(c) Pax / Geoffrey Stewart 2008
So you’ve decided you’d like to start taking a more active part in your local Pagan Community. You’ve been to a couple of community socials and maybe a ritual or two, perhaps you’ve helped clean up after an event or two, and maybe you’ve been online for a while lurking in the Pagan community lists… and now your ready to do something of your own for your community.
Hosting a social event is a great way to begin!
There are four main things to think about for your event including, Location, Timing, Cost, and Publicity.
The type of event will really help determine the location. I mean if you’re doing a bookstore meet-up you will just agree to meet up in the Café or by the Fireplace… or wherever. Perhaps you’re doing a Movie Night, and then agree to meet up in the Theater Lobby by a certain time… and have a place in mind for “afters”, as a friend of mine calls it, —coffee and socialization after the event.
Other event types include Art Faire Meet-ups, Dinner Nights Out, Movie Nights, Book clubs, Theatre Nights, and Nature Walks. What sort of event would you attend, have attended in your first year of looking into Paganism?
In most cases whatever type of event you’re hosting, I usually recommend a public venue for your location for the first few events you host. People can be a little weird about going to someone’s home, especially when it’s someone they’ve never met face to face before. This also reduces your stress level as you don’t spend the two or three days before the event housecleaning like a crazy person! (Believe me, if you’re as nervous about meeting new people as I used to be anything that helps reduce your nerves is a good thing!)
If you’re meeting at a location that has a private room available look into how much it costs to use the private room, a lot of folks in the Pagan Community aren’t necessarily out of the “Broom Closet” and so might be more comfortable in a semi-private room at a coffee house meet-up for example. Many restaurants and coffee houses will only require that most of the party order something and let you use the room for free.
While you’re scouting out locations be sure to find out how much yours costs! Low to no cost is ideal! (See Cost below)
For most folks an event scheduled on an evening or a week-end is easier to attend than one scheduled for 2pm on a week day. That isn’t to say you can’t try to schedule something at peak hours, maybe a group trip to the Crafts Stores, or the Brewers Supply store, or a week-night movie night, after work?
Whenever you’re scheduling your event it is a good idea to try and plan for a social, and start publicizing it, at least ~at least~ a month in advance. This gives you, and the other folks, plenty of time to iron out any details that need ironing. (More on this later)
Another issue to keep in mind is what else is going on in your community when you want to hold an event. You don’t want to have your social at the same time another group is having their social or ritual, and you also don’t want to be the only one to show up and then see online that everyone was watching the Season Finale of (insert ridiculously popular t.v. show here).
Free is always good, but not always possible, and now it is now time for a simple truth….
It does not matter how little money folks have to spend to take part in an event, there will almost always be someone who complains about the cost!
You could be meeting at a coffee house private room and each person may only need to buy a $2 (or less) drink, but someone may still complain. My general attitude kind of depends on how they are complaining.
If it’s a “money’s really tight.” and they are counting out their penny’s, and I can afford it, I will buy them a drink.
If they are making the $2 coffee or bottle of water sound like a hardship equal to the Great Depression, after having shown off their latest metaphysical bling or their latest loot from the comic books store, I have been known to respond with an excessively cheerful…
“Well if it’s as bad as all that maybe you should be at home looking for work or working on your budget?”
As I said though, free is good, it is also sometime hard to attain in terms of finding a truly free venue for your social event. I usually am happy to aim for low cost.
One of the great things about a hosting a social event is that social event venues have a spectrum of cost from inexpensive to dangerous. A coffee shop meet-up is relatively inexpensive, a movie night out can be a bit pricey, and the previously mentioned craft store outing can be outright dangerous to many a pagan’s budget!!
~Please note: August through November are your most dangerous craft store months as you are perilously close to the peak merchandising times for Samhain and Winter Solstice! You have been warned.~
Publicity- (here’s that more on this later that I promised)
Publicity is worth a Lesson all its own, and eventually there will be one just for this oft neglected ingredient in a successful event!
For right now though the most important thing about publicity for your event is Lead Time. Lead Time is the amount of time BEFORE the event that you start your Planning & Publicity. The bigger the event the more Lead Time you need, but one month is generally a good base time for any event.
For Publicity, much like a good news story, you want to let folks know about the who, what, where, and when of your event. Be sure that you provide at least two ways to contact you as the host. An e-mail is never enough, a phone number is better.
If you have access to a computer, and most do these days, you can create and print the flyers yourself. Yes, the flyers. The internet is not enough, let me repeat…
THE INTERNET IS NOT ENOUGH
TO PUBLICIZE YOUR EVENT
…and we all know of one or two book stores or metaphysical shops that we could put up event flyers at. I posted flyers for my first social and every metaphysical shop and friendly coffee house I could think of AND put it up on some of the utility poles in town like I was publicizing a band or something. Over the top? Maybe, but it worked!
It’s also worth it to work out driving and bus directions to the event so that when, not if, someone asks you have the info at hand.
-What to do if something goes wrong-
The two most important things are Don’t Panic and Be Flexible!
Let us take an example from my experience. I was hosting a social event at a Coffee House. I had talked to the shops manager in advance and posted the event on the Internet and in Flyer’s. I got to the shop and was apologetically informed by the shop manager that the owner did not want the event to go on at her shop. I asked what the problem was and the manager said the owner had said something about not wanting Devil Worshipers in her establishment. At this point I freaked out a little, luckily a friend of mine was with me who lived near by and offered up her home as an alternate location so we put up a hand written sign with directions and my friends phone # and went to her house. The event ended up happening and being a pretty darn good event!
I later learned that there had been a misunderstanding on the owner’s part, in part because she was already under siege by a couple of local fundamentalist churches for having had a nude art photo exhibition in her coffee house a few months before. She had heard pagan and kind of freaked out because of what else was going on in her life.
This story is a good example of rolling with the punches and carrying on. If my friend had not been with me I could have rescheduled the event, or moved to another coffee house or restaurant. Tempting though it may, kicking up a big fuss then and there and/or threatening a lawsuit really isn’t going to change things for the better in the moment; and in this case would not have been the right thing at all because there were some seriously extenuating circumstances.
My only real regret about that particular event is that I didn’t make it a point to encourage each and every member of the Pagan community I could convince, con, or cajole into spending money at that coffeehouse and leaving comment cards saying “I spend my Pagan dollar hear and love this shop and hope you weather your current troubles”.
In my experience trouble like this is rare, and as long as you stay calm and remain flexible in your plans you’ll be fine. After all you’ve already scouted out locations for this social, if all else fails you can go to a fall back location or reschedule for another time.
One last thing, if for some reason at the last moment you realize you aren’t going to make it, do whatever you can to let folks know this and be prepared to apologize (repeatedly) to folks for not showing up.
Yes, life happens and our personal lives can bring on a sudden change of plans, but hosting a social is like inviting people to your home for a party. You would apologize if you were called away from your house and your friends showed up ready for that dinner party and you weren’t there, right? So it’s only right to do the same in the above situation.
I know that may seem obvious, but I have seen folks publicize a social event and then get upset and defensive when asked where they were when their event was supposed to be happening. That is a very good way to make a very negative impression in your community.
OK, we’ve talked briefly about Location, Timing, Cost, and Publicity. We have also talked about staying calm and being flexible When Things Go Wrong. If you have any other questions take a few minutes to talk to someone in your community you trust who is already hosting events and see if they have any further advice.
Best of luck to you!
Pax / Geoffrey