Creating an event is a lot like creating a ritual. The first thing you have to know is your intention, the reason you have gathered in sacred space. Thus the first challenge we all face in hosting an event is to define it. The clearer your definition, the easier it will be to stay on track. It's best to define an event in the order of priority:
Why are we organizing the event?
- Personal reasons
- Group reasons
What is our purpose? (Based on answers to the questions above.)
- Is it for spiritual study, fellowship or both?
Once you've agreed on the purpose of your event, you need to consider who should come. What ages, backgrounds, levels of experience, etc. are appropriate for your event? You may need to check with prospective mentors before finalising, but here is a beginning:
Who will attend?
- Is it for members only or will it be open to the general public? (NOTE: Only Level I Workshop Retreats and Tribes Gatherings are
open to the public)
- Are we targeting local, regional, national, or international attendees?
Now it's time to consider the aspects that will define it's "feel," the ambience you will be creating. This is an important aspect for any spiritual gathering, and moreso for Avalon, since you'll want your event environment to evoke the magic of Avalon in every way possible.
What is the event's scope?
- Will it be formal, informal, or a combination of both?
- Will it be large or small? If large, do we have enough reliable "staff" (volunteers) to pull it off?
When will the event be held? (Dates and times)
Where will the event be held?
- What city/state/province/country?
In what kind of site venue? (Indoor/outdoor, large/small, elegant/primitive, public/private, etc.)
- If outdoors, in what kind of terrain? (Flat/hilly, dry/wet, clear/wooded, etc.) How will this terrain affect accessibility (Will elders
and handicapped have reasonable access, etc.)?
- What are the energetics of our top three site venue options? (Generally, it's best to choose the site with the best access and
- What amenities should the site have? (Showers, toilets, kitchen, sleeping areas, common or meeting rooms, presentation
materials. If outdoors, pavilions or cabins that can act as inclement weather sites.)
How will food be provided?
- Self-catered (BYO), catered, or prepared by volunteers
SITE VENUE COST
Once you have defined the idea environment, it's time to see how close you can come to it based on the amount you are willing to spend (i.e. the amount you think people can and will pay). Generally this will vary by region and season. Remember that your final price will also include advertising, mentor stipends and other expenses, on top of which attendees must pay their own travel. In our experience, for an event focused on formal instruction it's best to keep the cost below $50 per person total, though this may not be possible in all places without setting a minimum enrollment. (Most venues give price breaks for larger groups.)
No event can be successful if no one knows about it! At the same time, we seldom have large advertising budgets with which to work. For public events, this means getting listed on community bulletin boards, calendars (radio and newspaper), and other free listings. You will have to do a fair amount of follow-up to ensure your place, however; otherwise you may find your event has "slipped" off the radar and into oblivion. For member events it means more hours of work sending reminders to the Forums and talking your event up with interested local people.
All the Time in the World...
The next big hurdle is to set up your organisational timeline. Without one, people will tend to let things slide only to discover there are no more site venues available, or it's too late to get the word out, etc. Here is a reasonable suggested timeline for most types of events:
18-15 months in advance: Round up volunteers, define event, set event dates, assign tasks, and set a timeline for action. Research possible site venues and choose a location. MAKE NO ASSUMPTIONS: Ask the ADO Members Liaison about any ADO requirements that may apply before advertising. Prepare advertising materials for public events, and make a list of online and local places where you can post notices to generate interest.
14-12 months: Get the word out!!! Start taking reservations and nonrefundable deposits to cover site venue, food (if catered), etc. Keep a ledger of all monies received and expenses paid. [If you have a minimum enrollment, hold deposits in a separate account until the minimum is met for easy refund if you have to cancel.] Book caterer (if any). Reserve site venue and pay deposit to hold site.
6 months: Arrange mentor housing. Book mentors and other necessary services. Send reminders to attendees on payment balances and due dates.
3 months: Contact local radio, Internet, and newspaper community calendar with press release and request to list event (if public). Send reminders to attendees and get discussions going locally and on Forums to generate interest. Send reminders to mentors and other service providers.
2-1 month: Follow-up with community calendars (if public), send final bills for amounts due to attendees. Push hard to get the word out on all levels from now until the final payment deadline. Request final confirmation from mentors and confirm with them that you have everything that will be needed for their presentations. Reconfirm dates/times/payment information with the site venue, caterer and any other service providers. Get a schedule of activities from the mentors and decide where each will be held onsite. If the site does not provide a good First Aid kit, get one and supplement it as necessary.
Week of Event: Send donation to ADO. Go to the site venue again and check out conditions. Review parking, site rules, etc. with someone on staff. Inspect sleeping and eating areas to be sure that are in order. Arrange volunteers to pick-up/meet attendees as they arrive. Check again with mentors on their arrival times and reconfirm their accommodations. Be sure they have whatever information they need upon arrival (directions, confirmation numbers, if any, etc.) and see that there is someone to meet them. Review volunteer assignments during event, reconfirm that volunteers know where they should be and when, and reconfirm that they will be there and be prepared at the assigned times. If necessary, remind those who have not completed paying that they must pay in advance or they will not be admitted. Print out attendee and mentor info packets (site maps, event contact phone numbers, emergency phone numbers, rules, schedules, etc.). If possible, obtain a cell phone to keep with you and be sure all mentors and volunteers have the number. Encourage your volunteers to carry cell phones if they have them. If possible, do a couple of dry runs onsite to get volunteers familiar with the wheres and whens and hows of the schedule and any rituals or ceremonies they might be assisting with. EAT RIGHT and GET SLEEP.
The Dawn of the Big Day...
Event Check-in and Check-out: Arrive onsite at least two hours before the event. If possible, make time to familiarize the mentors with the area before the event begins. Choose a place where they can go for breaks when needed in relative peace and quite. In addition to 1-2 greeters, you will need a table manned by 2 volunteers stationed at the entrance to the site, with a checklist of all paid attendees and info packets.You will also need volunteers to help with prep and clean-up at meals, trash disposal, etc. Make sure everyone is there and/or accounted for before attendees start arriving.
The Final Curtain
If you've done your planning right, your event should proceed relatively smoothly and should be enjoyable for everyone -- including you! Below is a link to a list of gear for most ADO events. We trust you will find this helpful.
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