I've been trying to put together a large group of people to participate in an artistic performance-based hobby that they all claim to enjoy. I'm the group leader, and it feels like I'm herding cats when it comes to getting people to commit to attending training sessions so that our shows will be of a high quality. I'm constantly altering my plans so that the least experienced people aren't left behind.
How can I get people to step up their game and commit to the group without alienating them?
posted by adamk to human relations (12 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
People who participate in after-work sports teams probably aren't professional athletes. People who participate in community theatre groups probably aren't professional actors. Still, there's always that one kickball team that has their shit together enough to dominate the league, or that local theatre production that is genuinely good despite the cast only rehearsing on occasional nights and weekends.
There's obviously individual skill involved in these activities, but a lot of the magic surely comes from dedication to the group and a shared goal.
I'm passionate about improvised comedy, and perform with a few ensembles that put on rather "safe" and "vanilla" shows. Some of my friends from these groups are just as passionate and talented as I am, and together we're trying to start a new ensemble that focuses on edgier, more unconventional shows. We have some friends and acquaintances who have no experience with this hobby, but are upbeat, funny people and are interested in the idea, and are willing to take direction and learn in order to put on a great show down the line.
So, I've been running weekly workshops with these people for the past few months. I teach for free, because I have no interest in making money off of these people. I'm in it because I'd like to bring the finished product to fruition. Unfortunately, some people don't seem to take a free workshop seriously.
As the teacher/director I haven't missed a single session in 4 months. I have some people who have been to every session, and a few who have just missed one or two due to illness or conflicts that they tell me about ahead of time. No problems there.
The problem comes from the fact that about half of my participants are unreliable, and don't seem to care. Almost every week, I get text messages a few hours before our training session like "oops, forgot I had a big assignment due tomorrow, sorry!" or "hey, forgot that I'm supposed to meet a friend for drinks tonight, sorry!", or "just gonna watch a movie tonight!". Basically, excuses that seem to result from a lack of poor planning and a lack of consequence about blowing off the training session.
It's so weird, because when people actually attend they have a great time and thoroughly enjoy themselves. We usually go for drinks after, and everyone raves about how much fun they've had. Anyone who doesn't enjoy is pretty good about flat-out QUITTING and letting me know that they want nothing to do with it.
So, I'm looking for ways to incentivize people to actually show up and participate. Some ideas and discoveries I've made:
- People who have actually performed in front of an audience get bitten by the bug and are far more interested in attending. There's a chicken-and-egg problem because the people who benefit the most from the training sessions are the people who have never performed in a real show before. When we have shows, those people aren't prepared to go on stage, because they haven't been training regularly with the group.
- I simply don't have enough dedicated people yet to tell the non-dedicated people to take a hike. Plus, a big part of my goal is to create NEW improvisers and get them on stage.
- There are currently no penalties for missing class. It's not like they forfeit a portion of their tuition money that they've pre-paid, or that they get put on "probation".
- In some groups I perform with, the penalty for missing a rehearsal is that you aren't allowed to perform in the next show, but that only works because we have a talent pool that is much larger than the minimum number of people to do a show. In this case I need every warm body I can get.
- I'm not out to make a profit, so I initially shied away from charging tuition. Additionally, I feel like some very talented people wouldn't want to pay tuition, or couldn't afford it.
- Some people have suggested that I take money from participants as a deposit, and then refund it if they prove themselves to be dedicated. For instance, that I take $100 from everyone. As soon as they hit some milestone like attending 5 consecutive workshops in a row, I refund it. If they don't hit the goal, they don't get their money back. I'm strongly considering this.
- Additionally, in the interest of attracting new members, we had the idea that newcomers could have 1 or 2 "trial" weeks to see if they like what we're doing before being required to dedicate themselves to the cause.
Any great ideas or anecdotes, oh hive mind? These are my friends, not evil bastards.
I just want them to respect what they claim they're interested in doing, and to take a supposedly fun thing a bit more seriously. I worry that if I start making ultimatums or too many rules I'll alienate everyone completely and be left with nothing.