Don't Book on top of Us!

As the new year begins, I start looking ahead and planning my year. I mark important dates on my calendar such as the events I will be producing and the events I want to attend, plus any personal highlights such as grand children’s birthdays.

Once upon a time, I was one of a rare group of sponsors here in the Northwest. To attend an event that I didn’t produce, I had to drive 200 or more miles because events were few and far between. Now there are events most weekends and I have to pick and choose between them.  Now we all have to pick and choose.

I read on Facebook yesterday that a new event was starting, an event I would love to attend and the inspiration for this weeks blog. I was very excited to see this new event happening, until I saw the date; they booked it the same date as Belly Dancer USA, an event I have done for over 30 years. So, needless to say, I don’t get to go to this new event and neither do my students and several vendors.

This event is far enough away and in a big city, so it has the potential to be successful, but many events fail because they book on top of established events.

So, I’d like to tell you a few stories about events that booked on top of me and give you some booking advice.

Many years ago, when dinosaurs roamed the earth, I heard about a new belly dance festival and I was excited! It was only two hours away and something I could just go to and have fun without doing all the work. Then I got the bad news; it was booked on top of Belly Dancer USA. I contacted the sponsor and told her about the conflict, and asked if it were possible to change the date. Her response was “absolutely not!”  As usual, Belly Dancer USA was successful but her event failed and she never tried to produce another event which was a loss to our local belly dance community.

Not too long ago, someone else booked on top of Belly Dancer USA. Their event struggled to break even and the sponsor heard about all the people going to BDUSA, (the well-established event) and contacted me to see when my future date would be so she could book around it. She handled the whole thing with grace and respect and I honor her willingness to work with me so that the belly dance community would benefit from both events.

I also sponsor, Mezdulene’s Belly Dance Retreat, another well-established event deep in the Oregon woods. It’s not open to the public and only attended by dancers and vendors, so someone I knew decided to change the date of her popular event to the same weekend of my retreat thinking it wouldn’t matter because her event was different and in another state. I called her and pointed out that it might be a problem because I had helped her establish her event and promote it so many of the attendees were my students and friends who would be at my retreat and that we had several vendors in common that wouldn’t be able to attend, so even though they were different events far apart, there was a conflict of interest. Her response was anger. Not only has she not spoken to me since, but her event failed. It had been a very successful and fun event to attend every year and was a sad loss to our community. 

Then there was the year I was going to sponsor a fabulous dancer in a workshop and show and someone booked on top of me. When I contacted , she said, “I’m sorry, but it was the only weekend I could get because she’ll be on tour from Egypt.” I ended up having to cancel my event due to a lack of attendance.

Years later, someone booked on top of her and she contacted me and told me she had talked to this person and she said, “I’m sorry, but it was the only weekend I could get because they’ll be on tour from Egypt.” I didn’t say anything but had to chuckle to myself that someone did and said the exact same thing that she did and said so many years before.

So here is my advice.

Before you pick a date for your event, pay attention to the events in your area that are already established. Booking the same weekend or even the weekend or two before or after other events will harm your event. People can only afford to attend a certain amount of events and they will most likely choose to attend the well-established event that they know will be a good choice for their money.

Also, look outside of your immediate area. If there is a national event such as Belly Dancer USA within your geographic range, it’s probably not a good time to have your event. People drive and fly hundreds of miles to such events, and vendors are going to go where they know they will be successful.

Believe me when I say that vendors can make or break your event. Dancers love to shop and it’s important to have good vendors. That’s a given. But, some people don’t think about how the big sponsors travel to different events several times a month and they will be telling people about your event.

Work of mouth is your greatest form of marketing and advertisement. So when people talk about your event, you want them to be saying, “I can’t wait to go to……do you want to come with me?, or I’ll be vending at…….and it’s a great event, you should come.” You don’t want them saying, “I’d love to go to…… but it’s the same weekend as…….., or I wish I could go to……..but it’s booked on top of my favorite event…………”

So there you have it, my lovelies.

May you all have great fun at all the wonderful events you attend this year. For me, events are like a big family reunion full of hugs and catching up on news as well as fabulous music and dancing.

Hoping to see you there,