I got several positive comments about my last article, “How to Lose Friends and Alienate Prospects” which was about all the wrong things to do when you are cold prospecting for workshop jobs. I was asked, “Hey, what about all the things that sponsors do wrong! Can you write an article about that?” So, here it is: How to Be the Belly Dance Sponsor from Hell.
Don’t Check With Other Belly Dance Sponsors Before Booking Your Event
What difference does it make if your event is within a week of someone else’s? After all, it’s a free country. People can decide where they want to spend their money. If that means they can’t support both events, that’s not your fault. It’s also not your fault if the other sponsor wants to cop an attitude with you about it either. She’s never liked you and wasn’t going to support your event anyway so why do anything nice for her?
Find Out Who Other Belly Dance Sponsors Want to Bring In Then Beat Them to the Punch
If another teacher wants to bring in “Sheherezade” in October, invite her out in June. You can take advantage of the publicity the other sponsor has already generated and use it to your advantage. Most teachers aren’t geographically savvy enough to know that your location is close to the other workshop and could hurt the other sponsor’s turn out, so there is little fear that the teacher will decline your offer. You can also justify this by not having Sheherezade teach the same topic. I mean, students go to workshops to learn specific topics, not to see a particular teacher. What difference does it make whose teaching?
Use Only Flyers for Advertising
If the instructor is good, she will be able to pull people in. In fact, you are counting on that and that’s why you didn’t waste your time on online or print advertising. Flyers are good enough. It doesn’t matter that you have a small mailing list. You will count on people to tell other people and the teacher to contact her followers. You chose a big name because you expect that people will just drop everything and change their plans to be at your event. Isn’t that part of the benefit of having a big name? If the teacher is working for a percentage, this is even better because you have nothing to lose.
Book Your Facility Just Before the Event So That You Don’t Lose Your Deposit if You Have To Cancel
Be conservative. Don’t spend any money that you don’t have to. You know that workshops are a poor investment, so wait until the last minute to pay for anything so that your losses are less if you have to cancel. Trust your luck that an affordable, adequate facility will be available just in case the workshop does go on. If you advertise your location without actually booking it, trust that your potential attendees and the teacher will contact you, not the facility, for information about the event. A friend/instructor told me that she contacted a theater where she was supposed to perform only to find out that the sponsor had never confirmed that date. Don’t worry about that happening to you. What are the odds of anyone ever checking that kind of stuff?
Let the Teacher Take Care of Herself
Teachers travel all the time. They know how to get around strange cities and can fend for themselves. In fact, they probably have friends everywhere. For example, one teacher came to my city and wasn’t picked at the airport upon her arrival. She knew I lived close by so she called me to come get her. See? Everything worked out fine.
Be Short Tempered With Everybody and Don’t Return Phone Calls
Everybody knows that the belly dance sponsor is expected to be the business manager, stage manager, show producer, graphic designer, and hostess. They don’t expect the sponsor to be gracious and accessible under all that pressure. If you leave people alone long enough, they will find the answers on their own and leave you to take care of your own business.
Ask the Teacher for Things That Were Not Discussed in Advance
A good teacher is flexible, knowledgeable and can pull things out of a hat. It should be no problem that you forgot to ask for X, or that it just occurred to you that Y would be a fabulous addition to the workshop. That’s what professionals do.
Make Money Your Bottom Line
The teacher understands that you are working with a budget, so put her up at your house. She has dealt with animals, small babies, a crowded household, small spaces, and dirty laundry before. Traveling as she does, she must get it all the time. I am sure that it won’t interfere with her ability to rest, teach, or perform. She’s a pro, after all.
If You Are Working on a Percentage, Spend Lavishly on Things That Aren’t Necessary
Image is everything. You want your workshop and show to look fantastic. Provide snacks for the participants. Bring in staging, lights, professional sound equipment, and a dj to run it all. Your guests deserve the best and you will have a reputation for putting on incredible shows. Never mind that your attendance doesn’t justify the added expense. Negotiating the instructor’s fee for a percentage after expenses means that you got a teacher for a fraction of her regular rate, so you can afford the extras. It’s not your fault that she agreed to a bum deal.
Once the Workshop is Completed, Renegotiate the Fee in Your Favor
This is especially a good idea if the teacher failed to bring in the number of students that you anticipated. It’s all her fault, so why shouldn’t she take a financial hit too? This might not build good business relations between the two of you, but you don’t plan to bring her back anyway. She bombed!
As the belly dance sponsor of over thirty events, I know what it’s like to be the only one responsible for so many people and so many decisions. As a workshop instructor, I also know what it’s like to work with sponsors. I am lucky enough to say that I have never worked with a sponsor from hell, but many of my friends have. Sometimes it is due to ignorance, but often it is due to the sponsor being inconsiderate, not planning well, or simply not putting themselves in the shoes of the teacher. The easiest way to avoid being The Sponsor From Hell is to ask yourself, “How would I feel if I were on the receiving end of this” before making a decision. If you are still in doubt, discuss the issue with the person who would be affected most by the decision. The dance world is a small place. When you are difficult to work with, word gets around. For a long lasting, successful, sponsor career, respect your instructor and others in your dance community.