Have It Your Way – Or Maybe Not

I’ve been involved in organizing a lot of events over my 26 years of self-employment. There are always glitches along the way – unexpected changes in plans, sudden illnesses, logistical questions and – in my home state of Minnesota – weather. These past few months I’ve noticed a troubling shift in how people are behaving about events. And I’ve heard similar reports from numerous other organizers of things.

Here is what we’ve noticed. Participants are demanding much more than they used to. They sign up later, ask lots of questions and make many more requests for special treatment. This extra work is sapping organizers’ patience and energy.

One possible reason for this turn of events is that we are surveyed about our “customer experience” at every turn. We are asked to rate what we think of this flight, that restaurant, even the packaging (the packaging!) on a mail order. Has this constant solicitation of our preferences lulled us into a state of unconscious entitlement?

I wonder if technology also impacts the number of questions and requests. It’s become so easy to shoot off a text or email to an organizer instead of researching your question on your own.

If we continue to behave in these ways, we risk burning out our organizers – the people who extend themselves to create worthwhile and nourishing experiences for their fellow human beings. Several friends have mentioned that they are less willing organize things after years of cheerfully doing so. The same is true for me.

Here a few ways you can support the people who are organizing an event:

  1. Sign up early. If there is something that grabs your interest, please step up and commit. I am guilty of postponing commitments myself. In the increasing chaos of the world, it’s getting harder to say a solid yes. Organizers literally lose sleep over low numbers and may prematurely cancel events for want of adequate enrollment ahead of time.
  2. Read the materials. Organizers work hard to cover details for participants. They generally send out a plethora of information about timing, location, weather, directions, stuff to bring and wardrobe. If you have a question about the event, please refer to those materials before sending off a text or email.
  3. Take some responsibility for your own special dietary requirements, especially if they are far out of the norm. I have a friend who can’t eat onions or garlic of any kind. She lets organizers know about this – and provides enough of her own food to give them a little breathing room in planning menus. This is especially useful for low budget or community based programs. It costs more in time, energy, money and attention to juggle the needs of vegan, gluten-free, garlic-free, high protein, no-carb eaters. And I’ve found that when the person who has particular dietary needs extends some flexibility, I’m more likely to work to accommodate them than if they are rigidly demanding.
  4. Enter into events as a citizen rather than a customer. That is, look for ways you can give to the group instead of carrying expectations of what you deserve to get from the group.
  5. Show some love. Let the organizers know you appreciate their efforts – before, during and after an event. Even if we are organizing something for pay, we are likely working beyond our pay grade and patience to make it all work. A little encouragement goes a very long way.
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About Barbara McAfee

Barbara is a voice coach, singer/songwriter, keynote speaker, and author who merges lessons from 12 years in organization development with the transformational power of sound. Her book, Full Voice: The Art & Practice of Vocal Presence (Berrett-Koehler Publishers) was a #1 Amazon bestseller in Business Communication. The book is based on her 25 years as a voice coach, supporting people from many professions in learning how to access the full power and expression of the voice in service to their work and relationships. Barbara’s musical keynotes blend practical content, sophisticated humor, and thought-provoking questions on topics including voice, leadership, and engagement. She was “the band” for Margaret Wheatley’s Women’s Leadership Revival Tour, which visited 15 North American cities. She also appears with authors Parker Palmer and Peter Block. Barbara has produced seven CD's of mostly original music and is founder of the Morning Star Singers, a volunteer hospice choir in the Twin Cities. She lives across the street from the Mississippi River in Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA.
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7 Responses to Have It Your Way – Or Maybe Not

  1. Avril says:

    AMEN, sister!!!!

    XOXO Avril

  2. Kerstin Ljungström says:

    Dear Barbara, Thank you, I recognize this also in Sweden! May I share your comments with my colleagues? Warm regards,

    Kerstin Ljungström, friend of Leslie Yerkes

    Skickat från min iPhone

    > 5 okt. 2017 kl. 07:35 skrev Full Voice — Barbara McAfee : > > >

    • Dear Kerstin – Thank you so much for your comment. Yes, please feel free to share this with anyone you like. Any friend of Leslie Yerkes is a friend of mine! Warmly, Barbara

  3. Darlene Dambrosio says:

    Barbara & her hospice singing group are special people. I have their CD compliments of my daughter, one of the singers. This CD helped me through some difficult times. Keep up the good work.

  4. This made me pause and yes, I see that happening for sure. Having helped organized many events, I absolutely love your list on how to support. We are always scrambling for volunteers. Often no-one even signs up till the day is actually happening and they like it so much and want to help out of gratitude. It would be so helpful if people stepped up in advance and all helped to make events happening from a place of love for each other. It also let me look at my own sense of entitlement. And this is where it all begins. Thank you for writing this.

  5. Pat Samples says:

    Thanks for this “wake-up,” Barbara!

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