evnt-stwd-cltn-art – 9/6/03
A collection of short articles on SCA event stewarding by Lady Meliora Leuedai de Ardescote.
This article was submitted to me by the author for inclusion in this set of files, called Stefan's Florilegium.
These files are available on the Internet at: http://www.florilegium.org
Copyright to the contents of this file remains with the author.
While the author will likely give permission for this work to be reprinted in SCA type publications, please check with the author first or check for any permissions granted at the end of this file.
Mark S. Harris...AKA:..Stefan li Rous
stefan at florilegium.org
A Brand New Event on the CalendarÉ.
By Lady Meliora Leuedai de Ardescote
So you have a great new idea for an event for your group to host – a first-time event, brand new to the calendar. Now what?
The first thing to do is to work out the details. Is it an event with several activities involved, or a specialty-type event? A specialty event would be one which has one main activity or focus, like a ball or a symposium. List all the activities you would like to include, and estimate how much help you will need. Are you certain that you can come up with enough teachers for an A&S event, or enough dance masters for a dancing event? Keep this in mind when planning.
Next, will you need the event to be placed in a specific time on the calendar to keep with a theme or the availability of outdoor space? If so, youÕll need to look at the calendar for the past couple of years to see what weekends are available. You should try to make sure that you arenÕt conflicting with any event nearby, Kingdom level events such as Crown Tourney or Coronation (if they are reasonably nearby or will draw many people from your region), or any similar specialty event (i.e. two archery events on the same weekend).
If your event may conflict with something that has been on the calendar a number of times in previous years, you will want to contact the sponsoring group of the other event to see if they are planning to hold their event on the weekend you have in mind. This is a must. If there will be a conflict, you should be the one to change weekends. Their event is established, while yours is new. They will probably have repeat attendees, and your event will lose out. There will be hard feelings in the other group if you try to schedule over their event, and this will probably reflect badly on your group as well (you as autocrat represent your group in decisions such as this).
Once you have the main idea worked out, present it to members of your local group to see whether they will support it (some groups may want the entire bid to consider, but my local group usually puts out feelers first before going to that much trouble). Try to present your event in the best possible light, but be realistic. DonÕt project a large attendance if you are planning for a specialty-type event, especially a brand-new one. Give your group the facts and let them tear into it. If the event seems reasonable, you should be able to proceed with your bid and budget.
Taking Over an Existing Local Event
By Lady Meliora Leuedai de Ardescote
Your group has been putting on the same event since, well, they just always have. ItÕs the same event with the same theme, at the same date and location, and the same autocrat and staff as always, or is it?
When taking over as autocrat of a regularly scheduled local event, my best advice is, for the most part, ŅdonÕt mess with what works.Ó Occasionally, a new autocrat, like a new boss, comes in with new ideas for radical changes. The event moves around on the calendar, travels to a new location, or has a change in activities that scare off your repeat attendees. Obviously, changes are sometimes necessary (i.e. the need to meet budget, conflicts with events or holidays, etc.), but if the event has no consistency, people will not know what to expect when they attend, and if they donÕt like what they see, may find something else to do when your event rolls around next year.
If you find youÕre the new autocrat for an existing event, and you do have ideas that are exciting to you, INCORPORATE them into the existing event. If the event is martial arts based, and you really wanted to do A&S, ADD it to the event. DonÕt try to take away an existing martial arts activity to put A&S in itÕs place. Someone may show up expecting to do archery because your event has always had archery. If they find that theyÕve driven for an hour or two to get to your event, and youÕve decided not to have archery this year, they will go away angry, and possibly never come back to your event in the future. They may even hunt you down at the event to voice an opinion. If your reasoning is, Ņwe really wanted to do dancing,Ó then add it to the event.
This may sound like Old Fogie stuff, especially if your group is one that does things the same way, Ņbecause weÕve always done it that way.Ó But if you want to get support from the same people who have always Ņdone it that way,Ó youÕll be more likely to if you donÕt try to make radical changes to the existing event. However, adding your special touches to the event will make you shine as autocrat, and renew peopleÕs interest in attending.
Attendance vs. Cost – Setting a Realistic Budget
By Lady Meliora Leuedai de Ardescote
HereÕs a simple guide for determining costs vs site fee:
Site Cost xxx.xx
Expense Total xxx.xx / Average Site Fee = break even attendance
Your eventÕs costs should be determined by the number of attendees you expect. If you hold a small, specialized event, you might estimate that half to 1/3 of the attendees of a regular event will show up. If you have a local event that attracts 200+ people on a regular basis, you could estimate getting 60-80 people for a special event like dancing. You might also look at the breakdown of the previous attendees of a local event to see how many are interested in dancing, or archery, etc., to get an idea of how many will attend.
Once you have an idea of the attendance, you can begin to set a budget. You will want to keep your site fees in line with other events in the area. If site fees are running between $5.00 and $6.00 and you expect 75 people, then your budget would be $375.00 to $450.00 to break even (if you expect to). If you are expecting 200 people, then the budget would be $1,000 to $1,200.
I always recommend setting your budget a little short of what you expect attendance to be. If you expect 100, budget for 75. If you expect 200, budget for 150. DonÕt include children in your site fee estimations. This will give you a cushion.
To firm up your budget, locate a potential site, and then estimate your attendance and your site fee. If your costs are running $900.00, then at $5.00/person, break-even is 180 attendees, and at $6.00/person it is 150. Use the formula above to calculate out your costs vs. attendance for the event.
By Lady Meliora Leuedai de Ardescote
Costs of events have continued to go up in recent years, while site fees seem to be pretty close to the same. How can we hold down costs and have a profitable event while not charging our fellow gentles an arm and a leg for site fee?
Donations – Since the SCA is a non-profit organization, it is possible to get donated materials for decorations, and occasionally discounted site fees. When talking to the site owner, inquire if there is any discount for use by a non-profit organization. Your Exchequer should be able to provide the necessary paperwork on the SCAÕs non-profit status. Some stores are used to donating things on a regular basis to local schools and charities. Have an idea of what youÕd like to get before talking to the manager, and if itÕs not available, ask if they have any program that might be beneficial. You may not get the wood to build a gate or outdoor shower, but you might be able to get free candles or flowers for your feast table.
Start a Group Property Cache – There are several items that your group will use over and over again to put on an event. Besides the List Field and Direction Signs, you might want to look at buying table linen, serving trays, clipboards, and additional items. Your local group may want to occasionally have some type of competition to see who can turn out the best event sashes, plates, etc., for the group. All items would be donated to your group, with one donation to be rewarded with a prize of some sort. Just remember to keep track of the property accordingly.
Borrow from Neighbors – Neighboring groups often have useful items that they would be willing to lend. If youÕre looking for a chafing dish or thrown weapons target, see if a group close by has one and is willing to lend it.
Borrow from Local Members – If youÕre holding an event and you know Lord So-and-So has a noodle maker that you need, ask him if you can borrow it.
Hold a Fund Raiser – This could be a Lunch Tavern at another event, an auction, or some sort of purchase, such as throwing a gentle in jail or buying a musical performance or poetry composed in honor of the purchasing gentle.
Do a Demo – or other local service, and dedicate the monies collected toward the event.
Eat Some of the Cost – Not every event must be profitable. If you really want to do an event that will probably post a loss, consider the benefit of the event and weigh it against what the loss might be. If you feel itÕs worth it, say, to post a $50.00 loss for a newcomer event, go ahead and do it.
Event Planning and Critical Path Management Technique
By Lady Meliora Leuedai de Ardescote
Once upon a time, I took some business management classes at our local community college. Who knew theyÕd be so helpful in planning and running an SCA event?
One of the things IÕm particular about is planning. I like to have as much prepared for as possible, and far enough in advance so that I have enough lead time to fix problems that inevitably arise. The best method IÕve found to do that is PERT. This is Program Evaluation and Review Technique, a project management technique that the Navy developed in 1958.
There are four basic steps to PERT:
1. Identify all tasks to be performed
2. Determine the sequence in which the tasks must be performed
3. Determine the amount of time to complete each task
4. Draw a grid to show tasks and determine your total time needed to complete the project
PERT allows you to plan each task that is necessary for holding an event, how long it will take, when you need to start in relationship to the event date, whether some tasks can be performed simultaneously, and ultimately, how much time you will need to plan your event. ItÕs something most autocrats do, either on paper or in their heads.
Here is an example of what I mean:
In January, a group decides to hold a new event that will take place in June. They have 6 months total time to prepare. Here are some of the things the autocrat is responsible for:
1. Choose Feastocrat, Marshals, A&S, etc.
2. Choose Site
3. Choose Activities
4. Choose Feast Menu
5. Advertise Event
6. Event Occurs
Now, step 1 could happen the night of the group meeting. Autocrat is then responsible for steps 2, 3, 5, & 6 at the same time that the Feastocrat gets this list of tasks:
1. Research Dishes
2. Determine Cost of Possible Courses
3. Decide Number of Feast Participants to be Fed
4. Set Menu
5. Line Up Kitchen Help
So, many Autocrat and Feastocrat tasks, as well as tasks assigned to the rest of the event staff, can be performed simultaneously.
This being an article about Autocratting, letÕs look at what the average autocrat is responsible for:
1. Choose activities
2. Choose event staff
3. Choose location
4. Advertise event
5. Event occurs
Taking step 4. Advertise event, letÕs break this down to what steps are needed and when:
Determine staff and activities – must be done BEFORE advertisement
Choose location – should be done BEFORE event is put on calendar
Put event on calendar – can be done AT THE SAME TIME as writing ad, but BEFORE ad can be placed in the Pale
Web Site – can be created AT THE SAME TIME as writing ad, but cannot be linked to the Midrealm calendar until AFTER the event is put on the calendar.
Place ad in Pale – ad to run in June must be received NO LATER THAN May 1st.
Counting backward from the ŅsetÓ date of May 1st, we know that it would be wise to submit the ad to the Pale about 10 working days from the deadline, so we now have April 21st as the date that our activities and staff must be set, and that our flyer must be ready to mail.
Now, counting backward from here, it is not a bad idea to give the calendar secretary a month to ensure that the event is placed on the calendar without conflicts, so now we have March 21st as a date to submit the event to the calendar secretary. That is also now the date that we will have to have a commitment from a hall, school or other location for site.
Now, how long will it take you to locate a site that will be suitable for the activities you want? Taking an estimate of 2 weeks, starting with calling halls and parks, finding a few that might work, visiting the locations, and choosing the best one, We now have March 7th as the date we need to start calling halls.
We now have approximately 2-1/2 to 3 months lead time that you need from the initial planning of an event to the event date. Built into this is a little time that you might need to fix problems (hall cancels, calendar conflict, flyer doesnÕt get to Pale). This is how PERT and critical path management works.
Another step that you can include here is determining the estimated time needed for an activity. LetÕs take one step listed above to demonstrate this: locating the site. To estimate time, we need to take the optimistic time it will take + 4x the most likely time it will take + the pessimistic time it could take, and divide this by 6.
Optimistically 1 day
Most likely 7 days
Pessimistically 30 days
Now, 1+28+30 = 59 days/6 = 9 – 10 days to pick a site on average. Being a realist, I always add in the Ņreal lifeÓ factor and round up – thus two weeks is what you should plan on to locate your site.
PERT can be applied to the day of the event activities (i.e. set up, site opens, activities begin, etc.) as well.
Event planning doesnÕt have to be this exact, however, a lot of the planning, especially for smaller events, can be estimated in your head. Also, sometimes steps will change, such as if you have a reliable site that you use on a regular basis – in which case site location can be as simple as a phone call. But if you need or prefer to plan your event in more detail, this process may be someplace to start.
Dˇcor, Authenticity, and Setting Your Event Apart
By Lady Meliora Leuedai de Ardescote
Authenticity, persona play and the like donÕt always factor into events the way the SCA runs them. Although there are many aspects of the event that can be portrayed as authentic, generally the day or weekend event doesnÕt operate the same way that a tourney or feast day would operate in period. Authenticity is a good thing, and more research into event planning is also a good thing. Participants do appreciate coming away with fond memories when we can provide them. Theme and dˇcor can help to set the mood.
To me, dˇcor is one of the most fun parts of being the Autocrat. I enjoy setting a theme to an event and putting together elements that will make the event more historically accurate or magical.
The average event has the usual activities of martial arts, A&S, childrenÕs activities, feast, court, and dancing. If you plan on doing a late period event, then each of the activities could be geared toward supporting your theme. But, what if you want to get more specific than that?
An event I have been working on will feature elements of the Plague in 14th century Europe. In order to know what I should plan, I had to do some research:
When did the plague occur and why?
What were the results?
What elements would be good to portray at the event?
What would a person living during the plague be likely to see (and hear) in their village?
Is there a specific location that would be good to recreate?
How can I apply the theme to the planned activities?
First, I found out symptoms of the plague, the route the disease traveled into Europe, and what happened in plague cities. Then I started working on activities and decorations.
One thing I want to do is make sure my attendees learn something new. IÕve decided to put up proclamations around the event such as, ŅNo ringing of bells for funerals,Ó and ŅWearing of Black for Mourning prohibited.Ó Instead of Off Limits or Staff Only signs, IÕve opted for Quarantine signs. IÕm encouraging classes and A&S dealing with the plague. Site tokens will be felt rats with long tails that can be tied onto belts, and feast tokens will be nosegays.
Beyond this, I will put up a sign at troll that forbids entrance to anyone who had recently been in a number of plague cities, and plan to have the troll takers ask a few of the people entering in each group whether or not theyÕve been to one of the cities.
I also plan to speak to a few of the local entertainers about passing through the event as flagellants. These are people who whipped themselves in public, a practice that started because of the plague.
The event booklet will have blurbs from historical texts on the plague, and will be portrayed as contemporary missives from eyewitnesses. I will also fake a few missives to give gentles more info on the plague.
The feast might have been decadent, so I plan on a very rich feast with much merriment. Contests will include best mourning garb, best wail, and best death on the field. Event staff will be in black garb.
These are a few of the elements I plan to portray at the event. Keep in mind that not every event has to have so narrow a focus, but occasionally it is good to try something new.
As far as dˇcor, it is a good idea to keep the theme running throughout the event. It would feel awkward to go to a Viking event and have a Renaissance feast table for example. Once the theme has been set, make sure your staff is aware of what is being planned. That way, elements of the theme can be represented throughout the event.
Finally, one of the things that can set your event apart is the decoration of the site and on the feast tables. This is one of the areas that can set the mood at an event. Start with the most authentic looking site you can afford, and work from there. Even at smaller events, try to cover as much of the mundane world as you can (i.e. lockers, bulletin boards, etc.). At the very least, feast tables should be covered with some type of cloth or paper. It will make your hall look nicer, and aid in cleanup. Tables also look good with centerpieces of some sort. Candles (if permitted), greenery, flowers, or other items may be placed on the tables to make the feast hall inviting. Additionally, part or all of the first course (fruits, bread, cheeses, etc.) could be decoratively arranged on tables as part of the decoration, and to let feasters have something to pick at. An attractive feast table will go a long way in selling the feast as wellÉ.
Copyright 2002 Sandy Danielewicz, 27883 Sutherland, Warren MI 48093. <ladymeliora at tir.com>. Permission is granted for republication in SCA-related publications, provided the author is credited and receives a copy.
If this article is reprinted in a publication, I would appreciate a notice in the publication that you found this article in the Florilegium. I would also appreciate an email to myself, so that I can track which articles are being reprinted. Thanks. -Stefan.