Why an Interview,,,

Over the years we have been able to meet and talk with some very interesting people. They have shared with us their knowledge and have provided us with a great deal of insight as to how and why festivals and events work and why they are so important to our communities and to the Province of Ontario. With this in mind, we decided that we wanted you to meet and hear from some of the wonderful people who work so hard to provide us all with such wonderful Ontario Festivals and Events! We are pleased and proud to present "THE INSIDE SCOOP"!

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

What’s In Your Website?

I have been thinking a lot lately about my websites. I want to know if they are as effective as I want (need) them to be. In talking with a web designer friend, I realized that they all needed to be re-evaluated! I asked him to explain what the key ingredients where for a successful website. He started to answer me in another language, techno speak! I told him to slow down and talk to me in a language I could understand, English! He did and we covered a wide range of topics. Here is a summary of our conversation. In future blogs I will try to explain his ideas more fully and hopefully in “plain” English!
1.    SEO or “Search Engine Optimization” – Simple put, getting search engines to recognize your site. Once a site is recognized it is categorized (keywords) and then listed in importance.
2.    Meta Tags and Keywords – These are words inserted in your website. They attract search engines to your site and its pages.
3.    Meta Description – This is the description that appears in you search engine listing
4.    Use of Keywords in Text – In order to emphasize keywords, they must be used often in the text of the web page
5.    Highlighting Text – Once keywords are chosen and inserted, they must be shown as being important. This is accomplished by highlighting (bold, italicized, underlined) each keyword.
6.    Web Pages – Each important page (home, about us, products, etc.) should be optimized (keywords, description, highlighting).
7.    Updating – Sites should be frequently updated and the information must be correct and consistent.
8.    Simplicity – Simplicity is best, especially the home page, in web design, page layout and contents.
9.    Website Layout – Sites should be easy to maneuver. Complicated site discourage visitors from surfing through your site’s pages.
10. Contact Information – Make sure that visitors to your site have a way of contacting you. Since the contact is being made via the internet, e-mail contact is a must.
11. Linking – Encouraging other website to link with yours is important. However, the linked sites should have relevancy to you business or site. Linking for the sake of linking is not a good move.
12. Traffic – Finally, the goal of every site should be increased traffic (visitors to your site). How you design and manage your site will determine its popularity and thus traffic.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

What’s The Real Solution?

How many times have we heard politicians and special interest groups call for drastic legislation as a “knee-jerk” reaction to a problem? You don’t need a fish net to catch a fly!
Unfortunately many make far reaching demands without worrying about the consequences. And the problem is, once a law is on the books, it stays there! Rarely, if ever, is a law, good, bad or outdated, taken off the books! So, poorly thought out laws either create havoc or they are just ignored! Most of these groups and politicians are well meaning. They see a problem and want it corrected. That’s fine if it really does solve the problem, but too often the solution goes way beyond the actual problem, thus the net to catch a fly analogy. New laws must be thoroughly thought through and all of the ramification must be considered. Consider the banning of all plastic water bottles. I have heard towns and groups advocating banning them entirely. Why not work jointly with water companies and plastic bottle manufacturers to come up with a safe acceptable solution. Similarly I have heard the some groups want paper coffee cups banned. The same applies here, get all the interested parties together and fine a solution. Poorly thought out laws don’t serve anyone’s purpose!
Personally, I like the attitude of some of the festival organizers have taken. For example, the Guelph Hillside Festival was having problems with too many plastic water bottles. They wanted to reduce or eliminate their use. The Festivals solution was to develop a practical alternate. They decided to bring in a tank full of potable water and then sell re-usable aluminum water bottles that could be filled up for free! As a result of this innovative thinking they drastically reduced the plastic bottle waste! Then there is the Shelter Valley Folk Festival. They wanted to have a “green” festival. They wanted local products to be used and to have little waste. There solution was quite simple. Contract with local food vendors and make sure they were committed to using local produce. That was solution number one. The second solution for waste was just as simple. Invest in re-usable plates and cutlery and convince a whole bunch of people to volunteer to keep them washed! Now they enjoy a wonderful “green” festival, that is the pride of all those involved!
Rather than take draconian measures, each identified a challenge and then found intelligent solutions! Politician and advocacy groups would do well to take note!

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

When The Going Gets Tough…

This year has been a disaster for many events. The cost of gas is higher. The economy is poor and the weather hasn’t co-operated! How many festivals and events will fail this year? For their community’s sake, I hope not many, but that may be just wishful thinking. However, there is hope. Gary and I were visiting a Fair a while ago and bumped into an old acquaintance. He is one of the long time organizers of the Cobourg Highland Games. The Cobourg Games, a one day event, was hit with one of the worst rainfalls! The parade and many of their events had to be moved indoors and, worse, had to be cancelled. Vendors left early and attendance, their life blood, was down to catastrophic levels. As a result the Games lost a great deal of money! Many committees would have thrown it the towel, but not the Cobourg Highland Games. They have had a proud tradition for over 50 years. My friend told me that they were in the process of organizing fundraisers to recoup their losses and planned on coming back next year bigger and better! I believe with the help of the Cobourg community they will do just that! If festivals and events are going to survive in today’s economy, their organizers are going to have to get tough and get going! Their communities are counting on them!

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Step Up To The Plate…

How many times have you made a promise to do something and then forgotten to do it? Or, how many times have you asked someone to do something for you and they have forgotten? How did you feel when it happened to you? It’s definitely important to keep your word when family, friends and bosses are involved, but what about casual contacts? I believe it’s important to keep all of your promises. Have I ever messed up? Yes, but I really make a conscientious effort not to. I can’t tell you how many times Gary and I have asked someone to send us information about their event or product, and not received the information! It’s not only rude, it’s very poor business! I participated in many events where people have asked me to send information. I do, and most times I don’t get any response. it can be and is frustrating, but do I stop sending information? The answer is, of course, no. I guess some people become stilted and only go through the motions of promising to do something even though they have no intension of following through. They feel that they are just “wasting” their “valuable” time responding to someone who doesn’t really want the requested information! It’s too bad, in our case, because we usually want to promote their product or event on our website for free! If we don’t hear from them, we don’t promote! Look at the Babe Ruth. He struck out many more times than he hit and yet he was considered the greatest Baseball Player of all time! If you can’t or won’t follow-up, be honest, tell that to the person who requested the information. They may not like it, but they will at least respect you for telling them the truth! So, when you say that you are going to do something, “Step up to the plate” and “follow through”, you may hit a “HOME RUN”!

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Setting the Stage…

In real estate jargon they say a great looking house has “curb appeal”. When they want to make the inside of a house more appealing, they call it “staging”! What they are talking about is “marketing”, making the house “saleable”. There are lots of television programs on the air right now about this subject.
Festivals and events should learn from the real estate industry!  Festival and event organizers should pay greater attention on how their event looks, both on the inside and the outside! An appealing outside will attract people; make them want to come in to “check” the event out. A well planned inside will make them want to stay, spend money and tell their friends about the great event! It will also bring them back, year after year.
Setting the stage” is easy to do, but it takes thought and planning. Not just the day before the event starts, but right from the beginning. Staging an event includes the basics such as, great location, well planned site layout, interesting activities and events, clean and convenient washrooms and informed volunteers. It also includes the not so basics, well place signs and a lot of them, a simple but effective internet website, happy and enthusiastic vendors and a workable “green” plan! Really, proper “staging” is the anatomy of a well-run successful event. The more effort that is put into this area, the better the final outcome will be. And this, in today’s competitive and costly environment, will mean the different between survival, growth and prosperity or defeat, lose and closure!

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Lost Opportunity…

We visited an event that had great theme and a lot of potential! Unfortunately it fell far short of being the really special event it could have been. I know that the organizers work very hard each year, so the problem was not for lack of effort. So what went wrong? The event has been running for many years, so perhaps it needs new direction, a re-evaluation. On the day that we visited the festival, there was a whole day of events scheduled. We arrived about noon, just in time for the start of the downtown festival parade. It was a long interesting parade and would have been perfect if it was just a town parade. However, the parade was supposed to represent the festival’s theme and it did everything but! There was very little in the parade that tied to the fun and spirit of the festival’s theme!
After the parade there were a number of activities scheduled to take place in the downtown area. We couldn’t find any of them and we looked. We tried to find an event organizer or a festival program guide, but could not. We drove around town looking for signs that would point us in the rights direction. There were no directional signs to be found anywhere! We drove all around town looking for any information. The only thing we saw were a few large signs telling us to call a number for information and tickets. Even the festival information we printed off the event’s website was hard to read and incomplete. We weren’t looking for problems. We really wanted to enjoy this event! After all, we had driven several hours to get to it!

So here are the basic problems with this event:
1.    No directional signage
2.    Lack of communications
3.    Poorly designed website
4.    No informational signage
5.    Cancelled or “no show” events
6.    A parade that wasn’t theme driven

These are all solvable problems (challenges). It’s just that the event organizers have to recognize and acknowledge that the challenges exist and that is where the greatest challenge likely is. Most organizers don’t like to think they have to change and correct, but they do! Good festivals, events and businesses are constantly evaluating themselves and making changes and adjustments as necessary. Hopefully the organizers of this event will recognize the need for change. Otherwise it will be an “opportunity lost”!

Thursday, April 12, 2018

There Must Be A Reason…

It always amazes me when we go to a festival or event and find vendors that shouldn’t be there. I don’t mean that it’s the vendors fault. They are only going where they think the money is! Most of the vendors who go to these events are novices. However, when they don’t make any money or possibly loose some, they quickly learn, the hard way, to ask more questions from event organizers before they sign on the dotted line! Frankly, I think organizers who insist on having a vendors’ section even though it has no benefit to the event are misguided and are likely novices themselves!  Without proper planning and marketing, vendor sections are doomed to failure! Vendors participate in festivals and events to sell their products and to make money! If an event is going to ask vendors to participate, the organizers need to provide the type of atmosphere that is conducive to buyers buying. Many event organizers believe that they need vendors to enhance their event. This, however, is only true if they have planned vendor sales as part of their festival’s program. Anything less than this is irresponsible! Most vendors are small entrepreneurial business people who “live” and “die” by their sales. Poor sales can be disastrous!  There are enough uncontrollable elements that can affect their sales. They don’t need poor planning and apathetic organizers adding to these elements! Careful planning and intelligent promotion is a must! Festival organizers should make sure that if they are going to have a vendors’ section that it is well thought out and that they attract the right mix of vendors. Vendors, on the other hand, should know as much about the festival or event as possible and then asked a lot probing questions. Only then, once they are satisfied with what they have read and heard, should they agree to participate.
On a final note to organizers, if your festival runs into weather related problems and the financial results are poor, please remember your vendors. Most festivals are run by volunteers and are non-profit. If the festival loses money, there is no financial loss to the volunteers. On the other hand, weather can ruin vendors financially, especially if they have to pay large festival fees on top of their traveling and out of pocket expenses. Try to preplan a policy that takes these vendor losses into consideration. I know you don’t have a legal responsibility to help them, but I believe you have a moral responsibility to minimize their losses. Besides, I think it’s good business in the long run. Good hard working vendors are hard to kind and keep!