Volunteer Coordinating: A How-To Guide by Brandi Ferrebee

Commonly compared to herding cats, volunteer coordinating is a tricky and stressful job. However with good foresight and planning, you too can make sure all of your event responsibilities have a volunteer assigned and prevent wanting to hit your head against a brick wall.

Today we have a guest blog post by Brandi Ferrebee, who is experienced at many event organizer roles including being a volunteer coordinator.

Brandi Ferrebee
Brandi in her natural element. – Photograph by Jessica Keener (http://jessicakeenerphotography.com/)

Brandi lives in Baltimore, where she dances at the raucous and eternal Mobtown Ballroom. She’s served in any number of middle management roles at Lindy hop, Balboa, and blues dance events. Favorite event tasks include shifting dance floor panels in a dress at 3 a.m., buying end-of-event whiskey for event owners, putting all the faces in order when she counts the cashbox for the fifth time, picking up kale salads for Ramona, and yelling at raccoons. The surest places to find Brandi in the coming year are at Hot Mess, Lindy Focus, and the Experiment.


Hello, brave soul. They tell me that you want to coordinate volunteers for a dance event. God save you. Enclosed here is my guide to not going absolutely, mind-numbingly bonkers over this job. It can be terrible, or it can actually go pretty smoothly. This is my guide to doing it pretty smoothly. Start planning as far out from the event as possible– like a the end of the previous year’s event, or 6 months out. – Brandi

Guide to Volunteer Coordinating

Find Out Who Did This Before

  • Who was on staff the last time this event happened? Who do you know of that has coordinated volunteers at similar events, or within your dance organization, or in the region your event takes place in? If you can find those people, pick their brains for what went well and what didn’t. Also, save this information for the next step…

Create list of “Preferred” and “Oh Hell No” Volunteers

  • Look, there will be wonderful people who you could drop a stack of $100 bills in front of, run off, and then they would pick up all the bills, face them in the same direction, rubber band them, and chase you down to return the money. You’re gonna want to know who they are so that you can use them—especially, say, on cash box.
  • There will be people who regularly skip out on shifts, get in verbal fights with event directors, try to sneak off to the dance during their shifts, etc. You’ll want to know who they are so you can avoid them.
  • There will also be people who just need special instruction, are good for specific jobs only, etc. These people can be very useful if applied properly.
  • Keep a list of all these people. Google doc it, label your tabs, share it, notate it, confer with other events, etc. Everyone will appreciate you.
  • Especially consult this list when you’re considering giving out a high number of hours to volunteers (more than 4-6 hours in a weekend, depending on the event) and want to be sure you won’t be left in the lurch.
  • Don’t know anything about someone emailing you who wants to volunteer for 10 hours? Ask for references from their work at other events. Then actually follow up on those references. This can be really useful, and give unknown-to-you volunteers a chance to get more involved and give you a chance to get to know other organizers.
  • Bow down to the beautiful terror of the no-go list. Do not hurt thyself.
  • Figure out good, trusted, flexible people for jobs that may or may not actually be needed, like driving instructors/musicians/DJs, getting lunches, dealing with things that come up, etc. These are your lifesavers.

Have a Plan To Handle Money

  • Work with the other event directors. Figure out what works best with your culture/budget. But for the love of god, pay those kids somehow, because we still live in a capitalist society, and they need to eat.
  • $10 an hour is pretty standard. I like to pay this, in cash, at the end of the event/the volunteer’s last shift unless otherwise agreed upon. This ensures that they show up until the end, and that they know we value their work. Checks are just complicated. Don’t do that to yourself.
  • You can also pay people in discounted admission to the event, but I would advise not doing this unless you really trust the volunteer and they have a strong track record. There are people on my “Oh Hell No” list for skipping out on their shifts after they’ve been let in free to the event on the understanding they’d work a crapload of hours. Guard thyself.
  • Some events have people work and allow them to get event swag as payment. To each their own.

Get the Word Out

  • Figure out how those potential volunteers will contact you. Email? Facebook? a Google Form? Any of these are acceptable, but I usually go with an event-based volunteer-specific gmail account. Post on the website, facebook page, event page, your facebook, etc etc etc everywhere forever how to contact you to volunteer. Start around the time of registration opening and keep pushing it until the week before or so.
  • I’d advise setting up an auto-responder if you got that volunteers-at-this-event-specifically email address set up. Have it thank them for contacting you and let them know you’ll get back to them once a schedule has been established.
  • When a schedule has been established, make a spreadsheet (Google sheets is my preference) and make columns for name, phone number, email, times can definitely work, times cannot work, and other comments.

Make a Schedule

  • Work with the other organizers to figure out when you will need people to watch the door, set up the venue, break down the venue, provide snacks, drive people or food, etc. etc. Think of everything. Quiz others to make sure you’ve thought of everything.
  • Make a spreadsheet (Google. You can share it with others easily.) and make the whole schedule in half-hour or hour increments. Figure out how many slots you need to fill. This would be a good time to let the organizers know how many slots times how much reimbursement equals how much they need to have on hand.

Get Info From Volunteers

  • Still advertising for needing volunteers? Good.
  • Now respond to all those emails (BCC) and ask them for:
    • Full name
    • Email address
    • Cell phone number
    • Local/out-of-towner (when are they arriving?)
    • Car/transportation plan

Schedule Those Kitties

  • Panic about having too few/too many volunteers for your allotted number of slots.
  • Make schedule anyway.
  • Use Google calendar (sensing a theme yet?) associated with that email account you made. Put in all the needed times to be filled in one calendar color, then put in all the times each volunteer is able to work in another color. (This will take some time and seem messy, but it’s totally worth it, I promise.) This will show you times that will be hard to fill, easy to fill, etc and will make it much easier to figure out scheduling those animals.
  • Figure out which volunteers get first pick. Trusted volunteers, those needing maximum hours for pass, ones with weird scheduling issues, those who can fill obvious problem times usually go first.
  • Create the final schedule in yet another color. Hide the availability calendar for your sanity, but keep it around in case you need to cover a shift quickly.
  • Also enter the final schedule into another tab of your volunteer contacting spreadsheet. You will share (view-only) with your volunteers, organizing staff, and printer. Print a bunch of those things, and use them on the ground to confirm who worked their shifts.

Spread the Word

  • When you send out the schedule, make it clear that you have included contact information for other volunteers. If someone’s shifts do not work for some reason, it is their responsibility to find a replacement. Both they and the replacement MUST confirm the change. Also, let them know the consequences for not showing up or not showing up on time (decide what “on time” means to you and your event.)

You’re Actually There. This is Happening.

  • Maybe have a meeting the first night to make the volunteers all look at your face and each others’ faces. Remind them about lateness, covering shifts, payment, etc. Train as needed for the positions they’ll be working.
  • The volunteer coordinator or event manager need to oversee every turnover, training and checking in on volunteers who are doing their job for the first time as necessary.
  • In my opinion, volunteers who do not show up on time (5-15 minutes or more late) should not get paid for that shift. Period. This is paid work, and you can’t afford to have shit go down.
  • Printed volunteer schedules should be at desk/cash box, with all event managers/main base, and on the person of the volunteer coordinator at all times.
  • Records should be kept on volunteer coordinator’s schedule of who has worked what shifts so as to keep hour totals. Hour totals are how you pay people at the end!

Pay People at the End!

  • If you’re going my way, have the other organizers get you enough cash to pay everyone. Have lots of tens. FOR GOD’S SAKE, BE CAREFUL. Pay out in cash at the last shifts of each worker unless otherwise agreed.
  • Make sure each volunteers literally signs off on their hours and that they were paid.

Party with the other Organizers

  • Because you’ve paid everyone and survived the event!

Get Back to Work

    • Take notes within a week on what went well, what could be improved, and which volunteers are now better known to be trustworthy/scum. Use your volunteer “Preferred” and “Oh Hell No” lists. Share the wealth of your experiences with others.

Thanks for reading! Now, please be good to yourself. – Brandi

Thanks Brandi for the informative post and Jessica Keener for permission to use her photography! If you have any advice or stories about coordinating volunteers or being a volunteer yourself, we would love to hear it. Feel free to leave a few words in the comment selection below or even write your own blog response.

86ing a.k.a. Throwing Someone Out Of Your Venue

Getting thrown out of club

Throwing someone out of a venue is an unpleasant responsibility that the majority of organizers have to deal with. I have found there is a lack of easy to find resources out there on how to do it. In result I am writing a brief guide of what I recommend when removing people from a venue based on my own personal experiences and what I learned talking to police officials and other organizers.

Note: I am not a legal professional and none of this should be construed as legal advice. I highly recommend you talk to a lawyer and/or your local police officials about the laws related to trespassing and removal of individuals from your premises.

Preventative Measures

The best way to deal with throwing people out of your swing dance venue is to avoid having to do it in the first place. I have found a good portion of individuals are not intentionally malicious but often miss social cues or fall under the popular label “socially awkward”.

I find it is common in a lot of swing dance communities to ignore uncomfortable behavior until it comes to a breaking point where one is forced to take action. I think a lot of these confrontational situations could be prevented by addressing the questionable behavior earlier with a friendly warning. While it can be uncomfortable giving these warnings often you can with a few words cause a person to adjust their behavior to make an event a better time for that person and the people they interact with.

When I have had to issue friendly warnings I make sure:

  1. We are in a setting that other dancers can’t overhear so they are not embarrassed in front of their peers.
    • Note: Depending upon the context it is sometimes better to do this with another organizer for safety reasons and/or to have a witness.
  2. I make this about their actions and not about them as a person.
  3. I frame it in a manner that the warning comes from wanting them to have a good time and not cause any potential trouble for them. Avoid coming off as intimidating or threatening.
  4. Don’t argue or debate the point, just state what you have to say.
  5. Even if it is a minor warning log that it occurred somewhere, preferably in an email or a document that has a timestamp. In the unfortunate event that the situation escalates down the road that information has the potential to be useful.

Ideally any event staff ranging from the head organizers, DJs, to instructors should be informed on how to issue early and friendly warnings. An important thing to also realize is this isn’t something you are instantly good at but improve at over time. Peter Strom in this instructor forum hosted by Yehoodi below talks about when he was asking a lead at a local venue to stop lifting people on the social dance floor. Even though he was doing the right thing he vocalized the how the difficulty in the process and how he himself could have handled it better in the future.

If a friendly warning doesn’t work then warnings with a more serious tone and actionable items declared at the end of them such as removal from the venue for that night or permanent eviction is a route to take. Here is an example of a conversation to a theoretical dancer named Johnny that displays this method of issuing a warning,

“Johnny, we have had two conversations with you before about leading aerials on the social dance floor. There have complaints before from follows that it makes them feel uncomfortable and it goes against our insurance policy. If we have another report of it happening again we will have to ask you to leave and not return for at least two weeks.”

Lastly, one of the useful features of having organizational policies or a code of conduct is it gives something you can easily cite when issuing these warnings or in the unfortunate case of having to remove someone from your venue.

Removing Someone From Your Venue

Sadly there are cases when people act out in ways that are completely inappropriate or they do not heed your warnings and continue in behavior that makes other dancers uncomfortable or outright endangers them. When you have to remove someone from your venue it should come as no surprise to them because it should be after:

  1. They have taken actions which have clearly crossed the line.
  2. They have been issued multiple warnings with the last warning informing the person that the next action to be taken will be removal and banning from the premises.

When the decision has been made that someone needs to be removed whether it is just for that night or a permanent ban, similar guidelines are followed to issuing a warning with a fairly different tone.

Words fail me
The actions of some people…
  • Be in a private setting where you still feel safe. It is highly recommended to have another staff member with you for safety reasons and to have a witness.
  • Tell the person you are ask them to leave the premises (this includes the parking lot) and inform them of the duration they are banned as the starting point of the conversation. Be respectful but firm during the entire conversation.
  • Cite the actions they took and any previous warnings issued if relevant on why they are being asked to leave however do not argue or debate the point.
  • If the individual refuses to leave issue them a trespass warning and state that their two options are to leave quietly or that the police will be called to escort them off the premises.
  • File an incident report that lists all the individuals involved, references to previous incidents, time, date, place, and other relevant information.
  • If relevant inform the local authorities and/or other local organizers.

While I know often the behaviors of these individuals will make you want to react like the picture above. The important thing is to remain professional and not escalate the situation any further than it needs to.

Personal Stories

I’ve had requests to share some incidents where I have had to remove people from venues or classes I have taught. I’d like to iterate that in both of these incidents they were not easy things to do and with the benefit of hindsight I can see ways I could have handled them better.

Harassment of A Minor at a College Campus

The first incident I was one of the main organizers for a college club. I was informed one night at a dance that an older community member who was not a college student said an inappropriate comment to a minor attending our dance from the local high school. Infuriated does not even begin to describe how I felt upon receiving this news.

A shortsighted decision in retrospect, I walked up to this individual and asked him to immediately leave. He proceeded to in a condescending manner attempt to lecture me on the way I should have handled the incident, how legal action may be a response, and generally attempting to intimidate me. After a few minutes of this he finally conceded to leave.

I reported the incident to the local authorities and they informed me if he ever showed up again to state he was trespassing and if he refused to leave to not discuss the matter with him further and call them to remove him. Lo and behold he showed up about two weeks later in spite of us sternly saying to leave and never come back.

As the police instructed me to do I went up to him and stated he was trespassing on the premises and he needed to leave immediately or I would inform the police. He refused to leave and attempted to engage me in debate about the topic. I promptly informed him I was calling the police, proceeded to ignore him, asked another staff member go watch him and I then called the police. The police kept me in a separate room under police surveillance while they escorted him out of the building. I later found he was banned from two other college clubs for similar behavior and this incident lead to the college campus banning him permanently from campus grounds.

Things I learned:

  • Log incidents, when dealing with the police they will want as much detail as possible.
  • When removing them calm yourself down to the point that you can deal with them professionally and isolate them from the general public when informing them that they have to leave.
  • Communicate with your local organizations, they can inform you of prior incidents which allow you to make more informed decisions.
  • When relevant inform local organizations of individuals you have removed to create a safe community.

Stalking of A Student at A Dance Studio

The second incident was at a dance studio I organize for and teach at. Another organizer in town sent me an email informing that he had banned a person from his venue because this individual was aggressively hitting on a person in spite of her saying she was not interested and asking them to stop and later was found following her in his car. I was completely oblivious to this behavior and found this email surprising.

Our studio from the beginning has had a code of conduct. I drafted an email stating that because this individual’s actions had broken our code of conduct they were banned from the premises. I had another organizer review to ensure this is the wording we wanted to come from our organization and we sent it out. The individual responded that while they didn’t agree with our decision that they would not show up to our classes/events again.

Things I learned:

  • Communication between organizations is important. This person could have habitually scared off different dancers if the behavior was not reported.
  • When in doubt if your actions as a staff member or organizer are correct, err on the side of caution and consult another staff member when appropriate.
  • While a code of conduct or policies are useful as a method of deterrence off the bat, they are also useful in situations where you have to explain why certain behaviors lead to certain consequences.

Questions for Everyone

I hope that my knowledge as an organizer and instructor of a few years is useful to anyone reading this. However what I would like to hear is from other instructors and organizers your stories, knowledge, and experiences whether it is on your own blog, in the comments section, or even in local discussions within your own community. I think the more information out there about this topic there is the better so we can look for ways to improve our methods on handling incidents like these to make our community a safer place.

Marketing Segmentation for Swing Dancing

One of the biggest mistakes I read about, hear about, or personally witness is swing dance events and venues attempting to target the entire market of possible customers who would attend their business or even worse not having a target audience at all.


I can confidently say that there is no organizer/venue/event in the swing dance community has the resources to supply the demand for the entire market. Even the events with massive amount of dancers such as Lindy Focus or Herräng targets a segment of the market.

What I define as the term market for the swing dance community is; every person who currently has swing dancing as a hobby/profession or is physically/mentally able to have swing dancing as a hobby/profession but does not. 

What this means for you as an organizer of an event is you need to segment your market or find a niche of target customers that you can provide value to as a business. For a more technical business world definition of market segmenting you can find it here. If you look online, talk to marketing professionals, talk to marketing professors, or read books on marketing there are a variety of ways to how to go about segmenting a market. What I am going to do here is give a simple layout that is applicable for an individual who is running a weekly venue or hosting a one time/yearly recurring swing dance event.

1. Decide A Target Geographic Location

The first thing is to decide upon target geographic location. If you are running a swing dance venue for a college town your potential customers are going to be considerably different then if you lived in a big city or a rural area. A recurring weekly dance is going to have a smaller target geographic location in comparison to an international camp such as Herräng where the entire world is fair game. Speaking of distance, the further away you attempt to attract dancers you will need to have match that with increased value such as; quality instructors, dancers, DJs or live bands.

2. Decide The Type Of Customer

The second thing is to decide upon the type of customer you are trying to attract to your business in terms of dance experience, dance background, and lifestyle.

Dance experience is simply how long have your target customers been dancing. This is important because a random person off the street who has never danced in their life has fairly different needs then a seasoned dancer who is a regular on the competition circuit. It is a reality that when you start to cater to one end of the spectrum you will likely alienate the other and it is a choice as an organizer you have to make.

Dance background is the dances your customer identifies with. For example when people press for specifics I say I dance Lindy Hop, Balboa, and Collegiate Shag. For every dance under the umbrella term of swing dancing there is a specific culture attached to each dance. These various cultures have values and preferences that are sometimes complimentary and other times conflict with other dance communities. It is essential as an organizer to aware of the specific values and preferences with a particular dance’s community in order to provide a high-value experience for your target audience.

Lifestyle covers a variety of things such as personal values or personality types. Essentially what it comes down to is; where is this person in their life and what preferences do they have because of it. As someone running an event or venue this is important because a college student who participates the usual Lindy/Blues dance exchange circuits is going to have different needs then a married full time professional who occasionally takes time off work a few times a year to compete at Balboa events.

3. Check Feasibility 

You now have your target market segment clearly written out and described. Now the thing to check is if you and any collaborators have the resources to make your business feasible for your target market. An excellent article written by Bill Speidel, an experienced event organizer is titled So You Want To Be A Lindy Hop Event Organizer and a great reality check/resource for any person intending to get into the business of running a swing dance event/venue.

What I define as the term resources for the swing dance community is; a commodity  service or other asset that is required to run a swing dance venue/event. This is not limited to physical assets such as money but can be; also trained staff, volunteers, an established reputation among traveling dancers, established in the network of neighboring dances/events, positive Yelp reviews, and et cetera.

Throughly checking if these resources are available is important responsibility as an organizer. You can organize an amazing event but if you neglect to check on the resource of availability of date and conflict with an established event in the region you are fighting and uphill battle.

In the case that your target segment is simply unfeasible within your current time frame you have the options of postponing until it is possible or choosing a new segment that is feasible.

4. Apply Your Market Segment

You have your detailed market segment and you have asked the questions and done the research to determine it is feasible, great! The only thing you have to do now is use that knowledge appropriately.

This can be done in a multitude of ways, a common one is advertising. If you are trying to attract customers who have never danced before Groupon and newspaper ads would be an effective marketing campaign compared to Facebook Events and fliers sent to dance venues which is traditionally used for established dancers.

Another one is the choice of staff such as instructors and DJs. Customers who have not danced before or have limited experience will be much less selective in comparison to dancers who have been dancing longer or are at a higher skill level.

In Summary

The thing to take from all of this the importance of having a clearly defined market segment. The most common mistake I see in newer events is often they try to cater to too large of a market segment. In result their resources get spread thin and they are unable to deliver a quality experience for any of the dancers that attend.

I plan to write a future post going into a few venues and events that I think are great examples businesses that properly segmented their market. However if you have any stories or opinions I would love to hear them in the comment box below!

Running a College Workshop: 2nd Edition

This past weekend I was one of the organizers for a Lindy and Blues workshop we titled Hot and Cool featuring Mike Roberts and Laura Glaess, held at Penn State (The Pennsylvania State University). It was in our usual workshop format and consisted of a weclome dance on Friday, four hours of mixed blues and Lindy Hop instruction with a dance on Saturday, and four hours of mixed blues and Lindy Hop instruction on Sunday.

Logistically it was one of the smoothest workshops we ever had and we got very positive feedback from our locals as well as our out of town visitors. In addition the instructors seemed to have a good time and enjoyed their free cookies/ice cream/frozen yougart/candy the weekend as well.


Laura and Mike put time and effort into their classes and brought a lot of energy when they taught (Though that could have been a byproduct of the cookies/ice cream provided to them). I’ve taken enough classes over the last three years to generally get the feeling of when instructors really prepare for a class versus just going through the ropes. This is partially because I briefly got to talk to Mike & Laura themselves about it, but I inferred they do try to make sure students get the most out of their classes.

This picture really captures how they are in real life.

Laura and Mike took an interesting approach of  teaching a weekend of Lindy and Blues. They decided to not separate them into two different days (one day lindy, next day blues or vice versa), like most instructors in the past have done.  They instead taught the two topics alternating one after the other.

However they did this in a unique way that each sequence of two Lindy and Blues class had the same class name and used the same concepts, but they were applied differently to fit within the aesthetic of Blues dancing and Lindy Hop.

I think this method worked wonderfully for our club because it allowed them to spend two classes reinforcing a certain idea/concept and helped students more clearly define what “makes” a choice in dance Lindy Hop versus Blues.

My two favorite classes though were probably the two Lindy Hop classes on Sunday. In one they taught part of their routine from Lindyfest 2011 at the 1:19 mark in the youtube video below.

In the other they taught some fun charleston variations. In one variation they showed a creative way to one of my favorite moves of all time, hacksaws.

Things That Went Well

  • As usual we booked the rooms for extra time and it saved us on Sunday when class started late/lunch ran late.
  • We assigned each day for someone to drive instructors around, which worked really effectively instead of arbitrarily assigning it last minute. Especially so the instructors didn’t get stuck at the dances until the very end and could go back to the hotel to rest up/prepare for next day’s classes.
  • Oddly both the local vintage clothing shop Rag and Bone and the hat shop The Mad Hatter were having sales that weekend. I believe around five of us that weekend from the workshop including Mike and myself got new hats. Possibly coordinating something with both of those shops for future workshops could be a good promotional idea.
  • I’ve never logistically had a workshop that always ran so smooth. Usually there is always some kind of issue that pops up, but there were no major hiccups. It seemed everybody just had tons of fun and us as organizers were not that stressed at all.
  • Mike Roberts offering to DJ. It was the first time we had an instructor offer to DJ for us, so we gave him a slot and he played a lot of good stuff  that featured songs I was unfamiliar with, including one of my favorite new songs “Inappropriate Wartime Song” a.k.a. Blitzkrieg Baby by Una Mae Carlisle.

Things That Could Be Improved

  • Unfortunately it was out of our hands due to space being scarce this semester but the smaller room with slick floors on Friday made dancing harder and Saturday made some of the class material a bit more difficult then it usually would have been.
  • Sunday the class lead to follow ratio got pretty bad. We are really unsure how to handle this because we are usually a smaller workshop and don’t really enforce class sizes.
  • Again people showing up late/missing the 1st Sunday workshop. Philly 15 minute policy that if people are late to classes they are not admitted to the workshop until the next class in order not to make the class more difficult for those who did show up on time is getting more tempting.

Youtube: Event Advertisement Medium (Round 2)

Awhile back I wrote a post about using youtube as a medium for event advertisement. It was no big surprise that Hollywood (L.A.) threw in some amazing contributions to this idea.

Hollywood’s Contributions:

Swing Pit: Back from the Dead…Again! (2007)

For those of you who have never met Sailor Mike, besides being a badass Collegiate Shag dancer (Seriously, who enters a competition in a coffin?) also works in the film biz. He did a great job, this video is hilarious and is a good way to get publicity for an event.

Even though the event was over a long time ago, I know I have linked it to a bunch of my friends just to watch the psycho reference when Mike kills Tip West. I can’t even imagine how much buzz this got when the event was actually in the near future.

Camp Hollywood 2001 – Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon

Old school hilarity. I could try to explain this, but seriously just watch. Nothing like nationally recognized instructors doing a parody of a movie to advertise an event.

Raleigh Doing Its Part

EBC Good Clean Fun

Aptly named, this EBC promotional video explains what to expect if you attend the event. In addition with hilarity makes sure this one advertisement that will be hard to clean the video out of your mind.

So, if you have a crazy funny idea on how to advertise for an event. Grab a camera folks.

Volunteering 101

How I was a Bad Volunteer

Volunteering is usually a great way to save money and make a workshop more affordable for yourself. However with the benefits come the responsibility of being a good volunteer. I’m kind of ashamed to admit this, but this weekend I was a sub-par volunteer at LabLove.

Due to having a lack of transportation, in addition to being unfamiliar with the Philadelphia metro I missed my first volunteer shift and had to switch with the person doing the second one instead. I woke up the volunteer coordinator in the morning, calling her in an attempt to inform her that I was running late and lacking a ride. Lastly, I had to miss my last volunteer shift, because my ride which I previously thought was going to stay for the last dance was understandably fatigued and wanted to head home early.


One big happy volunteering family.

So in an attempt to help volunteer coordinators and volunteers everywhere and slightly make up for myself failing, here is my basic guide on how to be a good volunteer.

Volunteering 101

  1. Read the information the volunteer coordinator provides you and keep a hard-copy on yourself: Especially for bigger events, often the event coordinator is trying to juggle multiple volunteers and tasks to complete at the same time.The less you have to interrupt them to get clarification on things, the more time they have to get things done.
  2. Be honest about when you are available to volunteer: If you are a late-night owl who has trouble waking up, the morning shift is not for you. Likewise if you are someone who loses track of time on the dance floor, a mid-dance shift is probably not good for you as well. If you have any doubts of being available at a certain time, play it safe and put yourself as unavailable instead of making the volunteer coordinator try to find a last minute replacement for you.
  3. Have transportation to your volunteer shifts: If you have a car, then it is as simple as making sure you leave early so you arrive to your shifts on time. However if you are without a car, then that means securing a way to get to the venue on time for your shift. If you can’t guarantee that, it is better to just list you are unavailable.
  4. Be friendly, helpful and courteous: This one is for the workshop attendees just as much as the volunteer coordinator. When you are volunteering, you are doing a job in exchange for payment for a service. This is common sense, if you were working at the front desk of business you wouldn’t be caught talking to your friends while ignoring a customer would you?


What it comes down to is respect, the workshop organizers are kind enough to give an opportunity for people who may not be able to normally attend a workshop to show up. You can pay that back by giving them less things to worry about and being effective at the role they are providing you in exchange for a discount at their event.

After my blunder of a volunteering experience, I emailed the LabLove coordinator apologizing for being a sub-par volunteer and offered to pay via PayPal for the time I missed. I would advise people to do the same and make amends if while volunteering you mess up, irregardless if it is ones own personal irresponsibility or a misunderstanding. It is the nice thing to do and most people will understand you are just human. (This also applies to most aspects of dancing/life as well)

Workshops: Getting Useful Feedback

After running an event usually one of the first things that comes to mind after the “Whew, its over and nobody died.” thought is, “I wonder what people thought about the event”. Feedback is important because it allows you to see what went well versus what didn’t. In result, it gives you a tool to improve future events you run.

Methods to Get Feedback

  1. Ask People: Easiest way to get immediate feedback is a simple question such as, ‘Hey I was wondering what you thought about the event, feel free to give any constructive criticism”. Do that a few times and mentally compare answers. However people may be too nice to say issues they had with the event to your face, which leads to the second method…
  2. SurveyMonkey: According to Wikipedia, “SurveyMonkey is a private American company that enables users to create their own Web-based surveys”. Its free and is an amazing tool to get honest feedback about your event. However it is important to send the survey out immediately after the event is done while thoughts are fresh in your attendees minds. Also knowing how to properly write a survey helps.

Effective Use of Information

Often when I run surveys through SurveyMonkey, I ask about the following topics; satisfaction with instructors, satisfaction with venues, things they liked, and things they think could be improved. I also make the feedback for instructors and DJs available to them so it just does not not benefit my event, but them as well.

The important thing once you have all your data, take the summary and note recurring themes on the positive and negative side of the spectrum. When you plan your next event, have these notes on hand so you can reinforce what people liked about your last event and organize to prevent mishaps from the previous event.


Event Review: Steven and Virginie in Rochester (Rochacha)

This past weekend Rochacha had for their 13th year their event Steven and Virginie in Rochester. As someone who attended the past year, I may be slightly biased when I say it was awesome and I am still wondering why I left (or didn’t hitch a ride to Montreal instead of Pennsylvania).


The cool thing about the Steven and Virginie in Rochester workshop is the class labeled as “Musicality with Gordon Webster and his Band“. It is an unique opportunity to learn material, then actually practice it to a live band. Especially since this band is fricken Gordon Webster, with Jesse Selengut in the lineup.

While that particular class made the weekend amazing, the other classes taught by Steven and Virginie were nothing to scoff at either. What I liked is each class seemed to offer something to individuals of every level of dancing from the experienced veteran to the green newbie. In particular Virginie was consistently offering styling options to follows, so it didn’t become all about the leads.

The soul dancing class on Friday was also a nice change of pace. I arrived late so I didn’t want to jump in the class, but I watched from the side and picked stuff up. I’m still uncomfortable dancing to Soul music, but it always seems like a big party when its played and everyone has fun.


The Swing and Soul Party on Friday was a blast. To be honest it felt more like a dance party then a typical swing dance, complete with a soul train. Like I said before the music pushed me out of my comfort zone, but in a positive way. It was a great atmosphere to get acquainted with people at the event.

The Saturday dance with Gordon Webster and Friends was a splendid affair. They played a variety of tempos that kept the nimble-footed Balboa dancer to the sensual Blues dancer happy. Unfortunately Steven Mitchell was sick this year, so he didn’t step in for a few songs. But Brianna Thomas, the featured vocalist of the night did a superb job. Her and Gordon closed the house with an encore performance of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”.

Lindy Compound

Probably one of, if not the most infamous late night venues in the United States is the Lindy Compound. The walls are all decorated with references from the jazz era or in one case a framed photo from a recent Lone Star Championship moment.

After most Rochester event’s dance, everyone stops by the nearby Wegmans (similar to Whole Foods if you are unfamiliar with it) and picks up some kind of food or drink for the event before showing up to the late night venue. To the right of the doorway there is a kitchen/dinning room where there is a large variety of food ranging from various types of humus, fruits, cheeses to marshmallows. In the center of the house is a room with danceable floor. On the left side of the house is a lounging area with this custom video game setup that has I think 2000+ games on it ranging from pac-man to street fighter.

Sorry if the description was long but I wanted to try to accurately portray how awesome this late night venue is. To reinforce it, here is an informative list:

Things I Have Witnessed at the Lindy Compound:

  • Two women jousting, outside in the snow, riding piggy-back on two very tall men.
  • Mad Libs, dancer version in which nouns like Wayne Gretsky were used.
  • Canadian women making me feel ashamed of my abilities to consume alcohol.
  • A rap performance.

Here is a video if you still aren’t convinced.

I could go keep going on about this place, but what is special and I think adds immensely to Rochester events is this venue allows people to genuinely socialize and get to know each other well. I would care to bet more so, then most events I attend. It is probably due to this place that half the time I can’t understand my facebook feed due to my poor French abilities.


Rochacha, once again I had a blast.  Even though I will be based out in California next year (instead of a four hour drive away), I am going to fight to make it to my third Steven and Virginie in Rochester.

Youtube: Event Advertisement Medium

Advertisement is one of the biggest factors in running a successful event, whether it is a one time workshop or a weekly venue. One event that has caught my eye is the event Hot Mess, for creatively utilizing youtube in an advertisement campaign.

Hot Mess commercials are below:

For contrast other events such as do make promo reels, as shown below.

How Hot Mess differs though is by creating commercials which entertain people and make them think about the event. Or even ideally talk about it when they are out for the night dancing. This is in contrast to the Camp Hollywood reel which tries to market it based on the impressive flash, fun/high energy atmosphere, and competitive environment.

Just like with any type of promotion the number one thing you want people do is to talk about your event. The folks running Hot Mess out in Philly have figured out a creative way through youtube to do that. Another event in the past that has done this effectively was the College of Swingology that was held in Charlottesville, Virginia. A sample of one of their assortment of videos is shown below:

The College of Swinology which had a college related theme used their videos to besides advertise for the event, reinforce the idea of their theme.

So if you are having an event youtube is a way to creatively appeal to your potential attendees. If you know any great commercials for swing dance events or youtube advertisment ideas, please feel free to comment below.

Wait, It Is Not Done?

The title of this post is the one statement you do not want to be making as an organizer for an event. One of the pitfalls I have seen at workshops/events or at the first few weeks at newer venues is when responsibilities are ambiguously or poorly delegated.

Wait, what?
The expression you do not want to have at your event.

A personal anecdote of mine is, when I was one of the organizers for a workshop at my college. We delegated a volunteer to be the “Volunteer Coordinator”. However until the end of the Friday night welcome dance, we did not know that we did not have any volunteers to take down the equipment. It was a faux pas on us, the organizers behalf because we clearly did not outline what the responsibilities of the “Volunteer Coordinator” were. Luckily one of the organizers and her friends she was hosting was willing to do take down, but it was one additional responsibility for someone who was already in charge of running things that weekend. Below I will list some tips I have, to ensure something like this is less likely to happen for yourself.

Guide to Properly Delegating Responsibilities

  • 1. In writing, clearly outline responsibilities: When writing this, you want to make it reasonably detailed as possible and leave no room for ambiguity. Also ensure that this person and yourself both have a copy of this. That way they do not need to bother you if they forget what to do and you know who is in charge of what tasks. I know some people prefer to do this vocally, however putting it down on paper prevents potential arguments afterwards (especially if someone is volunteering for a comp) and unnecessary distractions to both the organizers and volunteers/workers. [1]
  • 2. The day before the event remind those who have the potential to forget responsibilities: As an organizer this has the benefit of giving yourself a peace of mind that you have double checked every person helping to run the event knows what they are responsible for and act as a reminder for those who may have lost track of what they are in charge of. This is especially in the case of volunteers who often are dealing with travel, finding their host for housing, and other issues besides knowing where they are supposed to stand, and what type of wristbands to check for.

If you have any tips or ideas as an organizer or an attendee of events, please comment below!


[1]: As an organizer, when you have four different things running in your head while you are trying to set up for a dance or classes that morning for a workshop, last thing you do is have a person come up and derail your train of thought with a question of something they should already know about.

The title of this post is the one statement you do not want to be making as an organizer for an event. One of the biggest pitfalls I have seen at workshops/events or at the first few weeks at newer venues is when responsibilities are ambigously delegated.

Wait, what?
The expression you do not want to have at your event.

A personal