Friday, April 8, 2011

AHHH - Bureaucracy

The best definition I found when I looked up the word bureaucracy is - "Excessively complicated administrative procedure.........."  What is that I hear - a resounding AMEN?!?!?!? 

While I prefer my main focus to be writing on interesting lives, my position as editor of a local magazine requires me to attend many functions.  They are wonderful opportunities to make new friends, network with individuals I have never met and support our local industries and charities.  It's a privilege.  

The one thing any event requires is an outline in place to handle all those who would like to attend.  This often falls under the label of Bureaucracy with a capital B.  Dealing with the bureaucracy, as it is ever evolving and different at each event, is NOT a privilege - it can be a total frustration. Why is it some wonderful, young volunteer always ends up on the front line trying to field all the questions, especially if a change to the protocol has been made?  I always feel this should be done by someone who has been involved with the organization for awhile.


The problem is that those attending are always a mish-mash representing a wide section of the local community and any attempt to put everyone in the same box is always a recipe for disaster. There are also numerous people who feel entitled and can become every producers nightmare - they expect a comp ticket although they offer nothing in return, they sneak into VIP seats, they make a lot of promises and don't deliver, etc.   

Let's take a fashion show as an example.  You have the designer's clients that spend big bucks, media that ranges from a writer covering the scene for a high-end publication like Flare, down to an up and coming blog writer who may end up with a loyal following and be a great asset in the future if you treat them right - who knows? You have might also have TV personalities and politicians, and then there are those that paid for the privilege of being there.  You have family and friends of the models, hair stylists, designers and more that feel they should be let in for various reasons.  How to balance all these interests and decide seating, comp tickets, etc., is every producer's nightmare.  And to be honest, there is no easy answer.


For me, I can handle anything for a couple of hours, but I flat out cannot commit to long hours and/or multiple days unless I have a seat to place myself in with a name on it and a decent view. I no longer have the time and energy to show up early and rush in to snag a seat. If you don't have one for me, I'm really not insulted, I just want to be informed ahead of time.  

You also have to accept the fact that it might mean I chose not to come.  That's honestly okay on my side. I understand the challenges of the industry and attend so many events that I don't worry about missing any one in particular.  However, if you want me there, then we have to come to an agreement.  Unfortunately, when I have to deal with a young volunteer, that can make me come across as a diva.  SIGH!


Over the last 6 months I have been thinking about this issue a lot and talking to many in the industry.  From this, some ideas have arisen and I will try and re-cap. Your feedback and opinion is always welcome and I wouldn't make any changes to your Bureaucracy unless you look at it from all angles first.

Comp/VIP Seats -This is an important one to figure out if your seating is limited. If you have lots of space - no worries.

1.  Who gives you money?  Advertisers, sponsors and clients always fall in this category and they should be treated well, period.  They are the reason you are here.
2.  What are they offering you?  For media, this means requiring them to provide coverage of the event and it should clear exactly what they are offering you for this privilege.  For industry professionals in other areas, it could mean using clothing in a published shoot, a buyer considering the designers showing or promotion in another way - perhaps a well known media personality who is photographed in the front row.
3.  Who supports you?  This could include the organizer's friends, family, etc. He/she shoulders the responsibility and has chosen to invite them.
4.  What are you offering?  It's important to be clear from the start what you are offering - a front row seat, a back row seat, standing in an enclosed area or a rush ticket.  It avoids confusion later and conflicts that your poor volunteer has to sort out. 
5.  Someone who is knowledgeable should be in charge of this touchy area.
6.  Family and friends of volunteers - especially models.  I get it. Your son/daughter is volunteering and you have to drive them and want to see them on stage.  Please realize if seating is limited, it's just not always possible. Consider it their job whether they get a paycheck or not.  Would you stay if they were working in a restaurant or office?  Sometimes you just have to sacrifice if you want to support your son/daughter in this industry. Most events are happy to let you in if they actually have space, so if they don't, please be accomodating.


How to handle VIP tickets - There is such a wide variety from event to event that this is can be a very frustrating process for everyone concerned.

1.  When you decide your protocol, clearly email it out to everyone affected by it.
2.  At multiple show events, if everyone is required to leave between shows, perhaps the VIP can check in when they arrive and be given a chair tag they place on their seat at the first show and return when they leave for the day.  That way you don't have VIP chairs marked for individuals that are not at every show and VIP's don't have to keep lining up and fighting for a new seat each time.
3.  Another idea I have always felt had merit was seating VIP's a full 30 minutes early to make it easy and unstressful.  If they aren't there in time, they go in with the general seating.  That said - this is would probably create a lot of drama, so I don't recommend it.  


Other Notes

1.  If there are changes to the schedule, announce the delay.  We actually all know that things happen.  You don't have to cover up or explain the reason, a simple, "Due to unfortunate circumstances, the show has been delayed until..."  Let's face it - Shit Happens occasionally and all you can do is keep everyone informed.  There is not a single producer in town that hasn't had an unexpected delay crop up at some point.
2.  If there is an unfortunate delay, don't leave people standing outside the venue.  Let them come in and sit down in seats at the regular time - we'd be less grumpy.  Most of us enjoy networking or we wouldn't be there, we just need to be comfortable. We can relax and visit until the show is ready to go.  For those of us wearing high heels - that standing can become a true pain! :)
3. Try not to ask a young volunteer to force those coming in to take seats very close to where models come out. Yes it makes sense from your side, but anyone who lines up early expects to pick a seat they feel provides a great view.  It's a thankless job - just ask any bus driving who asks passengers to move back.


I am utterly grateful to those who chose to take on the responsibilities, financial challenges and organizational chaos that putting on a great show involves.  My hats off to you.  These comments mostly designed to spark some creative thinking.  And again, do not take these as a solution to all your frustrations.  Unfortunately something  new and unexpected will always rear it's ugly head to challenge you. 

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