My apologies to Anne and the crew at Witches and Pagans for being absent for awhile. I started several pieces--one of which is polished and ready to publish, but it still sits in my draft-box. Every time I would start to write something seemingly poignant and important, the world would change with either horror or triumph and would render the piece no longer relevant--at least for now.
I recently wrote two articles on how to give--and how to receive and work with--feedback, particularly as a ritualist but also in general as a Pagan group leader. I mentioned feedback sessions and a few folks asked me what's a good way to run one of these. It's a good question, because getting useful feedback is difficult, and the details are often in how you facilitate the session.
This is the first in a series of posts on event planning. First, I'm going to outline some really bad event planning processes, and then I'll go into some event planning strategies and methods that are a bit more helpful. When I'm teaching leadership workshops, a lot of Pagans ask me, "Why do our teams have such problems working together?" I can tell you that poor event planning processes accounts for a lot of group blow-ups.
I've planned a lot of grassroots events. Some Pagan, some in the scifi-fantasy fandom community, and now some as a fiction author. I've seen a lot of things go wrong. Heck, I've contributed to some of those things going wrong. A lot of how we humans learn seems to unfortunately be through making mistakes of our own. Recently, I've had a few people asking me for advice on event planning. And as it happens, I've been part of a few online event planning processes that have reminded me of some sure-fire recipes for disaster.
Ever since I’ve been on a Pagan path I’ve heard of BNPs.The acronym was told to me to indicated Big Name Pagans.Over time, as more people found their way to one Pagan path or another, or began to create their own paths more specific to their particular worldviews, the term BNP took on a negative connotation.I started to hear it explained as Big-Nosed Pagans.
Most of those referred to as BNPs had published a book or several and were known for that.Of course, when I was coming up, there were few books, and those there were tended to be elementary.They lacked depth, refinement, and nuance.Today, thankfully, creative Pagans have explored Paganisms in much greater depth.They’ve done academic and historical research, as well as incorporating anecdotal evidence for their theories – good ol’ UPGs.Practitioners of reconstructed traditions of many kinds have explored the traditions they’re reviving, and thereby have advanced this learning tremendously.As well, walkers on more personal Pagan paths, including “hard polytheists,” have contributed to our growing body of resources.
We had been busy--for years, actually. Between leading public rituals and attending festivals, there was a mess of parties thrown by other Coveners. Several members were performers of different kinds and had shows. A couple of people started teaching locally. Then there was our standard working group time. Like "good" Coveners, we traveled to the festivals together, attended the parties, formed cheering sections at the shows and dutifully attended the classes our members led. We somehow still found the time to offer rituals and work as a group, but not a lot. I felt badly offering Coven homework when we were already such a busy group.
Any leader or rituallist is going to get feedback. In Part 1, I addressed some methods to discern what feedback is useful and what isn't. It's also important to learn how to give good feedback, which is what I'll go into here.
While I love hearing, "That ritual was great!" what this primarily tells me is that this person (or the people telling me this) had a good time. It’s not, however, specific. “I loved the chanting!” or, "I've never experienced a ritual like that, I was able to connect to my ancestors in a way I couldn't ever before," is more specific and thus, more useful.
I've facilitated rituals where I had an equal number of people tell me, "The energy in that ritual was great!" and, "The energy tonight really kind of sucked." So what makes good feedback?