START BEFORE YOU’RE READY, an article for aspiring event producers
When learning anything new, there comes a time when you have to go from learning to putting that learning into practice in the real world. You will never be ready for this. All your ducks will never be in a row enough for you to feel secure. You must have courage and be willing to fail in order to learn in real time. Twelve years ago, I produced my first Ecstatic Dance in Oakland. I was desperate to dance, and excited to share it with other people. I made detailed lists and time sensitive charts. I reigned in the chaos of all the moving parts as I tried to figure out and execute what needed to be done. I was so nervous the entire time during the first event, I hardly even danced myself.
In 2015, I was in Bali on a personal retreat when I had an idea for the first Ecstatic Dance Event Producer training. I felt like I’d learned so much in the seven years since I had started Ecstatic Dance Oakland, and was ready to share what I’d learned to help others start dances. The first thing I did was book a venue for the training, even before I had created anything else. Then, I promoted and sold the training. I knew that if I had a date and a venue, and sold spots in the training, I would be damn sure to create a training before we hit the due date. After that, I took everything I knew about producing events, wrote it on post-it notes, organized and rewrote it and kept at it until I came up with the current 180 page training manual.
Two years ago, I set upon a journey to write a book. I had no idea what I was doing, or where to begin, but I had a strong desire and calling to share my story with the world. Over the past two years, I’ve picked up and put down the writing a million times. I kept coming back to the reasons why I wanted to write the book in the first place. It was a hard, long slog (it still is), but I’m almost done with my fourth draft, and ready to put it out into the world. It’s one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done, but also one of the most satisfying. To create something for others is an effort worthy of respect, and satisfies something in our psyche that nothing else does.
I have learned to say yes before I’m ready, and learn while doing. It’s how I create anything.
FIVE BEST PRACTICES FOR STARTING BEFORE YOU’RE READY
1.Set a date and tell people about it.
Commit to keeping this date no matter what. You will bust your butt to be ready for it, especially if all your friends know.
2. Get support.
I cannot stress how much of a game changer this has been for me. When I’m stretching myself, I need to know there are people who will love me and support me no matter what. They are my cheerleaders and help me to see my own brilliance. Gather your support systems like you are gathering a small army. Ask them for help, and reciprocate and give them help when they ask for it. DO NOT try to get the non-supporters on board. There are people who will never support you, no matter how hard you try. Or people who are really good at finding fault in any idea. These are not the people to work with now. You are nursing a young and tender sapling (your new identity as an event producer). It is precious, and you must take care to only share it with those who can nurture it and help it grow.
3. Celebrate the tiny wins.
Did you just find your perfect venue? Did you book your first DJ? Did you create an epic postcard? Celebrate these wins! It’s easy to gloss over them and focus on the next thing… on what you still don’t know. But it’s important to celebrate each step toward success.
4. Do anything else you can think of to make it more real.
I like to create postcards. Then it always feels real to me. At a party, talk about the Ecstatic Dance you’re creating and why it matters to you (even if you haven’t produced one yet). Every day, take a minute to envision that your dance is exactly how you want it to be. Really feel it as if you were at the venue with your community. Do anything you can think of that will help you stretch into this new identity. It will help make it happen more quickly.
5. Remember growing pains are real, normal, and part of the process.
Growing pains are not mistakes. Growing pains are not wrong. Growing pains are right! They mean you’re learning something new and stretching yourself. Growing pains are something to celebrate, even though it may not feel like it in the moment.