and fly out immediately afterwards. #NotAGuru

The other part is of course is the undefinable “moment of time” which provides a container for the magic to happen.

In this case, we were obviously on the verge of something new and undefined and unbearably interesting. Certainly this timing is hard to duplicate except when the gut/heart/head all tell you the time feels right – and looking at these warm sentiments expressed by such lovely people here, maybe this is a time in which something is needed (again).

“It” will be different sure, but the difference makes it unique for its moment in time and the community which builds around it.

And remember, this doesn’t have to turn into an organize/branded/annual/sponsored event. It can just be a “potluck/salon/hang out” with wisdom sharing baked-in.

My experience wrangling suggests: Keep *it* lightweight, as simple as possible, focused on the one critical thing (personal expression or what have you…) rather than let the organization organize for the organization’s sake and get bogged down in the *business* of the organization.

Whatcha think?