How do you manage an event with an online aspect, whatever that aspect may be? Here's my advice.
Dublin Docklands Development Authority just don't seem to get "it". The Spencer Tunick photos won't be available until 2009. I mean, seriously?
From the email I received this morning:
Dear Participants,You may recall I wasn't over enthused after my Spencer experience. I'm even less so now.
Thank you for making an exceptional art installation, the Spencer Tunick project happen in Dublin Docklands this summer.
This event was a tremendous success and as commissioners, Dublin Docklands and Cork Midsummer festival were delighted with how the project caught the public imagination and that so many participants signed up and took part.
Spencer Tunick is an extraordinary artist and we were privileged that he accepted the offer to work in Ireland and create some spectacular images. So few artists manage to engage so many people and create such powerful and beautiful images.
Now we can’t all wait to see the images!
We have received so many emails and letters of gratitude and thanks from the participants, we know that this was a special moment in the summer of 2008
We are now working with Spencer to create an event to exhibit the work in Ireland next year. As a participant, you will receive a print from the installation (Cork or Dublin) in which you took part in spring 2009.
We will distribute these to you around the exhibition we host or we will mail them to you at that time.
We have your details on file, as you completed them on the Participation form, and will contact you again early next year to confirm your details and with details of the distribution of prints and the exhibition
Thank you from all of us for making this a highlight of 2008 and for not letting our chilly weather put you off
Dublin Docklands Development Authority
I had a long chat yesterday with the lovely Krishna De as part of the Podcamp Ireland series of podcasts. We talked about using social media to promote and otherwise complement events, with emphasis on the 4daymovie project, but also discussing the SPWC initiative with pix.ie.
I fail to understand how in this day and age, "authorities" are still so clueless about how to foster community, to engage and enthuse people and to validate their participation in what was a unique event. So much more could have been done:
- The event was Saturday June 21. The follow-up thank you email comes 6 weeks later. Why the delay?
- "We have received so many emails and letters of gratitude and thanks from the participants, we know that this was a special moment in the summer of 2008"
What have they done to foster this? Why not scan and publish some of the letters and quotes online? Create/dedicate a section of their website (where a search for Spencer only brings up legacy articles) that allows people to share their own experiences, to talk about the event and to keep in touch with where Spencer is next. Create a Facebook event page even!
- The photos in Spring 2009: When Spencer was taking the shots, we joked about him needing a digital camera to speed up the process. Though not a photographer I fail to understand why the images can't be viewed for six months - at least online if nowhere else. Does that mean there was some serious photoshopping of Irish skintones?
I understand that an exhibition takes time to prepare, that Spencer is a busy man and that as soon as the photos are released online, they'll be widespread. But, so what? Does that mean that people will think "Ah I won't bother going now" because they see the photo on a website? No. People did the installation for a number of reasons - a personal challenge, a chance to try something different but also a chance to be a part of something. To be able to say "I was there. I took the challenge. I did it." We could have been told that this was going to be the case, we could have been made feel part of that process as well.
It's up to the organisers to promote that event as much as it is the participants to make the most of it. Who benefits more? The participants for their experience or Dublin Docklands for the coverage, the promotion and the publicity they're getting.
- What would you like? Put yourself in the shoes of your participants, your volunteers, your audience and think about what you'd expect, how you'd react, what you'd like to come away from the event with. It constantly amazes me how little this actually seems to be done. Looking after your sponsors is important, but unless people enjoy the event, what's the point?
- Ask for help Don't do it badly yourself - get other people - your team, your volunteers, your friends involved and ask them for advice, for help in seeing the wood from the trees and for that added extra eye over things.
- Look at what others have done. There are so many great events in Ireland - think of what they've done to foster that sense of "I was there and it was great".
- Allow people to talk about it. Give them somewhere to give feedback, to say "That was great" and thank them for doing so. Dublin Docklands - why wait until Spring to hold an event for people? Ask people to share their experiences, collect them into a book, publish it for charity, invite the participants to the launch. All that work? A bit of time. The good Word-of-mouth/word-of-mouse you get afterwards? Priceless.
- Say thank you to everyone. I particularly like the way the Street Performance World Championships followed up their newspaper ads announcing the event with this advertisement thanking people for being there, for being part of it, for attending and laughing their way through the weekend. It gives that "aww" factor, it lends to the good feeling someone has and it gives them something to talk about.
- Keep people informed. If so many people had such a good time, consider they might like to hear about what's going on, what the next step is, if they can help etc.
- Be kind to your fans. People (volunteers especially) can be enthusiastic, excited and interested in helping out. That may be a hindrance sometimes but in the long run it's worth it. The Dublin Writers Festival brought us out to dinner recently in Eden of Temple Bar as a thank you. Thanks to Pix.ie the SPWC have an absolute deluge of great photos to choose from.
Niamh sent the Dublin Burlesque Ball a Facebook message this morning after attending on Sunday night, saying "thanks, here's a link to my photos, any idea of when yours will be ready?" They replied this morning saying "Thanks for coming to the Dublin Burlesque Ball and for the pics. Glad to hear you and your friends had such a great time. Please watch our coming events information here on Facebook. Our official pics will be ready next week." That's just brilliant.
- Very importantly is managing things online properly. Stickler that I am, I like things to be done properly. I can understand Damien's annoyance at the Darklight Film Festival for how they handled their mailing lists and he's right - ignorance of the law is not an excuse. Resource may be, but again - ask for help!
Do not put all the email addresses in the "to" field, do not have wrong information that requires a follow-up email to say sorry and please please please spell check and read before you send.
Do not rely to this emailI certainly won't. Nor have I come away with a good feeling about this. A pity. A real pity. I've emailed the DDDA with this article and an offer for help. I'll let you know what they come back with.