Fine, Spend Lots of Money

One of the many things I am doing these days is trying to arrange for hotel rooms for the many performers who will be appearing on stage over the course of the next year. I figured, since I have 100 people needing about 60 rooms over the course of about 30 dates, I might be able to get a good rate. Wrong. This is partly because the economies of Japan and the US are improving enough that people are traveling and there aren’t enough rooms to be had.

However, I also can’t get a good rate because of the hoops I have to jump through to get it. I could actually get some very excellent rates via a hotel broker (a savings of $30 a night per room and considering I need 10-11 rooms on average…)–the only problem is I need a credit card to do it, but the university system isn’t set up with coorporate credit accounts, etc.

I know this is essentially the trade off in working for a university–you don’t have to fear going bankrupt as much, but the fastest you can make a decision is 3 weeks. I also know there are good reasons not to give state employees access to easy credit. However, given that so many transactions are taking place on the internet, state institutions are going to be left behind and left out of the savings. (And god knows, the state could really do with watching what they spend.)

There is a thinly veiled metaphor in there somewhere about how any organization has to keep their policies and procedures fresh and reflective of the current business climate to avoid missing out on easy opportunities to save.

The situation places me in a tough position because I want to cut costs, but the best I can do is the lowest possible price I can get for a purchase order–not the lowest possible price.

The other lesson I am reminded of is the importance of internal communication and networking. Because I am new to the area and haven’t made a lot of contacts, I don’t know the decision makers to call to get a good rate for my substantial needs. Even when I try to get in a back door and talk to people in marketing and sales, I get intercepted by receptionists who direct me to reservations and those folks aren’t interested or empowered to talk about sponsorship opportunities, etc. which might reduce my costs.

Maybe I would be too much of a small fry for the hotel anyway. However, no one is directing me to a person who would make that decision. This is something of a cautionary tale that reminds me to empower my staff to make decisions without consulting me, but that I also must encourage them to bring proposals for interesting opportunities to my attention as well. 80% will probably be people who haven’t really thought through their proposal and have nothing to offer, but 10% might have something of potential to offer (even if they too haven’t though through their proposal.)

Then of course, there is the other 10% who are out and out crazy and are looking of a whole lot for nothing. Those are the folks you hope your staff sorts out before they get to you…(heh heh)

Musta Been Saving It Up

I was looking over some of my old entries and realized I actually never wrote down some good ideas I had connected with my earlier ideas on Drew McManus’ docent program. I have a vague recollection that I was going to mention my ideas in an interview so perhaps that is why I never wrote it here–I didn’t want provide other interviewees with my good ideas. (Hey, given that one place had 300 applicants for the same job, it isn’t outside the realm of possibility someone who read my blog had applied.)

In any case, it is actually a simple extension of my earlier thoughts and philosophies. I think it would be great to train art/drama/music, etc students in a docent program so they learn how to talk about what they do in an manner that doesn’t alienate audience. You don’t want a student standing in your lobby talking to an audience member saying “Well, clearly the dance was inspired by pointillism.” The implication being–if you don’t know what I am talking about, you are an idiot.

Instead, you might want them to say. “Well, the dance was inspired by pointillism. Are you familiar with that term?” And if the person says they aren’t, perhaps the student whips out the Sunday comics and a magnifying glass to show how the print process and the post-impressionism school of painting are similar. Then they point out how the concept was executed in the dance the person just saw or perhaps will see.

The audience sees your venue as a place they can feel comfortable attending and asking questions and your student base learns how to use language that doesn’t require specialized knowledge or make people uncomfortable.

Trying to establish a program like this is going to be one of my long term goals in my current position. It may be difficult because the campus is 100% commuter and clears out about 4-5 hours before performances begin. But there is a strong continuing ed program on the campus too and this type of examination of the arts might hold an appeal for them.

Outreach to Schools

Looking back to today, I noticed they had a link to a FAQ about marketing outreach programs to schools. It is pretty informative for folks who want to do such things. It talks about who the decision makers and gatekeepers for schools are, what times of the year are bad to contact schools to set up outreach, how high school is different from elementary school.

The FAQ also discusses how to position your outreach so it will be more likely to be viewed as valuable to the educational process. It also directs groups to resources if they want to synch their offerings with teacher’s lesson plans, how to create good study guides and generally strengthen a relationship with the schools.

One of the things I was most impressed about was that the FAQ also addressed the perception by the students that the outreach was a free period where they didn’t have to learn or behave. Having gone on a number of school outreaches, I am familiar with this situation. The article encourages outreach groups to establish a protocol with the teacher prior to their arrival and also suggests finding a way to engage and involve the teacher in the process so they don’t give the impression it is an opportunity for escape themselves.

It Really Works!

I realized I had neglected to remove the line in “About The Blog” that refered to me being unemployed. That has, of course, been changed. I also changed the About the Author section because that too was essentially gauged to advertise my qualifications and help me find a job.

The blog actually worked to help me find a job. Some of the folks on the search committee commented on the blog during the interview and even now that I have started work. Some of them continued to read it even after they hired me so I have to watch what I write.

I had asked a career counselor if she suggested people list their blogs on their resumes (the entry is somewhere back in time, I will have to dig it out). She said since I was looking for an employer who would value my innovative ideas, etc, I should absolutely list it. Sort of the idea that I will attract the employers that deserve me. Well, I have to say, 10 days or so in the process. I am really feeling like I am working for a place that deserves me. (Lucky them!) I think I even wrote at one point that I started getting interviewed by places that deserved me/whose ideals and philosophies were aligned with mine.

We will see how far this impression bears out now as time goes on.