So whenever I’m working on a thing (running a class, teaching a workshop, putting together a product), I keep a running List of Useful Stuff.

And it mostly breaks down into the hard and the good.

Kind of like the Friday Chicken. Only with fewer made-up band names.

Except that I wind up using it as a list of the stuff I’m doing differently next time … and the things that are total keepers.

And I thought, for the dual purposes of modeling a thing I do and sharing some potential usefulness, I’d let you get a peek at my list from the North Carolina Wacky Brain Training Weekend.

Which, in case I haven’t emphasized this enough, was absolutely full of wonderful.

Things I’m going to keep doing because this was outrageously great!

Letting other people use my Healthy Boundaries spray. Hee!

Yes, it’s a spray. For healthy boundaries. I know.

I wrote about it a couple weeks ago and I’m kind of obsessed with it. And when I teach? I pretty much bathe in it. Totally works. Like a charm.

At least in my head, which is really … where I need it to work.

Anyway, I brought one bottle for me and one bottle for the group (and wrote Retreat on it with a Sharpie). Because I have healthy boundaries with my bottle of healthy boundaries. I’m hilarious.

The communal bottle lived on the stage in the room where we had our classes and yay.

It really helped. I mean, the thing itself helped. But also knowing it was there helped. And made us laugh. A lot.

If you buy a bottle for yourself, tell Deborah I want to marry her. Which is probably not a “healthy boundaries” thing to say but there it is.

The whining ritual.

I did this one in San Francisco and it was kind of cool, so we did a variation on it. Fun!

Passing Selma around.

I don’t always do this because she’s not really a people persona people duck … a total misanthrope diva princess who especially dislikes being used as a talking stick.

But she had fun this time. And everyone loves Selma.

The Labyrinth exercise.

I’ve only ever done this one with private clients. Never in a group. It was completely awesome.

Definitely doing this one again.

Having a flip chart.

I can’t even tell you. I LOVE having a flip chart! Flip chart should be my middle name!

Also, I am phenomenally bad at using them. So bonus comic relief points there. But yeah, so much fun I can hardly stand it.

And four things I’m totally going to do differently next time.

Thing #1: system tweaks.

It’s taken me a long time (five years of teaching workshops) to realize this but I think I may have finally internalized this important understanding:

My physical and emotional well-being must be the #1 priority always … and needs to be treated as such.

Which means?

» What I’m going to do differently for next time:
My pirate crew and I need better systems in place (built in!) to make sure that happens.

And we need to ask questions like this:

  • What needs to happen so that I can avoid things like being at the airport at 2 a.m. picking up a stray student when I have a full day of teaching a few hours later?
  • Is there a way to build in “money-for-emergencies” into the cost of doing the program? I assume there is, but it needs to be in our system so that this is something I’m thinking about before I do my pricing meditation.
  • What are some better “here are how we do things” rules for buying flights and writing itineraries for workshops?

    Because having to use my phone to look up the confirmation number should not be part of traveling. And while I don’t mind getting up at 5:30 a.m. to catch a plane since that’s my normal wake-up time, I really don’t like getting up at 4. Dark-thirty!

So now we know that. And some other related stuff too.

Thing #2: the monies. Oy.

So yeah, we grossly undercharged. And I knew that, but just not to what extent.

For one thing, admin costs ended up being a shocking 17% of intake, rather than the 5–7% that I’d estimated.

Mostly because I’m on email sabbatical so I was paying people to answer questions. Lots and lots of questions.

Another big part of the admin costs had to do with turnover. I honestly had not thought about all the stuff that needs to be done.

Oh. My. God. Changing the copy on the page, notifying people, putting up a new bit in a post to tell people that yeah, there’s a space again, changing the copy back when it’s full, putting up buy buttons, taking them back down … nightmare. Big expensive nightmare.

And then another thing: it so completely did not even occur to me that the workshop would sell out way before the early bird period was halfway through.

So back in April when I was calculating what we might be likely to make, I kind of assumed there would be at least some people paying the actual price. Totally didn’t happen.

In the meantime, I’ve done three other programs and they all sold out within 48 hours. Lesson learned.

» What I’m going to do differently for next time

  • A better and much more thorough FAQ (to avoid paying other people to answer questions by email).
  • Collect questions now so we know what kind of stuff is likely to come up for future events.
  • Put up the Here’s Where You Can Coordinate Your Travel Arrangements page earlier.
  • Save on having to repeat work that’s already been done with a clearer system about things like what I want my itineraries to look like.
  • Make the early bird the actual price of what we need to make. Not the discount on the actual price.

Thing #3: Avoid expensive mistakes.

So one of my intentions with this retreat was not to make use of my super-secret completely non-icky backdoor partner program where I give appreciation monies to people I know and trust who are totally promoting my stuff anyway.

And I love giving appreciation monies. But live events fill up with Right People right away, and I knew it didn’t need any external promotion.

So I thought, hey, let’s keep the cost down for the participants by not bringing the partner program into the equation.

Except that I gave this project to one of my former assistants who is so biggified that she has her own assistants. And they missed that part. It was a nine hundred and fifty dollar misunderstanding.

» What I’m going to do differently for next time:

  • Somehow make the current system even more clear than it already is.
  • Double-freaking-check everything before it goes live. Personally. Not “asking someone to double-check everything”.
    I’ll set time aside to do it myself and I’ll remind myself that this is a worthwhile thing to be doing.

Thing #4: Policies! (Yeah, more systems stuff)

So we didn’t have a cancellation policy in place early enough. And we had committed to the space and to paying for the rooms and so on.

Of course with people who canceled a week before the event, we couldn’t process refunds even though we wanted to.

But the first people who cancelled? I had no idea how extensive the admin costs are for dealing with turnover so I didn’t think it would be such a big deal. It is.

And yes, I do realize this all should be obvious but in all my years (five) of teaching at live events I’ve never had more than one or two cancellations, and always way in advance.

» What I’m going to do differently for next time:

  • Have a clearer cancellation policy that includes a non-refundable deposit, and is compassionate but firm in explaining that when we do refund what we can, it can really only happen up to a certain date because otherwise we can’t honor our financial commitment to the space.

Things I’m going to try to remember.

  1. Wow. My people are smart and interesting and independent and ask the most amazing questions. I knew how the whole “right people thing” worked but I really got to experience it. It was incredible.
  2. Whenever I teach Shiva Nata, I always get epiphanies of my own. This time it was a really big answer to a question that has been driving me crazy.
  3. Trust. I’m really, really good at what I do. The structure and the container work. I just need to show up and do it.
  4. Appreciation. All this stuff I learn from doing things “the wrong way” (the wrongest!) is useful material that I get to plug into my systems (systems!) to help take better care of me and the people who need my stuff.

    It’s good.

  5. I want a slackline! Slackline! But more about that later.

Thanks for letting me process out loud with you guys. Love it!

Comment zen for today.

What I can do without: criticism, judgment, shoulds, advice.

What would be delightful: things you’ve learned (hard and/or good) from putting on a show or teaching a program, stuff you’re thinking about, things like that. 🙂

The Fluent Self