Organizing Free Events

Spin Matsuri has been hosting hoop jams and other (mainly free) hooping get togethers since 2009. Here are some things I’ve learned and suggestions for making your free event successful.

  1. Research your venue. Usually I hold our jams in parks or at the beach. Outdoor venues are usually free, which fits the budget.  But not all parks allow music, others are fussy about where you can play (only on the grass, only in the playground, etc), some don’t like signs. Make sure you scope out the place where you want to hoop. Know where to find the nearest toilets, vending machine, water fountain or convenience store because people will ask you about them.
  2. Consider a theme. If you are holding a regularly scheduled event, an occasional theme added to the mix can be a lot of fun and provide a boost to attendance. We’ve enjoyed Hawaiian hooping, mini-lessons, a video shoot, and World Hoop Day dance practices. If you are holding your event on a holiday, consider using that as a base for your theme.
  3. Get the word out. Let people know when and where you’ll be. Word of mouth is great but folks forget. Whether you use your favorite social network, e-mail or flyers, give everyone a way to get the details, including a map.
  4. Arrive early. If you’ve advertised a 2 pm hoop jam, aim to get there at 1:30. Give yourself time to get the space ready. Set up your music, unbundle your hoops, layout your picnic gear. Start hooping so people can find you.
  5. Bring supplies. Music and hoops, for sure. Maybe snacks and drinks to share and a picnic blanket. And don’t forget your personal provisions – sunscreen, a hat, whatever else you need to make your day pleasant.
  6. Hoist the flag. Hoops will make the group stand out, but you may want to have another form of identification – a sign, a flag, a hoop display.
  7. To disclaim or not? In the US, lots of organizers are concerned with liability and have participants sign waivers or disclaimers. In Japan this hasn’t been much of a concern for us. What you decide to do on this front is up to you.
  8. Signups and name tags. Although I generally don’t bother asking people to sign in and wear name tags, one of the local poi gatherings does and they have a simple and elegant system. The organiser has a clipboard, a roll of duct tape and a Sharpie marker. When people arrive, he gets them to sign in and write their own name tag to stick on the body part of their choice. 
  9. Promote your other events. Make sure you have a take-away with information about other events you’re holding. It doesn’t matter whether it is a business card with your URL or a flyer with the upcoming dates as long as there is something to hand out to interested people. 
  10. Encourage onlookers. Spread the hoop love by encouraging onlookers. Those people standing on the fringes of the group or who stopped to watch a while – they secretly want to play with you. Give them a chance to try the hoop. I usually grab a bunch of hoops, catch an eye and run over to hand hoops to people. They may demure, but once they touch the hoop, they usually spin it, too. And some people return for future hoop jams.
  11. Have hoops for sale. Set aside one or two hoops for sale. Mark them with tags and signs so they don’t get used in the regular jam. You won’t sell a hoop every time, but there will be a few people over the course of a year who are interested enough to buy a hoop on the spot.
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