What I learned from Collectives, Burningman, Rogue Raves, and The Fetish Fair Fleamarket by @bendyogagirl

his is the first post in what will be a 3-4 part series of pontifications on the different relationships at events (producer-presenter, presenter-producer, presenter-attendee, attendee-presenter, producer-volunteer, etc..) and my opinions about ways to create harmony, good sportsmanship and happy events.

For those of you who don’t know, I’m one of a handful of people who are the primary drivers of this little event, which attracts approximately 3000 people annually.  I say one of a handful or primary drivers in so far as there is a core group of 10-15 of us who manage everything from the relationship with the hotel, to booking presenters, to scheduling the hundreds of volunteers who make the event run, to bringing in vendors, to managing the finances, insurance, contracts, logistics, special events, etc.  The Fetish Fair Fleamarket (TM) is a major event.
Some time ago, while living in San Francisco, I was heavily involved in the modern psychedellic movement (from a spiritual, scientific and political perspective) as manifested through self-selecting arts collectives, such
source: www.sachavacay.org
as the CCC, Koinonea, Cloud Factory, and several other groups of folks who put on amazing parties, art shows, music concerts and performance art. I had a lot of fun working and playing with these folks, many of whom were also instrumental in the genesis of other movements, such as the EFF, Open Source Development, and Integral Spiritual Gatherings. I was there for much of it…  and not for some of it.  Happens that way, you know…
My point is that I have a bit of experience in grass-roots organizing, activism, event production, and collective process – which comes from shared interests (sex, art, consciousness) – and manifests in events which are produced by some, vended by others, educated by still another group, and attended by even more – and all or mostly accomplished by the good intentions and work of volunteers.
Currently, in the BDSM/Sex Positive Event/Con world, I’m a producer, a presenter, a project manager, a volunteer and an attendee – not entirely unheard of, but definitely somewhat of a unique perspective.  Here are some of the things I’ve seen work over the years….
This is highly editorial and 100% my opinion.  I welcome other thoughts, observations and sharing of what you have seen work.    Would be most excellent….
The Relationship of Producers to Presenters
Producers hire presenters to come and do their thing in exchange for presenters doing their thing
Considering that…
  • You aren’t the only game in town
  • Think of your presenters as though they are integral to your event.
  • It’s OK for the presenters/programming to be ancillary or secondary to the rest of your event
  • Be honest about that
  • Presenters can take it
  • No matter how big or small a name your presenter is, s/he is first and foremost doing something for you – so thank them all in the same way
  • Thank You is not equal to Paying You
  • It’s OK if your compensation isn’t equal across all presenters
  • It’s not OK to treat your presenters as though they come from different classes
  • Ask your presenters for time constraints around when they can present – and honor them
  • Communicate Communicate Communicate
    • Tell presenters what classes you have selected as soon as you can
    • Tell presenters what their schedule is as soon as you can
    • Tell presenters what the whole schedule is as soon as you can
    • Ask presenters for suggestions as to what kinds of classes their selections would go well with (believe it or not – presenters often have a perspective you don’t)
  • A little goes a long way
    • Do what you can to personally thank each presenter at some point during the event
    • Do what you can to meet their SOs
    • If you have the manpower available, have some volunteers on hand to help out presenters with things like food runs, water bottle re-fills, and trips to Staples – you don’t have to pay for it – just having the help is huge
    • Give your presenters a personalized, visual representation of their event schedule when they get to the event – you can highlight their classes on your event grid, you can print out a separate page – whatever it is , they will thank you for it
    • Have a Green Room for presenters and their SO’s you’ve comped if you have the physical space for it
    • Send a thank you after the event
    • If you don’t have your shit together to get your presenters their schedule by 3 weeks before the con (and the reason doesn’t matter) – reach out to them anyway and tell them you are working on it.  That way, they will know you’re considering them
  • “If I built it, they must know it” is not an axiom of truth when it comes to your presenters knowing your schedule
    • Presenters aren’t necessarily paying as much attention to your event as you are
  • Make a mailing list for presenters so you can send out updates.  If you don’t have a fancy-schmancy program like mailman, you can create a google group.
    • If you don’t know how to create a google group, google it
  • If you aren’t able to provide travel from airports and bus stations to your host hotel or event location, tell presenters that and give options
  • Provide Event Comps to your presenters’ significant other/s – it costs you nothing
    • If your presenter is in a poly dynamic and would like to bring 2 or more partners, comp them
    • Most people won’t take advantage of this – i promise
  • Offer an Event Comp to your presenters for their demo bottom for the same reason
  • Comping SOs and demo bottoms creates a context where your presenters feel cared for and also where they don’t have to choose between people.
    • Once the extra bodies are there, they will have more money to spend on hotel rooms (if necessary), vendors and the like
    • They will also tell their friends how awesome you are as a producer
  • If you can’t comp room nights, tell your presenters that up front – and give them a reason
    • We don’t have the budget -if you are willing to discuss the details of your budget- is a legitimate reason
    • We have a constraint on the number of room nights due to the way we negotiated the block –  is a legitimate reason
    • Nobody is getting room nights comped – is a legitimate reason
    • There are many many reasons that you might not be able to comp your presenters’ room nights
    • You aren’t important enough (couched in whatever terms you couch it in) is not a legitimate reason
    • We do’t have the budget, when you are not willing to discuss the details of your budget, may come across as ‘you aren’t important enough’
  • Ditto for Travel Costs
    • Not comping travel will limit the number of out-of-town presenters more than not comping room nights
    • I hope I don’t need to explain why
  • If you are working with someone who isn’t quick on the update when it comes to getting back to your calls/emails, see if you can contract to work with a support person of theirs
  • Put it in writing
  • Know that most of the presenters you hire already know each other – at least by name
  • Expect that your presenters will ask each other about compensation
  • Understand that presenters knowing what their friends and colleagues are receiving in exchange for their services is not about you per se – it’s most likely coming from a place of getting a baseline of ‘where do I fit in’?
The Relationship of Presenter to Producers
You are there because someone hired you.
Considering that… 
  • You aren’t the only game in town
  • Think of yourself as integral to the event
  • Just like you can’t have a symphony of First Chairs, so is it that we all can’t be Midori or Lee Harrington
  • Some presenters cost more to an event that you.  That Doesn’t mean you aren’t important or that the event doesn’t care about you
  • If you want to be at the level of top-tier presenters, Act As Though
    • Learn pedagogical techniques
    • Work on the craft and art of public speaking
    • Practice teaching
    • Be gracious to your hosts and thank them for inviting you
    • Don’t get pissy if you are asked to show a verifiable ID as you register
    • Be clear with producers and communicate your needs
    • Understand that you may not get everything you ask for
    • Support other presenters by going to their classes, talking about their classes while you are teaching, and showing good sportsmanship
    • Thank the producers for the opportunity to be at their event
    • Show your face in the hallways
    • In the dungeon
    • During down-times
    • Be available for questions
    • Be respectful and kind when drawing boundaries with attendees
    • Share in classes you attend, and remember that you are not the teacher in that moment – so share from a place of ‘student-hood’
  • If you are going to say ‘no’ to an event, be polite about it
  • Know that the bridge you burn today will very likely affect the one you want to walk over tomorrow
  • And the next day
  • And the day after that
  • Don’t say anything about an event you wouldn’t say to it
  • Be prepared
  • Be on time
  • Thank the people who are in your class for coming to it – you wouldn’t have a job without them
  • Thank the event producers for inviting you to their event – you wouldn’t have a job without them
  • Remember that, for every detail of an event you need to keep straight, the people putting it on are keeping orders of magnitude more
  • Calling producers ‘unprofessional’ won’t magically make them work differently
  • Realize that many events are working on deficits beyond money
    • Deficits in technology
    • Deficits in time
    • Deficits in personnel
  • Know that most producers are well-intended
  • It’s OK to say ‘no’ to a specific request once you’ve said ‘yes’ to an event, unless you have negotiated otherwise
  • If you have ‘deal or no-deal’ requirements, let them be known
    • In writing and
    • By phone and
    • In a singular email and
    • NOT in the middle of your class list
    • or in between your bio and your references
    • And make sure the people who are agreeing to your requirements are in positions of authority to follow through
  • Get it in writing 
  • If you are asked to give references, make sure the people you are using know you are sharing their names
    • People who ask for references tend to check references
    • It’s just like getting a job
  • If your desire is to be a headliner at an event or even to teach enough classes to cover your costs plus that of your SO, it might take a year or two to get there
  • You are building a relationship
  • Are you willing to do the work?

Am I perfect in all of this?  Gods no – nobody is.