Lessons from the dawn: One year of CreativeMornings/Montréal
Bringing CreativeMornings to Montreal and contributing to making it the successful lecture series it has become makes me utterly proud.
As one of the co-founders of the Montréal chapter of CreativeMornings as well as Director of Experience (aka in charge of overseeing where we hold the events and how guests are greeted, fed and entertained before the conference starts), I’ve learned some valuable lessons during our first year of existence. Here is what I am taking away from CreativeMornings/Montréal, Year One.
Putting together free events can be more viable than selling tickets.
Hosting our events for free wasn’t our choice at first; it was a CreativeMornings HQ requirement. Though we first saw it as a missed opportunity to generate revenue to run our events; it turned out to be something that would open more doors than anything else.
Free events reduce costs for a lot of things (location rentals, breakfast, as well as cool stuff like stickers or custom made massagers). We still obviously have some costs to cover, but proposing free events to sponsors turns out to be easier.
Most of all, free brings a certain spirit of collegiality to events, and lot of people are more than happy to lend a hand to make them happen. Speakers present for free, photographers volunteer, folks show up with (sometimes weird) talents and offer to help. Seems like everybody is there for the right reasons.
You can never please everybody (so stop trying).
At first, we took every critique very much at heart, worried about every single negative comment. Was the setting of the room really awkward and poorly thought-through that morning? Was our speakers selection that questionable?
Don’t get me wrong, it is necessary to hear people out.
But it turns out that people come to events like CreativeMornings do so for a bunch of eclectic and thus irreconcilable reasons. Though it took us a while to figure it out, some are there for the networking, others show up for some inspiration, while some come in expecting to learn something concrete or to find answers to personal questions.
Intellectuals, creatives, sleepy-heads, socialites, when your event is new, cool and free, a lot of different people show up. You can’t, and shouldn’t, try to control everything. Indeed, how could we please every single person in the room if everybody’s driven by something unique? We can’t. So, personally, I have put an end to such an impossible quest. And it feels great.
One person, even an awesome one, can only do so much.
When we started out, there were fewer members in the organizing team, and everybody did a bit of everything. We were slightly disorganised, but driven by a devotion that would make our first few events work anyway.
Then, we started picking bigger venues, so more people could attend. As our events got more and more sophisticated, some members of the team got additional help, but I felt like I could still do it all by myself.
One particular Friday, I ended up responsible for coordinating the coffee and breakfast, making sure the nametags table ran smoothly, helping with the coat check, keeping an eye on the two small stunts we had going on that morning while greeting and checking in our 200+ guests. Pfew!
Not only was I completely exhausted long before the speaker had uttered his first words, but the worst thing that could happen at a morning event happened; coffee shortage! I had ordered enough coffee for everyone, but it turns out one of the two large tanks had been forgotten in a smaller room, unused. I was the only one who knew it was there, and since I was running around like a headless chicken doing everything else in the list, I didn’t notice. Half of our guests could not get a caffeine fix that morning.
As organized as we were, one can only do so much; in this case, I, for one, would’ve needed help. From that day on, I took on board four amazing ladies with me. Since then, everything is running way smoother.
Montréal is a great place to start funky projects.
Big enough so we can always find new ideas, new talents, new places to explore, but small enough so the word gets passed around and a solid community can be built in a short period of time.
Montreal is a very fertile ground for projects like CreativeMornings.
Anglo Montréal, I love thou.
In all honesty, I didn’t suspect the anglo half of Montrealers to be this bubbly, friendly and simply genuinely fun to be around.
It wasn’t that I thought otherwise; I simply, like Jon Snow, knew nothing. Now I know, and I don’t want to go by without half of the Montréal fun anymore.