Julian Cook - Creating Our Stories

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[00:00:00] This podcast is brought to you by pride in z.com. And funded through a generous grant from the Legacy Fund of the second Asia Pacific Outgames. [00:00:11] So I'm wondering, could you just give me a very kind of broad brushstroke over the types of events that you've worked on? [00:00:18] Let's see everything Gosh, fashion, done loads of dance parties, loads of contemporary music, events, exhibitions, [00:00:29] festivals, like the festival, or the hero festival, the Ignite youth Arts Festival. [00:00:37] Gosh, I mean, just everything from CT, small cabaret events to large concepts, in part for 10s of thousands of people. Every kind of scale type of event imaginable. [00:00:51] I've done it. [00:00:54] When you look at that very, very broad cross section of events, of the things they are, are common to all kinds of things that make them successful. [00:01:04] Yes, [00:01:05] organization, I guess, a really, really thorough organization, with people involved that really know what they're doing. And I guess, events is it's very much a people kind of business. And it, it's only as good as the people that are working on it. So if you've got good people around you, which is essential, then hopefully, you'll produce a good event. And, you know, that extends in both directions, and also extends to your audience and how involved or how engaged your audience are. So really, I mean, I guess it's all about people. [00:01:42] Is there a difference between organizing a gay or queer event and mainstream of it? Yes. [00:01:48] It's a programming difference, essentially. And that you've, I mean, whether you're organizing a mainstream event or a specific event, you've got to know your audience. And so you really, for an extent, we think more of this at the moment, we're seeing more [00:02:08] straight people being contracted, and to run large gay events. [00:02:14] I [00:02:16] do have a bit of a problem with it, and that they don't have the level of understanding of gay life, gay culture, and just the the minutiae around it, that a gay person would and they don't, so they can't bring that level of knowledge and experience to programming the event. And I think that that's where it's more important as when you're thinking about, who is this event for? What's the audience? What are we trying to achieve? Who are we going to bring in to help express themselves in this event? [00:02:51] What artists are we going to work with? What creatives all of those, all of those questions are really informed? [00:02:59] are really informed gay sensibility or lesbian sensibility? Or whatever type of style of event it is? So yeah, I do think it's important. Do you [00:03:07] have an example of we're somebody who wasn't necessarily gay coming in and doing something in a fist all that you just think this was just sort of not working? [00:03:18] Yeah, I think that the Big Gay out has become like that in the last couple of years. I know that there are a lot of gay people that are involved in working on that event. But since a few years ago, beanbag boys did a really really good job in reinvigorating it and reinvent and sort of remodeling it a little bit and did an exceptionally good job of it, it has not changed since the same marketing, same, virtually the same lineup, same layout, same everything. And I, I think, Okay, well, there should be a bit of queer energy or queer thought going into these things that's going to somehow make them a a little bit different or quickly, or, or make you think or challenge you. It's not happening in that event, I'd like to see that change next year. [00:04:07] So what kind of things would you do, [00:04:10] I would have a consultation committee to start off with, external from the organization that I was working in, to help feed into that with an event of that sort of [00:04:19] that stuff that [00:04:21] that magnitude, and that also is there to cater to that [00:04:25] broader community. [00:04:27] I would get a consultation group together and work at it that way. But also, I'd be looking at how we can change things up each year, and how we can make things different and how we can excite the audience. I think that it's important to treat your audience [00:04:41] with the with that respect. Yeah, instead of just [00:04:46] sort of spoon feeding them. The stuff that you thought worked last year, I think it's a little bit lame. [00:04:52] So the events that you've been involved with? Have they been events that have been driven by specific company or organization or have you or if they've been more organically come from the community? Both [00:05:09] really, I mean, I've promoted my own events, which have been driven completely by me and the people that I've been working with at the time. Or I've worked within the community in terms of something like the gold charity auction and dinner, which I did last year, in which I was contracted into to deliver that for the gold coin Business Association. So both really, what are [00:05:33] the differences between the two kind of models? [00:05:37] Well, when it's clearly your event, and, and so you can, you can be a lot sort of freer in terms of [00:05:45] in terms of what you're trying to achieve and how you want to deliver that. And if you're being contracted, and more clearly, you're you're being contracted them to deliver an event that they there are clear expectations around around what benefit will be being [00:06:00] that you were the experienced event [00:06:03] organizer within that you would hope that the group that you were working with, would take on board a lot of your suggestions and and listen to your thoughts on how they see the event going. But they don't always sometimes they have really clear and fixed ideas about what they want. And so that's what you deliver. Is it possible [00:06:23] to talk about that last event that you worked on the game of charitable trusts? Yep. [00:06:27] auction dinner, basically, they gave a charitable trust is it's the it's the charitable arm of the gay or con Business Association. And it's the only sort of the only trust nationwide, I think that, that fundraisers in order to make money to give back in terms of community grants on an annual basis. And they do that and form of scholarships to students. And also just to two projects that that come forward, there are things that the pub charities or that creative New Zealand or the other funding agencies that are out there, that wouldn't get a look and from those agencies that they can go to the gala Charitable Trust and apply, and they will be get the consideration that they deserve, whether it be the lesbians out west wanting a new sound system, so they can improve the quality of their events. Well, the gamma Charitable Trust is something that they can come to and apply to for that. And I think that's the the reason why I really wanted to get involved in that event and why I was quite passionate about about doing it. [00:07:32] So what kind of brief did they give you. [00:07:35] And really, because gamma is a community [00:07:41] organization, [00:07:43] you're dealing with a group of people that aren't together professionally all the time. And so it's people change from year to year, and, and the way it's been run from year to year has changed. So for me, a lot of doing this one was actually about developing some systems so that whether I'm doing it next year, or whether somebody else is doing it next year, there is at least a template to start with, from which you can then you can then work with and build upon or move sideways or whatever, or abandoned completely and do something completely new and different, which can also be a good thing. But at least there's a clear starting point. In the past, when a lot of these, it's the case for a lot of these community type of events. [00:08:27] People, [00:08:28] people, you know, they have full time jobs, and they're doing this stuff out of the goodness of their heart, and trying as hard as they can for the community. But often, you know, it's not lift in the most organized, you know, state with really good filing, and really good records and, and, you know, contacts and databases and that sort of stuff. So a lot a huge amount of doing database last year was actually developing those systems so that it would be easier in the future. [00:08:59] So what kind of systems are we talking? Can you describe, for me what you know, all that kind of template looks on. [00:09:05] Now, in the case of, of the get go charity, auction and dinner. And because you're dealing with a charity auction, and that involves a vast auction catalog, I think we had well over 80 different auction items this time. So you're dealing and communicating with a huge number of people. So it's really having that database of the database of donors, the database of ticket buyers, the database of people that are actively involved in the event, really up to date. Also, you're one of my goals, this time was to bring in more solid level of sponsorship, so that that would help to pay for the event itself and for the entertainment. So that the proceeds of the auction were pretty much 100% going to the charity with the way they were supposed to go in the event was paying for itself, which I managed to achieve this see this last year with last year, which was fantastic, we actually, the event itself actually made a little bit of money, which I was really, really happy with. But a huge part of that, obviously, is having sponsorship proposals and having sort of developed prospectus on what the event is who the audience is, having all of that kind of that written resource, and also visual resource of previous options that is there and can be turned around into proposals, whether they be proposals to donors to donate items, or whether their proposal to sponsors to get more actively involved in the event. [00:10:37] That resource is really important. [00:10:39] When you're looking at putting together packages for sponsors and and saying well, this is the audience this is you know, this is the market. For this event, how did you know who the audience was? How did you know? [00:10:51] Well, I'd been to a couple of previous get or options. So I had had that experience. And [00:10:57] really the core audience for [00:10:59] the gather is going to be together organization itself. And so you start with that as your core audience, and then you think okay, so you build out from there? And who are the other groups that might be interested in this? And what's the what's the capacity of the room and that sort of stuff. And so you build it out that way. But also, from a sponsorship perspective, you're looking at how else they're getting exposure apart from simply on the event day. So you're looking at how are they getting exposure through marketing? How are they getting exposure through promotions, and communications, and that branding, or that exposure is reaching an audience that might not even even go to the event, but they're seeing that that particular sponsor is supporting that particular gave in and that might have meaning for them? [00:11:51] What other kinds of research do you do? [00:11:53] Gosh, [00:11:56] I think what research [00:11:59] there are [00:12:00] questions that need to be asked before you embark on any event. And I this is the stuff that I don't see done often enough, I have to say with Gavin's is actually sitting back right at the start again, why are we doing this event? What what what are our items? What are we hoping to achieve? And being honest, really honest about that. It's great to have kind of, you know, these lofty goals and that sort of stuff. But often a lot of it is also tied up in people's egos, and that sort of stuff. And I think it's really important to be honest about that stuff. And to get it on the table before you even start doing an event. Because really, if you're just doing another event, so that you can see yourself on top of a float points, you know, floating down Ponsonby road, that's a pretty bad reason to do it. [00:12:50] If you're genuinely doing it, so that people [00:12:55] there's more exposure to gay people or what's let's [00:12:57] look [00:12:58] for pride reasons I and all the the many sort of reasons that go with it. And that's great. But you know, I think people need to be honest about why they're getting involved in the events and why they're doing it. Because, yes, events can be fun. And yes, they can be dynamic. And sometimes they even make money. But more often than not, they lose money. They're exhausting, they're draining, and they can actually drag community organizations down with them. I've seen community organizations, great community organizations commit themselves to events that have have caused them more harm than they cause them. Good. And so you Christian, why? Why are you doing that event? What do you what what are you hoping to achieve? Is this a good idea for the organization? And then beyond that thinking, Okay, so who's the audience for this? Are we being realistic? And start asking some of those questions before sort of going okay, well, you know, we want 10 tons of 10. So on top of that trailer, [00:13:53] for many organizations, that kind of methodical approach is doesn't happen. How do you have any tips for somebody just in those initial stages to think, how do you methodically go through them, [00:14:08] just take a step back, take a deep breath, stop and think, and actually, you know, get a whiteboard, write a few questions up, get a few people in a room, get some friends that know what they're doing in a room and actually bounce some ideas off of, I think that the gay community with God, I mean, I'll just say gay community, but it will talk in a broader sense. [00:14:34] We have [00:14:34] loads and loads of community events every year, and that's a great thing. They are of varying quality. What I personally would like to see is maybe a few lyst community events, but maybe a few more, that are rather have a higher quality. Because if you're talking about pride, as a concept, and achieving, making people feel better about themselves and who they are, then for me, I think that they would, that that more people will feel better about themselves if they're experiencing something that is of higher level of quality, and that they feel genuinely proud of as opposed to just tuning up it. [00:15:15] So once you've come up with the idea of you know, what this is actually a good reason for doing an event is the next step, actually just writing that down so that you've actually got something on paper, Sanjana, white, [00:15:27] write it all down seriously, any of those kind of words and adjectives that come to you and your discussions, write them down, they'll come back. And they'll be useful later on, when you're writing the proposals, and you're talking to artists or explaining what your event is, or you're writing your media release, and trying to excite the media about what your event is, or you're trying to sell the event to a sponsor, all of that stuff will be really handy, so write it down. [00:15:55] So getting that to the charity auction, how far out? Are you planning? How long before the event, do you start working on this one [00:16:05] thing, you can be sure that you can always do with more time. [00:16:09] For me, sort of as a kind of off the top of my head, I'd like to be working on something like that six months out, and like to be contracted into it that far out. So you've got some certainty around what you're doing, and be actively working on it that far out. [00:16:24] Even though you know, it will become a lot more intense when you get closer to the date. But actually, with that one there, there were waves of intensity, there were this huge wave of output was needed kind of right at the start in terms of coming up with all that resource that could then go off to sponsors and potential option donors and that sort of thing. And so they would do the huge wave of stuff there. And then when it was time to actually start working on the auction catalog itself, I mean, I had never done an auction catalog before that was my first one. So it was a huge learning experience for me. And also you realize kind of how, what an in depth sort of process that is, and how many different people you're dealing with, and that they all kind of need talking to, and they all kind of need to have, they all have their own kind of expectations of why they're donating. And you're going to got to got to give them time to talk that through and and respect that. And that those sort of human processes take a hell of a long time. And then of course, you get closer to it, and you get closer to the event itself and [00:17:34] the amount of time spent on it ramps right up again. And then afterwards, the events finished and you fall over for two weeks. I mean, that's sort of classic event, event management stuff is that you know, be prepared to fall over after the event. Because you will not feel 100% [00:17:53] you've seen a number of times about the fact that is so much about kind of people management interaction with people. And I'm wondering, do you have? Or can you talk about the kind of different types of language that you use for different people like, for instance, when you're talking to event sponsors, or event audiences, or [00:18:16] creatives that are working on the event, or the people that are hiring you, they will will be requiring different language, right. [00:18:23] It's like multi octopus lingual version of English. And which funders need to be spoken to completely different to sponsors, sponsors need to be spoken to completely different artists, artists need to be spoken to completely different to Dinah's. They all [00:18:44] have it, that's a PR thing, [00:18:46] it's [00:18:48] it's being empathetic, empathetic to the person that you're dealing with, or the person that you're speaking with, and [00:18:56] doing it in the way that they want to hear it, or they wanted to discuss it or its communication, it's just finding a way to engage with them. And often, [00:19:08] that means adapting the language varies. I mean, funding funding, in particular is a very specific language of its own. [00:19:18] Do you have examples? [00:19:20] Um, well, you know, if you're dealing with some sort of hip hop artist, it might be here, bro, how's it going? You know, you know, do you want to do you want to come down to the event, it's all good. It's a very sort of casual, and you kind of dealing with it on a city in a sort of really street kind of way. If you're dealing with funders, well, they've got very clear expectations about what the funding is there to achieve and what the funding goals are, and you have to you kind of almost use their own language to deliver that back to them. [00:19:53] So or dealing with corporates, obviously, you going into a kind of a more of a corporate sponsor kind of very, very business language. So it varies dramatically, from very creative use of the language to very sort of formal use of the language. [00:20:11] So is it more about merging? What the other how the other person speaking often so in your communications with, with all these different types of [00:20:21] that's true across the board? That's true in life in general, really, isn't it? But I guess, with events, because you're dealing with, you know, a whole lot of a whole lot of very disparate groups often and different types of people, I guess, maybe it's a bit more magnified in that sense. [00:20:37] So in your communication with all those different types of people, are you much more face to face person or email person? Or how does that how does that work for you? Personally, I'm an email person. [00:20:48] Yeah, yeah, pick up the phone and do it that way. [00:20:53] It's taken me a lot of time to be more comfortable in meetings, I, generally, my preferred way of working is to have a front person, and I'm kind of the sort of backup sort of resource that kind of goes with them. And that person fronts the meeting. And I'm sort of holding bits of knowledge and resource that they might need to know throughout it, that's my preferred client. But that's a purely individual thing. And it's just my way of working, I wouldn't expect anybody else to be that crazy. [00:21:27] Do you have any more examples of the different types of communication, [00:21:32] I just, I just think it's really basic communication, PR skills, it's just being empathetic to whoever you're communicating with at the time. And, and telling it to them in a way that is easy for them to understand. And that makes them want to support what you're doing, I guess. [00:21:56] Where that becomes often most important with events is when you get down to market getting in publicity, and you're actually communicating directly with your audience. That's where you have to really know your stuff. That's where you have to really know your audience as well. So [00:22:11] for me, someone that's produced, I sort of innumerable dance parties and nightclub events over the years. One thing that I'm actually really, really aware of, is that now that I'm now that I'm 40, [00:22:25] is that [00:22:27] I'm not, as I say, with the language of a 20 year old, who would be going to that style of event these days. And so if I was to be producing another one of those events, I would try to either a work with it, I think, would be essential to work with someone who's from that demographic, who knows that audience really well. And, and can advise me on how to communicate with them. [00:22:58] I think that this, you know, that's one reason why I sort of fit staked out of doing a lot of parties these days, is that I actually think that parties as a sort of genre or medium, are based done by the kids that are going to them themselves, and not by older guys who are looking at it from a sort of profit perspective, or an ego perspective, or whatever. I think it's much more healthy, that the kids are running those parties for themselves. And you know, oftentimes, like with homo, or some of those sort of more recent club nights that have come along, the promoters come to me and sort of asked for my opinion on stuff, and I love helping these kids with this stuff. And I love that they're doing it for themselves. And they're expressing themselves, much more important than me coming along and putting went on at this point. [00:23:48] So you're acting more as a mentor, [00:23:51] often these days yet, and particularly with regards to sort of, [00:23:56] sort of contemporary [00:23:57] concerts or nightclub events? Well, that kind of stuff, the I sort of quite a number of them gay or lesbian that come to me, and I love helping them fabulous, [00:24:08] what kind of questions to ask, [00:24:10] oh, gosh, everything [00:24:14] around budgets, or around programming, or marketing, or, you know, even just sort of, you know, how do I get my posters distributed? Or how do I, how do I how do I organize my ticketing? Or what do you think about this act? Or do you think that would work? Or is is does this press release rate? Okay, I mean, that it, they asked loads of different things, and that some know, it's great, I love I love helping them, but never say no. [00:24:44] I'm wondering if you can talk me through or take me through a bit of a timeline as to like, say, for instance, with the giver charitable option, when things happen, that within that six month period leading up to the event, [00:24:58] in terms of being a resource for the people, it's really depending on dependent on the event, every event will have its own will be individual and will have its own timeline. And different styles of events will have very different timelines from you know, I don't know, opera, New Zealand producing an opera, his timeline will be completely different to to Vic to gather timeline or festival day in a pack timeline. So it's really hard for me to answer that question without sort of looking at a specific event. I guess. [00:25:31] The other question would be, you know, is it important to have a timeline? [00:25:34] Yes, absolutely, it is, it's also important to be to be flexible enough to know that it's not always going to remain the same and that it will change. But you should definitely have deadlines for certain things in terms of when the tickets go on sale, when the marketing should be distributed. [00:25:57] Those sorts [00:25:58] of really important milestones, I'd say, probably rather, more than having a really, really heavily involved time timeline, I think it's important to have a really good handle on those those milestones. [00:26:13] In terms of the size of team that works on events, do you have any ideas about what is a good size team to be working on of it? [00:26:23] Well, Lisa is often more that that's, that's because [00:26:29] people have [00:26:30] really varied opinions. And when you're talking about the culture, or the art that they enjoy, or the entertainment or experiences that they enjoy, well, of course, they've got very personal and very strong viewpoints on that. So organizing an event with a committee [00:26:48] is, you know, can I say he'd Fuck, [00:26:52] because that's what it is. And, [00:26:55] you know, but it can also be a real positive, because you've got all this resource that's available to you. And you've got all these brains, and they bringing different thoughts and different levels of expertise in areas of expertise than you yourself have. So [00:27:14] working with the committee is only as good as you're able to manage the committee. In many ways. It's harder, but it can be more rewarding. [00:27:23] How does it work in a situation where say the committee is paying you to organize something? And yet the committee is the one that's kind of coming up with new ideas and continually changing the ideas, how does that work for you, you need to have [00:27:38] balls, you need to be really, really strong, you actually need to be able to step stand there and go, I'm sorry, that's not going to work. Or, you know, I'm sorry, we actually signed off on this several weeks ago, and I'm already moving forward in that direction. And I'm not making that change at this point. Or, you know, you just actually have to be able to say, Look, I'm sorry, this end can give reasons this is why it can be very time can and it can be very annoying and exasperating. But the on the other side of it, people will also bring really great ideas that you wouldn't have thought of to the table, will they'll bring in resources that wouldn't have otherwise been available to you. So it's kind of swings and roundabouts. [00:28:16] So you mentioned the idea of sign off? Is that something that you do a lot of [00:28:24] not so much formally, as, as kind of just making sure when you're in those committee meetings, that when there is an agreement that it's everybody knows, and it's noted, and and then you move on to the next thing so so that when it does, if there is a change, or things do shift, that it's pretty clear what the what the intention or the direction was, obviously, we're contractual stuff is concerned, get it in writing, even if it's just an email, get it in writing, keep that email don't don't is it? Save it for years? But [00:29:03] with that sort of stuff is concerned, you must have it in writing, [00:29:07] moving closer to the event? Do you have a general order of things that happen? Like for instance, do you go marketing tickets, physical planning location doesn't have [00:29:21] as a generalization? [00:29:21] I guess? First of all, it's kind of concept. So it's sitting down, and it's figuring out sort of a broad brushstrokes kind of concept about what the event is? Who's it for? What's it aiming to achieve? All those questions we've previously discussed, then from there, I would probably go into programming next. So which Who are you going to work with which artists, musicians performers, are you going to work with and realizing those goals. [00:29:53] And then sometimes, you know, that can be switched around. Sometimes if it's just a straight concept, somebody bringing that up diver and you're going to promote them? Well, that's already sorted out for you, you might just be looking at who's to support it. [00:30:07] And then from there, I guess you look at your team, and you look at the people that you want to work with on this event. And very important aspect of that is going to be [00:30:19] who's going to be your publicist who's going to do your marketing, who's going to do your graphic design, photography, illustrations, that sort of stuff, that sort of stuff can take quite a long time, a long time to generate. So you need to start thinking about that stuff quite early on. [00:30:35] Then you've got your milestones, set your key milestones in terms of when different types of media are going to hit. [00:30:42] And you've got your tickets go on sale date. Obviously, before that straight after the programming, you need to be thinking about sponsorship, the sponsors need to be brought on as early as possible, they can't be an afterthought. Sponsors or funders, both of these things take have long lead in times. So obviously funding than sponsorship, but they both require an external organization to run it through the departments to give you approval or otherwise. So that's going to take time. And along. While you're doing that, hopefully, you're designing your marketing and getting all that stuff ready to go. [00:31:21] What's going to happen if nobody sponsors your event, what's going to happen if you can find a sponsor for that event, you don't really want to go too far down the trail of confirming everything and contracting people until you know that your budgets going to work. God, we haven't even talked about budgeting. [00:31:37] Did I miss that? [00:31:40] That I mean, that comes right in at the very, very start again, if your budgets not working, if it doesn't stick out. If it's not realistic, and it's not realizable, don't bother. [00:31:53] Then like if you're in to the marketing, marketing, and ticketing should probably happen at the same time. As you roll, I wouldn't want any list and sort of six weeks lead in for ticket sales. For most events, [00:32:08] it gives it gets attendees purely [00:32:11] speaking from a New Zealand perspective, I know it's different in other places, but it does give people time to get a ticket into their hand get a bit excited about it. Different groups all know that they're going they've got their tickets in their hands. Often the ticket itself is a great little flyer, and a great piece of marketing. And so if you can get tickets into people's hands early on, that itself can help generate sales. So the ticketing aspects are really, really important. And it's really important that you don't just sort of throw it on sale last minute, and expect people to suddenly turn up because oftentimes it won't happen, then I guess you've got to book your production and you've got to gosh, you know, booking venue that should have come right back at the beginning, as well as those are essential things. [00:32:59] And then working with timelines in terms of the event itself, and how that's going to run on the day or on the night. So I mean, is this it's this heaps of aspects to it, one of the great things about events management, is that you kind of often end up becoming a bit of a jack of all trades. And you have to get in, you have to get stuck in on a number of different levels, everything from copywriting, to budgeting to, to actually managing people in crowds on the day [00:33:33] are often done by the one person and so that sort of, I think that's a great thing, what a great thing to actually be able to learn all that stuff on the job. [00:33:42] If I was doing an event for the first time, what would your advice be? Because there's so many things to learn? Where would I start? Now? What I would you suggest I not do it myself? [00:33:56] well know, if you if you're a first time gave in tokenization, looking to do a first time gay event, and you want to do it all by yourself, my advice would be don't please [00:34:09] find someone that has some experience and that they and that knows what they're doing. And that has, you know, sort of proven track record and bring them on board and ask them for their thoughts. And what do they think about this event? Is it a good idea? [00:34:25] Is it [00:34:26] are times realistic? Does the budget work? Or are you just kind of Is it a bit of a sort of feel good pie in the sky, kind of here would be great to do that. But, you know, it could end up costing you a lot of money, and exhausting and draining you emotionally and physically. So, you know, get someone on board that really really knows it, you know, it doesn't always have to be for financial remuneration either. There are plenty of us out there that have been doing this for a long time, that have loads of experience and more than happy to give our opinions at no cost. So find those people and and and make good use of them. [00:35:09] You're right, we haven't really talked about budgets. And I'm just wondering, for you What, what makes a good budget, [00:35:16] breakeven for me makes good budget. [00:35:20] I am often I don't think that these community events really, you could be let's be realistic about the size of the market here. I think people often overestimate the size of the GL bt XYZ market. In New Zealand. It's not big, it's not big at all. And so be realistic. And if you really aim to break even if you make a little bit of money, that's a bonus. But [00:35:50] sort of looking at these community events as they're going to be great moneymakers a little bit stupid, in my opinion, [00:35:58] with its most money go the budget. [00:36:01] I'm sorry, just the breakeven is success. You [00:36:04] know, often breakeven, if you've if you've run a really good quality event, your audience has had a fantastic time your goals have been achieved and you've broken even you're a winner. [00:36:16] Where does most money gone budget? [00:36:21] Gosh, where does most money go on a budget production often in venue, those are really big costs. Marketing can be a really huge cost. If you're looking at advertising and the Herald or in some of those bigger, bigger places Express can be a very expensive place to advertise. But you know, they're also cheap ways to get your message out there, especially now that there's social networking media and, and websites and online communications. [00:36:48] And [00:36:49] you should never underestimate the power of developing your own database. [00:36:55] Which you know, is more than just accumulating 10,000 friends on Facebook spamming them, it's actually about spending a lot of time actually finding out who's going to your events, cuz [00:37:07] consulting with [00:37:08] them as much as communicating with them, making them feel like they're part of something and they can be they can have give you feedback to the event and and then treating them with their stake that they deserve his loyal audience members. [00:37:24] Yeah, I think there are there are, there are ways to do it that aren't necessarily [00:37:27] that expensive. [00:37:31] The other thing is, often the area [00:37:34] of the budget that is smallest is the artists and the performers. And that breaks my heart. [00:37:42] Those people, a lot of them that is that's their profession, that's what they do for a living. And they've been doing it for longer than you've been running events. And they're very good at what they do. And, you know, expecting these people to turn up for like 50 bucks in a bar Ted is insulting. So don't do it. [00:38:02] Can you talk to me a wee bit about when you're putting together a budget? How do you factor in things like sponsorship, and in kind support, and kind of real money? And in kind of balance about? Do you have any kind of formulas [00:38:17] for not just its [00:38:18] profit and loss and common expenditure. It's that simple, really. So it's just the you know, these are all this is all your areas of income. This is all your areas of expenditure. And and here's the difference. [00:38:33] You really need to be very realistic in the area of income, [00:38:40] in terms of what ticket sales are actually achievable. And with sponsorship for me personally, I've always rather than putting in a sort of generic sponsorship figure, I'll actually think specifically of Okay, I can see a couple of thousand dollars coming from there, maybe $1,000 coming from the [00:39:00] factoring them in individually rather than saying, Hey, here's a big sort of $10,000 marketing, start $10,000 sponsorship, some, and then it's not really realizable. Also underestimate your income. be surprised? Yeah, and it comes out the other end, and you do better than that. Don't sort of do the sort of pie in the sky. [00:39:27] Income figures because they won't happen. [00:39:30] So with sponsorship in the New Zealand context, is it hard to find sponsors, either money or in kind support to do with with queer events is it as [00:39:46] you have to be you have to think really creatively, and you have to, you have to sort of target [00:39:51] target quite specific organizations. [00:39:56] You do have gay organizations or queer organizations that will support you like, like gay and z.com, or like express that will give you in kind support. Very, it's a lot rare to find a gay organization, that's actually going to throw some cachet, you. [00:40:16] A lot of it really comes down to personal contacts built up over a long period of time, and a very long track record. [00:40:25] Don't burn your sponsors, don't disappoint your sponsors. Don't [00:40:32] Don't insult your sponsors by chopping and changing to other organizations that are in the same interest industry group is there and treat them with respect that that that they deserve for investing in your event? [00:40:48] Yeah. [00:40:49] What are some of the things that you as an event organizer would offer a sponsor? In terms of you know, what, what would they get out of it? [00:40:57] Oh, multiple levels of exposure. There's everything from sort of from the the marketing and publicity exposure, which can often be as simple as name chicken and press releases or logos on artwork, through to the on the night exposure of how their brand is going to be communicated to the audience on the night. That's all pretty standard stock standard stuff. Beyond that, you actually try to think of creative ways for the sponsor to get more involved in the event. Not necessarily more cost to them. So you know, if it's a fashion show, it might be getting their product in some context onto the runway with the models, or [00:41:44] making, getting them involved getting the product involved and goodie bag, so so that customers are actually directly experiencing their products. [00:41:53] Yeah, I think as creatively as you can about ways in which the sponsor can get involved in the event. Often, that's the difference between whether they'll give you the sponsorship money or not. If you're just sort of going in and sort of sending in standard, you're, you'll get the logo, you'll get nine shipped here and bang, bang, bang, yawn. But if you can give them a point of difference and guy, you know, we're going to, we're going to communicate your brand in this way, and really get it get your brand involved in the event and involved with the audience. They might think about Think, think more carefully about it. [00:42:32] You've mentioned a couple of times about consulting the audience talking to the audience. And I'm wondering, how do you get genuine feedback from an audience about an event? [00:42:43] Often it's really, really difficult. Often you really have to ask around, because it This might it's just a part of contemporary, the contemporary society that we live in today is you don't get much critical response anymore. Once upon a time they were review as they would go and review things and you will get a lot of Critical response. And, you know, some people reacted really well to that and other people not so well. Personally, I'm always really in favor of receiving Critical response. And it can be really hard to find, because people just want to sort of pat you on the back or go Yes. Wasn't it fabulous? Or? Oh, yes. Wasn't it great? Well, it's a little bit of a cop out, easy response, to be honest, I'd rather that people actually really thought about it, and went, Okay, you know, that was great, that was great. That was great. And that could have been better. And if I can find somebody can give me that that could have been better, that's gold, that is really, really gold, it's often really hard to find these days, and you have to really get around your audience and really grow them to get it out of them. It can be quite difficult, because they just want to, they just want to tell you that everything's great, and everything's happy and everything's nice. And they don't necessarily want to tell you the hard stuff. But the hard stuffs more valuable. [00:44:05] What about the other situation where for instance, some online forums, leaning more to the negative? And and it's kind of just preaching about the beans? How do you how do you navigate through [00:44:18] that 25th century topic? [00:44:22] ignore it. [00:44:23] No, [00:44:26] read it, take it on boards. But you can't, if it's if it's just online forum, bitchery, then you really, you should still read it, there might be some useful stuff in there. But you probably can't let it way too heavily on your mind, or it'll do. And [00:44:46] so do you do any kind of debrief after an event, you know, in terms of like, looking at all this feedback? And yes, [00:44:53] and the level of formality around that really depends on the event as to whether you're going to do an actual form, follow up report, or whether it's just stuff that you go on? Okay, and take note of that and store it in your head for later. [00:45:06] But, as always, and what are the kinds of things you look at? [00:45:10] Oh, gosh, right across the board? [00:45:14] Was it a good choice of artist? Was it a good choice of opening act? [00:45:18] Did you like the lighting? Was it, you know, digital? Was the sound quality? Good enough? Was it a good choice of venue with a bus staff friendly? [00:45:29] all that sort of stuff? Yeah. I mean, every aspect of the event that you can imagine, I've discovered after doing the the gold charity auction and dinner, that the sound levels at the very with the very back row of tables weren't as good as I would hope that something that I've, that I'll note for next year, it took me a lot of time to find that out. I didn't actually find that out on the night. I think I found that out a couple of weeks later. [00:45:58] And also that perhaps the lighting levels could have been raised a little bit back there during the actual auction segment of the evening. [00:46:08] So yeah, it can be really can be really subtle differences, or it can be stuff that's just a and all that stuff up. [00:46:17] Hopefully, if it's all that stuff up, you noticed on the night, [00:46:20] you mentioned venues and something we haven't covered. And I'm just wondering, do you have any advice in terms of choosing venues and what to look out for? [00:46:30] No, it's it's a fundamental part of programming, it says, As important as selecting the right artists. [00:46:39] Hmm. [00:46:42] I guess work with a venue that's reputable, that has that has really good people working within it. [00:46:51] That has really good technical resource. [00:46:55] Often, that can be a huge make a huge difference to your budget, in terms of how much resource the venue itself has available to you in terms of the sound system or lighting rig that you might not have to bring in or that resource from externally. [00:47:13] So yeah, I mean, it's it's a fundamental part of the event, make sure that the venue actually matches the style of event that you're putting on, and that it's a venue that your audience wants to go to. It's not often Actually, that's a guy specific thing. [00:47:33] I've discovered over the years that gay people actually don't like a mess, going to venues that are too far off the beaten track, or that they've had no prior experience of, they like to feel comfortable. They like to know that they're welcome there. That's something that definitely needs to be taken into consideration when running a query. [00:47:54] And also, I'm thinking, not just the venue itself, but I guess the location and things like parking in all of those external things around the event, [00:48:04] you have you have to do you have to think about all that stuff as well. [00:48:09] probably see, contrary to what's happening inside the room. [00:48:13] But yeah, I've been packing, packing, it's important that I have worked on events with very expensive hotel parking being the only parking that was adjacent to us. And we figured that one out. And so next time we use that venue, we figured out a way that that patrons that were coming to the event, were able to get were able to pick up parking tickets, that would give them a discount. So yeah, that that stuff needs to be taken into into consideration, particularly if it's an event in the center of the city that got real, that's going to have really expensive parking all around it. [00:48:48] events that you've been involved with, have they been predominantly kind of professionally driven? Or have they involved a lot of volunteer people? And if and if so what how was the head both? [00:49:03] Again, that it's the committee ones that involve a lot of volunteers, against hero is huge example of that style of event in which everybody in the community felt like they had some level of ownership of that, and some level of involvement in that. So [00:49:23] you really, really have to, you really have to be very, very careful what you do when you're working with some with a festival or a brand or something that's that iconic that it's sewn into the fabric of the community. And [00:49:38] it's it's for you have to be really, really, really careful in that area. [00:49:42] So how far into heroes history did you become involved? [00:49:48] It had been around quite a while when I got formally involved with it as a board member and started producing that to hear I parties that I produced. [00:49:57] It was towards the end [00:49:59] of the hate hero. In fact, it was the the town hall party that I produced in 2001. That was the same year that [00:50:13] there was over expenditure on the parade things organizationally, started to look really shonky. And the whole thing really started to fall over. That broke my heart because that event actual that big hero party at the town hall was incredibly profitable, and sent quite a lot of money back into the organization. And it really all got misused, chewed up and spit out. [00:50:38] Can you talk a wee bit more about hero in terms of coming into an event that was well established? And kind of taking it forward? And it's also interesting with hero because I mean, it was such a successful event and then to have it kind of crumbled so quickly. I mean, maybe could you comment on on how things crumble so quickly, and what to look out for. [00:51:02] And [00:51:03] I case its eyes were bigger than its belly. And it it was the parade Make no mistake, it was the parade that killed here, which is why I kind of really roll my eyes when I hear proposals for New England pride festivals that involve large parades kind of rolling down Ponsonby road. I it makes me think how God can we have we not got a new idea in our heads. And be I also recognize the reality that it was the cost. And the sort of human experience of hero of the hero parade really sunk here was a festival as a whole. [00:51:46] So it was a question. [00:51:48] It's a really tricky, is a really tricky discussion to have. It can go on for hours, and everybody's got their own perspective on it. [00:51:57] And I think my question probably didn't help, because it was actually it was a it was a double banger question. I mean, first thing is, what was it like, coming into an event that had been going for a number of years, it [00:52:09] was fabulous, it was inspiring. It was, I mean, I wanted nothing more at that stage than to produce the hero party because I had experienced so many hero parties that had [00:52:24] really impacted on me and really inspired me and changed the way that I that I looked at things have changed the way that I experienced things or that were just landmark events in my life. And so when I sort of realized, like I, you, all your capabilities are kind of heading in this direction, you could actually do this yourself, and found myself in a position of doing it. I just, I guess I just felt really lucky and inspired. And I guess you're walking on the shoulders of giants. And I know that's a cliche, but there were some great party directors that came before me. And so it felt to me like I needed to honor the legacy as well as move things forward creatively. Do you [00:53:12] think it was easy to come into an event that was long established? Or was that more of a kind of a brand new unique [00:53:19] know, it's always easier to come into an event that has an established audience? There's no question about that whatsoever. [00:53:27] That's one of the issues with it at the moment is that it's been practically a decade since there has been an established audience for a full scale here a festival. So for whoever wants to sort of move an oxen pride idea forward, they're really dealing with something that really has to build from the ground up from the grassroots up, which I think is if you're going to start something like that, again, that's really where it comes right back to people. And say, You've really got to start small and, and make people love it and make people get involved in it, make people engage and participate in it. And it's not just a matter of coming in with this kind of rigid, [00:54:08] historic template and trying to impose it on people, because that audience doesn't exist anymore. And not only that, but the creative people that used to make all those floats, and that is to be involved in all those floats or the matching boys that used to go down Ponsonby road, they don't exist anymore, either. [00:54:27] So yes, if it's, if it's got a long history, and it's and it's established, and it's healthy, huge plus. [00:54:34] And the idea of [00:54:35] that hero kind of disintegrated really quickly, over a very short space of time. [00:54:43] Does that point to the fact that events can actually crumble really quickly? Well, it [00:54:49] didn't actually hit it died over a long arduous. [00:54:57] And really kind of insulting to the memory of what was time. [00:55:03] It probably [00:55:03] should have been allowed to have fallen over quite quickly after after the sort of [00:55:12] financial organizational disasters of 2001. [00:55:18] Or it should have changed its model quite radically at that time. But it's sort of allowed with allowed to sort of Peter on and Peter on. And I guess people have an emotional involvement in it and an ego involvement. I know, there were certain board members that say it stayed attached to it a long time, after it had actually been a great festival. And it became a really sad shadow of itself, and was allowed to sort of drift aimlessly on and and trying to imitate its glory days. [00:55:53] And it [00:55:53] became tool intents and purposes a gay theme park of prior heroes. And that's really, really sad. [00:56:03] And it doesn't help anybody who wants to do anything new, because it actually went down in a really sort of drawn out tragic, arduous way. And all those people that had all that love for it, then really genuine, heartfelt love for it on a really deep level. With it, watching it sort of disintegrate over a long period of time. I think it was a long and Missy death. [00:56:31] It's an interesting point, do you find that it's good? Or maybe not so good to be like, emotionally involved in these kind of events? Do you? Or do you do you take a step back and take it more professional kind of attitude, [00:56:45] it's a double edged sword, [00:56:48] it's essential to be emotionally involved in it to feel passionate about it. That mean, then that goes and for whatever you do, you should always I mean, no one really, really wants to be going clocking in clocking out every day, I mean, you should feel passionate about what you're doing. [00:57:04] But you know, with that comes the other side of things is that sometimes things won't go the way that you want them to go. And it'll hit. And so you have to be strong enough to sort of be that when it when it happens, and it will happen [00:57:19] with the any other kind of key learnings from hero for you. [00:57:25] There are a lot of negatives from hero, that that I came across, there was [00:57:33] a level of fraud and the level of dishonesty. And there were [00:57:38] a lot of sort of inflated egos and stuff that I've really tried to avoid since [00:57:49] that, that's why I guess, I guess maybe it's made me really conscious of the need to kind of sit down and be honest and get all the stuff out on the table in the first place. And actually think about why we're doing this event and who the event is for and why we feel passionate about it. I think that it's made my desire to have that clearer, stronger [00:58:17] thinking of marketing events. And I'm just wondering, a couple of strands here. One is, do you have any tips or tricks for getting media involved in queer events? [00:58:33] It's Yeah, it's tricky, because it can backfire. If you can pull media stunts that are boring and lame, and that's not going to reflect well on your event at all. Sure, you got their attention. You did you did you look at me. But really important, if you're gonna yell, look at me, look at me look at me really important that there's something worth looking at [00:58:57] the personal, be direct. [00:59:02] In the same way that you would be if you were dealing with a sponsor, run media, they people to their individuals to they don't, you know, don't just spam them, come up with an angle for them come up with an angle that's specific to the medium to their newspaper, their magazine, the radio show what their TV program, whatever, something that's unique and exclusive to them. And talk to them directly about it. Don't just spam them, because it's really easy to hit Delete. [00:59:36] Do you have any examples of kinds of angles that you've used in the past? [00:59:43] Well, I guess [00:59:47] a really obvious one that doesn't they don't get thought about that much is the [00:59:52] is the local newspapers, [00:59:55] the community newspapers, very often very hard to get coverage for your event in the national newspaper and a heroes. But you may have a performer or an artist who is from a specific area who's from West Auckland, or from South Auckland, or from the area with America, Korea is or from the eastern bass career or the central later. And so you can offer those you can give those people something that's directly pertinent to their audience and to the to the sort of the area that they represent. And that gives them a special angle for that story. So that's a kind of really obvious one and one that I do quite a lot. [01:00:41] have you [01:00:41] encountered any kind of homophobia in the kind of media or in terms of not running gay stores? Hmm. [01:00:51] Really, I mean, on the one hand, it's really important to have a really supportive gay media, which we have got, which is great. [01:01:03] Yes, I it's not so much that they will say no to your story, this is the mainstream media, or that they'll be anti doing the story at all, because it's gay. But it's the perspective that they bring to it often, which is an interesting thing. It's their, their media perspective on what gay lesbian or bisexual or transgender is. And that's often [01:01:31] that's often what can feel slightly insulting, it can feel like they're just sitting you up as some kind of look at the gays laughable entertainment. And you saw this a lot, you will see this a lot with media around the Big Gay out, and the stereotypes that they go for, and that they try to put on screen and the odd Lee, sort of cliched questions that they asked. So it's not so much a question of, you know, will? Will they not cover me? Because I'm gay, that more How will they cover me? [01:02:04] What about marketing to queer communities? Do you have any ideas about you know, as the specific imagery or words or kinds of language that you use to actually get to that kind of community or those communities? [01:02:19] and visual stuff? Is this a visual language for gaming's but particularly, that often involves sort of naked men on a poster. [01:02:32] And you see a lot of it. And sometimes, over the years I have, I've gone into debt, I've sort of gone along with it cliche. [01:02:43] Because I know that the audience that I'm after is sort of very mainstream, very mainstream gay, or, in the case of when I did dance party for the opening of the Outgames. Well, okay, that was a very sporting gay shit off type type of market. So I had no problem with kind of working that cliche, the shirtless guy on the poster. [01:03:09] But [01:03:10] personally, it's a personal thing. I like to be a little bit more creative and challenging than that, in general. So usually, I wouldn't do it, but it has done a lot. [01:03:23] What about to other parts of the community like lesbians transgender? [01:03:28] And [01:03:30] yeah, I mean, there there are looks that sort of sort of sparkly, glamorous looks that might go go with a drag event, or I don't know, the use of the use of purple on on lesbian imagery, or there's all sorts of visual sort of visual touch points that work for different groups. [01:03:53] It's the use of big, burly, hairy man on a beards poster. These are images that that those groups identify with. So actually, the thing that's most difficult is when you're trying to do a really inclusive event that actually covers all of those groups. Facts hard. [01:04:13] And in what's the answer? Wow. [01:04:16] Sadly, often, the answer is a realistic answer, which goes, Okay, the largest number of people that are going to be coming to this particular event are going to be gaming. So we'll cop out and we'll go for that live look for that for this imagery. That's the general fallback. [01:04:33] I [01:04:35] try to be more creative than that. [01:04:38] But what about language? Like? I mean, for instance, would you use the word queer on a poster or gay LGBT? Or what what kind of language would you use? [01:04:47] And depends on who the event who the audiences and how the audience identifies themselves. And you would market that event to that audience and the way that they'd like to the end whether they'd like to be labeled. [01:05:05] So if we took the example of a very generic kind of queer audience, what, what language would you use, [01:05:14] I would probably spell it out as and use all the words gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender. And all of the additional ones that have been added in recent times, I would do that probably more than go for the generic queer. Because Because those groups are individual groups, they often have very little in common. They're very distinct. And [01:05:44] they don't actually fit together terribly comfortably and one word. [01:05:52] And you know, in proposals and things, you end up shortening it to the GL bt plus, [01:05:58] well, the LGBT plus, so however you do it. [01:06:02] So that kind of realization that actually, maybe the queer community is full of little communities. Was that something that you always knew? Or is it something that you've realized as you've done events, [01:06:15] and it was probably one of the strongest learnings from being involved in hero, I would say, one of the things that I was really, into when I sort of when I did that first big party at the town hall, was to get a consultation group together, that reflected all of those different sort of different groups and different different subgroups. And I tried to have people that were actively sort of, on the thing going out, experiencing parties, that parties were part of the life, but that they also came from each one of those groups. And so they were able to input input, thought and direction [01:07:01] from from those groups and from their own communities. [01:07:05] As well as then, once [01:07:08] the production was up and running in the marketing was up and running, being able to communicate that back to their particular groups. So they were incredibly valuable, sort of facilitators of communication. [01:07:25] That kind of consulting group, do you use that group throughout the kind of gestation of the event? Or is it just solely at the start, and then you say, Okay, I've got my ideas, I'm kind of gonna do it now, or do [01:07:38] you depends on the event, but if I was going to run a proper consultation group, I would run them regularly, from the very start right through till after the event, I think that [01:07:49] it's, you know, [01:07:51] just calling them together for a one off brain pick, it's fine. But if you're going to make better use of them, then then fear of doing it over a long period of time is good. [01:08:03] In terms of events, and using volunteers, what are some of the techniques that you can draw people in to become volunteers and kind of keep them and things that they can do. [01:08:16] And [01:08:18] one of the things that I've learned is that the the, the volunteer, the group of volunteers, you'll actually get stuck in on the ground, it's actually quite a small group of people. And it tends to be the same group of people, from year to year and from event to event. And so you do learn who, who these people are, [01:08:39] and you learn [01:08:41] what specific ones of them are better at than others. There are some people that are amazing charitable collectors, give them a bucket, and they will go out there, and they will fill it, and they will have a great time doing it. And they'll be incredible. There are other people that are completely useless in that area. So really, it's really trying to figure out how to make best use of that resource. And also being aware that it is a finite resource, it's not infinite. [01:09:16] And how do you keep them coming back? [01:09:19] Treat them? Well. [01:09:21] I mean, they've volunteering their time to you and [01:09:27] thank them, thank them personally, thank them publicly. [01:09:32] Give them acknowledgement for I mean, often, they don't get any acknowledgment whatsoever. And that's really, really sad. And, and the the same people that come back time after time after time. And it's often it's the simplest, little personal Thank you, that will actually make the biggest difference. [01:09:52] just wrapping up now. And I'm wondering if you can kind of maybe synthesize what we've been talking about philosophy now up into a kind of a bullet list of things that you would pass on to somebody just starting to an audience, you know, what would be the key bullets that you would kind of give them? [01:10:12] Why do you want to do this event? [01:10:16] Who is this event for? What's the audience? Why do you specifically and why do the people that you're working with want to want to work on this event? [01:10:29] Does the budget work? Are the numbers realistic? And those would be I guess, those and [01:10:38] artistically, what are you trying to achieve? You know, I this is one thing that I have to say the level of artistry in queer events and New Zealand [01:10:50] has been on the decline for a long period of time. [01:10:57] What are you trying to achieve artistically? What is trying to communicate? And are you working with the very best people in the field? The very best dancers, the very best singers, the very best performers? [01:11:11] Are you giving them a platform that is worthy of their talent? And, yeah, those are the sorts of things that I would think about first and foremost.

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