Why do people say that there is nothing to do here, so do not come to our concerts?

Spectators discussing and enjoying the evening in downtown Webster City, Iowa.

The music in the park in downtown Webster City, Iowa, has involved many urban dwellers in planning and reading, and many people have come forward to listen. Photo by Deb Brown

Let's look at the story of two concerts in a small town.

Concert 1: We did all the work, just be present!

One of them has occurred in a farm holiday business. They brought two professional musicians for performances on the farm. The musicians were quite well known, with some previous exposure to TV shows you've heard of. But the turnout was not that great, and a friend of the owner pointed out the puzzle on Facebook:

People do not stop saying that there is nothing to do in this city, but when we put something special, they do not reveal themselves.

I'm sure you have also encountered this problem. You work hard on events and things to do, so only a small crowd shows up. It's frustrating!

Concert 2: Let's build it together!

The second concert took place in another city. Mike, a young man of about 25 years old, entered the chamber of commerce and spoke with the director. He wanted to have more live music in town. Could she do it? No, she said, but he could. With some encouragement, Mike chose one night and then the room manager helped him get permission to use the park. Then Mike went out and gathered his crowd. He found local musicians playing in an open microphone environment. He talked to all his friends. They spread the word, so more people have heard about it. Then those other people also spread the word. When the concert was held, a lot of people came. Many people just listened, some played and everyone was entertained.

What is different? The first concert is what I could call the approach of television. It's the old way. Some people in power create an official concert. They decide for everyone about the concert, with a focus on the big names (relatively speaking), then if there are not many people, it's a failure.

That's how we organize almost all of our events in small towns, do not we? We decide on a formal event. Committees sit on a few people who are able to make all the decisions. Then we announce the finished event to everyone. The role of all other members of the committee is to be the audience.

The second concert was more like an event on YouTube. This is the ideal way for ideas. A person started with his goal and then informally involved many other people. It was probably chaotic. Their process was open and public. There was a crowd of people involved. In fact, they created the event together. The focus was on the small participation of many people. If there was a small crowd, it was OK. If it was a big crowd, it was good too.

There was not "create the event, and then announce it." He went the other way, "Announce the event, then create it together."

If you design the event then announce it, my only choice is to participate in it or not. Probably not.

If you advertise the idea and invite us to design it together, I can decide whether to assist or not, to promote, to invite other people, to contribute, to participate, to suggest a new idea or create a brand new flap of the event. And off this list, I could just find a way to participate.

It will be chaotic. You will not be in control. But you do not do events because you need something to control. You make events to build a community.

Can you still do events in the old days, where are you in control? Of course. But we have enough people doing things the old way. You are different. It's up to you to show how to do things like ideas.

Control is not the goal. The community is the goal.

Deb Brown and I share other ideas like this in our latest webinar at SaveYour.Town, Finding More Volunteers. The video is available on request from Monday, October 15, 2018 and is only available for two weeks. If you register now, you will also be able to participate in the live Q & A session of October 22nd. Your questions, stories and examples will be welcome in your city.

About Becky McCray

Becky launched Small Biz Survival in 2006 to share stories and ideas of building businesses and rural communities with other small businessmen. She and her husband own an Alva, Oklahoma liquor store and a small ranch nearby. Becky is an international speaker on small business.

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