Learning how to take L’s…even when you don’t want to [A diary entry]

Dear diary,

In all my years of existence have been spent running away from “the feeling”.

You know that feeling? The one you think you’ll get when you invite everyone to celebrate your birthday, and after all the invitations, all the reminders, all the excitement – no one comes.

It’s just me, my mum (with her digital camera, for memories), and an untouched birthday cake in a desperately empty venue.

Last week, I felt that feeling. And not even mum bothered to attend.

This is what happened…

We (Tamika, Nina and me) were asked to come up with an event for B+A. Kind of “B+A Live”. So we thought up a bookclub. A bookclub that would smack all other bookclubs out of the park.

We called it Ghostwriters’ Society.

We thought, “hey, this is really gonna bang”. And, dear diary, our first event really did bang,  We did it in December. Loads of people came, discussed ideas, made new and cool stuff, and left feeling enriched. We left thinking:

“Yeah, that really banged!”.

“Let’s make it better next time!”.

“It will probably bang next time too!”

But it didn’t.

Maybe it was a firework, and you get one pop only?

We thought we did the same things. We invited people, secured a venue, designed a really ‘enriching experience’ for our guests. But on the day – one we won’t forget – no one came.

When I say no one, I don’t mean two or three people came. I mean no one came. Just us, three poor souls sitting at a table. Anticipating. Feeling sorry for ourselves. That said, it was probably better than one person coming. Now that really would have been awkward…

In short, diary dearest, we messed up.

Now I’ve wiped my tears of pain (which we all disguised as tears of laughter) I’ve had a chance to talk it over. We asked ourselves: “what went wrong?”

Transmission is nothing. Reception is everything. 
Here at B+A we have a saying: “Transmission is nothing. Reception is everything”. It’s shorthand for concentrating on effective communication. It’s easy to transmit a message, but pointless if either it’s misinterpreted or worse, if no one receives it. In preparing for Ghostwriters’ that night we forgot that golden rule.

Plan backwards & Explain the ‘Why’
What we got wrong was simple, basic stuff (but truth be told, like a lot of great learning, we had to get it wrong and learn it first hand. In the immortal words of the Maytones “Who Can’t Hear Must Feel”).

  1. We left everything to the last minute. We planned toward the event, instead of planning from it. Any actor, musician, dancer, or space-probe mission controller will tell you that you count down to an event from the date when you start your planning. To plan towards the event risks things not happening, or things happening late. We were guilty of both.
  2. Perhaps more importantly, we never really explained why our bookclub will smack other bookclubs out of the park.

London is chock full of events. Every single night. So why did we think that ours was so special? Well our bookclub isn’t really about the book, it is about the ideas that surround it. We thought, and still think, that’s attractive. Compelling even. As a matter a fact, the less you know about the subject matter of the book, the more juicy our bookclub will be. You don’t even need to read the book to join Ghostwriters’ Society! People pulled out of the event last minute, out of guilt for not reading the book on time; and we were just like “noooooooooooooo you missed the pooooiiiiiinnnnnnttttttttttt”.

But still, how could they even get the point, if we never made the point clear?

This is our point:

“We are a bookclub that doesn’t require you read the book to enjoy it. We’ve done the time consuming business for you, and have packaged the main themes of the book into an hour-long interactive session for you and a handful of other geniuses.”

…We should have just said that, init?

Ah well, dear diary. You live and you learn. Next time we’ll shout it from the rooftops. And earlier. And more often.

So now I know what it’s like to have no one at my party. Alongside Tamika and Nina, I took the L. I experienced the thing I’d avoided all my life and you know what? It didn’t kill me. Bruised ego aside, I’m fine and maybe even I’m stronger. Now, with Nina and Tamika, I think I’ve got some more learning under my belt that’s going to help make sure we know what it’s like to have everyone at our party! Yass!

The next Ghostwriters’ is going to be bigger, better, and better attended than the last one. Well, it sure as heck couldn’t be worse…

Will I ever be part of producing a flop event again? Hand on heart – I’m sure I will. You don’t risk, you don’t learn. But if you don’t learn from the risks you take, you’ll never progress.

So, thank you for always listening, dear diary. Here’s to learning, to progress and to Ghostwriters rising again from the (un)dead.

Drink Water, Stay Woke,

Andre