Risk and Hope: The Program Planner’s Headache

Inspiration from an old barn.
On the highway north from home enroute to a speaking engagement I passed a farm so close to the road I could read easily the farm name on the barn: Risk and Hope. I smiled, because it sums up farming on the northern great plains so concisely. Later that night, homeward bound from a rather unhappy event where numbers failed to meet the program planner’s dreams, I passed the farm again and pondered anew the message in the name for people like that program planner, How do we reduce Risk and increase Hope for the program planner?


Recently I was negotiating with a wet coast genealogical society to provide a day long workshop package for them. The deal fell through because the society was uncomfortable with the risk package of fixed fees for transportation, accomodation, meals and speaker’s fee. It was too much for them.Years ago, in my rock and roll years I was an entertainment promoter bringing rock groups to resort towns in western Canada. The name of the game was risk and hope. The challenge was to find ways to reduce risk, and increase hope.Rock bands were in some ways like wandering minstrals, always looking for another gig. In those days I frequently made deals that involved sharing the risks. For example, one deal I made was to bring in “Jason Hoover and the Epics” an R&B group. We worked out a deal like this: the rent of the very large venue came off the top. I took care of promotion and staffing and got 40% of the gate plus all the profits from the concession booth, while Jason and the boys took care of transportation, accomodation and the performance for 60%. They controlled the play list. We agreed on a ticket price. Each of us put a great deal of effort and prepration into the event, and we shared the risks. It was an amazing success!Could this be a model for local genealogical societies to use? Are speakers as hungry as Jason Hoover and the Epics to come in and do their genealogy roadshow for a percentage of the gate?

From the speaker’s perspective, I think I’d like to have more control than normal over the program offered like Jason had over his playlist. I’d like to have a promotion plan and media package ready to offer the host society. And I’d like the enroute objectives to be met on an agreed on a real time schedule with the defaults defined. I would like a mechanism to monitor ticket sales and advanced sales of tickets. And I’d like to have some say in back-of-the-room sales.

What would the local programmer want to nail down?

Your comments would be most welcome.

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