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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.