I was meant to run a workshop on social change communications at Regrowth Festival the weekend before last, at 10am on Sunday to be precise. A few things went wrong with this plan:
- I was given the wrong workshop title in the program: “Sharehood” (a collaborative consumption website which, while cool, I have nothing to do with);
- Instead of camping with our two-month old we were staying in the nearby town of Braidwood and got away late and took two wrong turns on the way to the site in the morning, resulting in me arriving at the workshop tent twenty minutes late, which sucked, but not too much because;
- Only a couple of people actually turned up looking for the workshop (despite a blackboard prominently displaying the correct topic of the workshop, so can’t blame the Sharehood thing too much).
Which is fair enough. I can’t remember a time I’ve been at a music festival – let alone at 10am in the morning on Sunday, when it’s possible, just possible I’m saying, that I’ve had a late night the night before – and I’ve felt like learning about social change communications.
So this got K and I thinking, what does make a good workshop topic in this kind of setting?
Festivals are experiential. You’re not there to spent too much time in your head, you’re there to run around and dance and see friends and listen to music and hang out in your campsite and so on. The best thing about festivals is how present-ing they are. With so much immersive activity and social interaction you find yourself deeply, completely, present with everything around you.
So to firstly want to go and secondly to remember to go to a workshop requires that it be something you strongly want to participate in or learn about. We decided it required a topic which is specific enough to give a strong sense of guarantee around the outcome – ie. a specific practice like yoga which you know you enjoy, or belly dancing which you’ve always wanted to try or permaculture which you’ve always been curious about.
There’s a two-word title and it describes a specific and knowable experience or outcome. But the topic must also be general enough that sufficient people at this specific event have heard about it and are interested. And it must be actionable enough that attending makes a difference, ie. the experience is either intrinsically satisfying (yoga, dance classes, lantern making etc) or you can imagine using what you’ve learned in the near future (a how to massage, permaculture, music production, etc).
We tried to imagine what we could share at next year’s Regrowth Festival (which will be back at its usual time of Easter) which is specific, general and actionable enough, unlike my workshop this year which, while somewhat actionable, was neither specific nor general enough to attract participation. We came up with the idea of teaching a “prepare for the playa” workshop to help people plan for and go to Burning Man.
This is specific enough to be knowable – ie. you know you’re going to find out about what’s involved in attending a specific festival in Nevada. It’s general enough, given that it seems like everyone has heard of Burning Man these days (all of a sudden) and those that haven’t gone tend to have a real curiosity around it, and it’s actionable, because if you’re planning to attend next year’s Burn in August you should probably be starting to plan a little, or at least get your head around what you need to plan, by April.
Hopefully this will go a little better than this year’s effort!
What do you think of our criteria for successful festival workshops? Did you miss anything?
Photo by jemasmith via flickr, available on a creative commons license.