Here’s Something I Wish Every Arts Org Conference Had

Inside my file of crazy ideas that will never happen is a page that reads simply “every nonprofit performing arts manager spend one year attending conferences other than those run by the usual service org suspects.”

Adaptistration People 096While there’s no such thing as a perfect conference, there are no shortage of methods and attitudes that are commonplace elsewhere but for a number of reasons, are borderline heresy at usual suspect conferences.

Case in point, an upcoming Smashing Conference (geared toward web developers and designers) if entirely focused on practical techniques and strategies learned during real projects. But here’s the catch, “every session will be highlighting how we all failed on a small or big scale, and what we all can learn from it.”

They even have a preconference #FailNight party.

Not only are most usual suspect conference adverse to open and honest examination of failure, I’ve seen sessions take what was largely known among insiders as a wretched failure and foist that upon unsuspecting attendees as a triumphant success.

Who knows, maybe things will change…

About Drew McManus

"I hear that every time you show up to work with an orchestra, people get fired." Those were the first words out of an executive's mouth after her board chair introduced us. That executive is now a dear colleague and friend but the day that consulting contract began with her orchestra, she was convinced I was a hatchet-man brought in by the board to clean house.

I understand where the trepidation comes from as a great deal of my consulting and technology provider work for arts organizations involves due diligence, separating fact from fiction, interpreting spin, as well as performance review and oversight. So yes, sometimes that work results in one or two individuals "aggressively embracing career change" but far more often than not, it reinforces and clarifies exactly what works and why.

In short, it doesn't matter if you know where all the bodies are buried if you can't keep your own clients out of the ground, and I'm fortunate enough to say that for more than 15 years, I've done exactly that for groups of all budget size from Qatar to Kathmandu.

For fun, I write a daily blog about the orchestra business, provide a platform for arts insiders to speak their mind, keep track of what people in this business get paid, help write a satirical cartoon about orchestra life, hack the arts, and love a good coffee drink.

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