I'm all about encouraging creatives to get together in real life. All year long I'm following Ben Silberman's advice to "surround yourself with people who inspire".
I have to admit, that's my goal for the offline events that I host - I want to surround MYSELF locally with people who inspire.
I have a great community online but there's nothing like hanging out with 'em face to face. Encouraging each other. Challenging each other. Collaborating. Just having a few laughs over coffee or drinks.
My series Offroad Blogging celebrates bloggers and others who are doing that very thing - taking their online community and making one offline.
What I love about going offline is that there are no rules - host a large event, host a small event, host a series, do just one. A dinner or a coffee meet up.
The ACTIVITY doesn't matter - it's the GETTING TOGETHER that matters.
Today I have someone local here in Vancouver, Gabriel of the Artful Desperado. He is so creative, so talented, so fun, so witty - I feel so lucky that we are in the same city! Need a jolt of inspiration? Hang out with Gabs and you'll walk away with all SORTS of ideas.
Let's hear from him.
Describe your event
My project is called Artful City Walks and it focuses on discovering "hidden gems in the city". The project started as a series in my blog, where different artists and creative minds were given a disposable film camera to document their neighborhood. The final results were a total surprise for both - the readers and the participants! From then on it just took off and it became real life gatherings and a summer workshop.
Why do you think it's important to go offline and into real life?
As much as we can insert emoticons, animated gifs and whatnot in messages, tweets and emails - none of those will ever compare to a real, face-to-face interaction. There's just so much involved that cannot be communicated through an electronic device - smiling, laughing, hugging, sharing a cake together - even bitching is fun when you do it with a group of friends.
What was your biggest worry before starting your event?
Are people going to have fun? That's my biggest worry. As you may know, I love laughing and making people laugh, so whenever there's silence or I see someone wandering off, I panic a bit. I've learned though, that silence is good - people like to concentrate and, wandering off doesn't mean they're hating it - they might be brainstorming. I just have to chill and go with the flow.
What are you proud of having thought of ahead of time?
Having a Plan B! Cancellations always happen - no matter how hard you plan ahead of time, someone (either an attendee or a location) will cancel on you, so you better be all Charlie's Angels about it and have plan B ready to roll. I go as far as mapping out an alternative route for the city walks in case there's severe rain or in case a vendor has an emergency and can't host the group anymore. Plan B will save your life and you'll look super chill and in control - like a pro!
From idea to execution, how long does it take?
It usually takes around 3-4 weeks to organize it. Once I have the idea (a week to develop the concept) I reach out to potential venues to see if they'll like to be part of the project - getting a response and coordinating details with them takes about 2 weeks. Then I usually give myself a week for promotion on social media (and word of mouth with friends).
What is the most challenging part about putting on these events?
Finding the right crowd - and I don't mean this in an elitist way, not at all. These small events are meant to be fun, creative, and full of potential to meet new friends and I know not everyone likes those things. Reaching out to the right people can be tricky in a city where people tend to be a bit more reserved - on the other hand, that really pushes you to hit the pavement to find potential attendees and bring them out of their shell.
Why should people/bloggers come to your event?
Because you'll discover new spots you may have never seen before. Depending on the type of city walk - we might go hunting for graffiti art in back alleys, visit a blown glass studio, learn about the latest apps to snap amazing photos or even attend a Sake tasting at a local distillery. Yeah, so fun!
How do you know if it's been a success?
I usually go by the feedback given after the event (email and in person). I ask all attendees if they had a good time and if they'd like to see something else happening. Most of them have been pretty happy and suggest new ideas, which is awesome! That means they're interested. Even though I love looking at photos and tweets posted by attendees - I prefer when people are super immersed in the event, rather than stressing them about hashtagging this and that right when it's happening.
Gabriel has some great advice for you first timers thinking of putting on your own event.
- Have a Plan B to fall back on should Plan A not work out
- Chill out and don't get too stressed. I look at it like this: the host (that'd be you), your job is to throw a well executed event while the guests (everyone else) - their job is to be a good guest. The host doesn't carry the event.
- Get feedback after the event. Honest feedback. It may a few times with some tweeking inbetween before you'll have your winning formula.
Interested in hosting a citywalk in your hometown? Do it! And let Gabriel know by tagging you photos with #ACWalks on instagram.
A few questions for you - if you've thought of hosting an offline event in your town, what's holding you back? And if you HAVE hosted one, how did it go?