There was a time when as a Stepper you could look forward to a select few major weekend events (MWE)’s taking place around the country. I remember as a newbie stepper there were just a few annual sets such as the January set “Steppin’ For A Dream” in Los Angeles, the Memorial Weekend Set hosted by the Majestic Gents of Chicago and the Labor Day Weekend Black and White set in Atlanta. The success of these sets, in terms of their ability to showcase the dance and provide opportunities for others to be exposed to it and learn it, spawned a growth in the dance that was only outmatched in its efforts by the R&B performer and Chicago native R. Kelly, whose song “Step In The Name of Love” provided the platform for both national and international exposure to Steppin’. This newfound exposure to the dance seemed to arrive as a blessing to some and a curse to others.
Before the explosion in exposure to the art form, the prevalence of Steppin’ was initially limited to the Chicago area and a few other cities where some of Chicago’s best instructor’s conducted workshops, emceed or participated in small weekend events. After the explosion in exposure more and more cities became interested in the dance and individuals and organizations in cities across the country began soliciting the skill sets and input of more prominent instructors. These instructors were typically winners and/or participants in Chicago’s annual “World’s Largest Stepper’s Contest” and the demand for their knowledge and expertise skyrocketed. Their presence was requested in cities all across the country practically year round.
As the level of expertise and quality of instruction improved in many cities however, the demand for additional instruction outside of their respective cities diminished. Over time, there were not only more competent teachers/instructors in cities at the local level, these same cities began looking for alternatives to travel and the expenses incurred for attending out of town weekend events. They began hosting their own events, giving them a more region-specific, local flavor. Steppin’ organizations began sprouting up in major metropolitan cities across America and the competition for the out-of-town stepper’s patronage increased significantly.
Obviously, one can only be in one place at a time. And considering the fact that a weekend of Steppin’ indulgence can costs anywhere from a couple hundred dollars to a couple of thousand, as a responsible stepper you want to attend the weekend events that maximize the return on your investment. As an urban dancer of more than 40 years, I have hosted events since 1996 and have been a patron of Steppin’ MWE’s for the past eight years. I’ve spent a considerable amount of time and a great deal of money attending events outside of my hometown. Some of the MWE’s I’ve attended have been memorable, and there are a few I’d like to forget.
Listed below are ten attributes I believe a good host organization should have to make them worthy of receiving your MWE investment dollar. These attributes should be considered in their totality, and one attribute does not take priority over another. A good MWE host organization knows how to merge the elements of these attributes to create a unique MWE “experience” for its patrons. Again, the operative word throughout this discussion of these attributes is the patron’s “experience”.
1. They greet you upon your arrival, creating a mood of excitement and anticipation.
This is probably the attribute that impresses me the most, in part because I’ve done it and realize how effective it is, but more importantly, I’ve experienced the feeling of sincere appreciation when it has been done to me. When you’re greeted by the host of the event – and they can’t do this for everyone all day long – they are telling you how important YOU are to the success of the event, and they are telling you that as an organization, customer service is a number one priority.
2. They provide a great dance event venue and hotel accommodations.
There is nothing more inconsiderate than having patrons support an event and the venue isn’t clean or the environment where the event is hosted is unsafe. Uneven dance floors, visible screws, uneven partitions and non-beveled unfinished edges are not only undesirable for dancing, they pose a serious health hazard (I’ve removed heel parts from the floor while dancing at some events!!). Hotel accommodations for the event should be as close to the venue as physically possible, facilitating ease of movement from hotel to venue and vice versa. If the hosts have done their due diligence, you should expect a discounted rate for a room that was reserved with a block of rooms.
3. They consider the total needs of all the guests.
Great hosts know that when patrons attend out-of-town events they like to experience the local flavor of the city, shop (especially the ladies), dine and relax. A good host will make sure you know where the malls are, where the best dining facilities are and they will make sure that the hotel and venue for the event are positioned such that you’re in close proximity to everything you need to make your visit an enjoyable one.
4. They sincerely thank you for coming.
This attribute cannot be overstated. Although similar in nature to point #1, the difference here is that the host will let you know that they appreciate you attending their event because they know you have options. They’ll welcome you as you enter the dance venue and thank you for your patronage. They make you feel like a guest instead of someone they need to move along in a “process”, and they make every patron feel important. When they look you in your eyes, or give you that warm embrace with a look of appreciation and excitement in their faces – because you’re there – as a patron you feel appreciated and you’ll always come back!
5. They immediately rectify unfortunate situations.
Let’s face it…as long as we’re human we know that if something can go wrong it will. Great hosts understand this and are able to rectify a bad situation immediately. They go to great lengths to make a wrong right and they don’t let up until you’re completely satisfied with the outcome. They don’t settle the matter with a simple apology, they back up that apology with a plan of action that ensures that both parties walk away from the experience completely satisfied with the outcome.
6. They have a commitment to service excellence.
What I mean here is that every detail of the organization’s presentation for the event – from their website (if they have one), to email updates to flyers – is presented creatively, tastefully and professionally, all with you the patron in mind. Perception is everything. If the organization puts little into the presentation and packaging of an event, and leaves much to be desired in the way of communicating regarding the event, you shouldn’t expect much in the way of exceptional service, or anything else for that matter.
7. They are clear in both their explanation and delivery of what you can expect.
From a service standpoint you know exactly what you’ll be getting and the delivery of the service is executed flawlessly, on time and without fail. You get exactly what the host promises, and oftentimes they’ll go beyond your expectations.
8. They provide the best musical experience possible.
In my opinion, it is here where most organizations miss the mark and it is, by far, the most important aspect of any MWE. As patrons we’re showing up to dance. It is the very reason we’re there. If the music isn’t enjoyable, there’s no way the event is a success, period. I have attended events where the musical host has kept me on the floor because they’re experts at creating a mood – finding that right blend of music to suit the environment and holding it – and there is nothing in the world like being in those moments, nothing! On the other hand, when the music is bland or the DJ is simply playing songs because they seem to mix well – but it sounds like “gym shoes in the dryer” (to quote a friend) – you may as well go back to your hotel room and play your own music.
9. They provide top-notch workshop instructors.
Good hosts understand the adage that “all good dancers are not good instructors” and that winning a contest doesn’t necessarily make one a great prospect for hosting a workshop. When the “brand” of the host is on the line and the delivery of excellent customer service is paramount, you should expect the workshop instructors to be as focused on the patron’s need for a positive instructional “experience” as much as the hosts are. You should expect the workshop instructors to be competent, caring and customer focused, providing a level of instruction that gives the participant real tools they can use immediately to enhance their style or become just a little more proficient.
10. They leave you wanting, looking forward to their next event.
If the host has taken care of points 1 thru 9, there’s no reason not to expect a patron to return to the event that took the customer experience to another level. Patrons can’t afford to show up at an event just because an organization is hosting it, a patron most be strongly compelled to return. I can’t speak for anyone else, but I rarely attend events because “everyone is going to be there”. First of all, I don’t know who everyone is, and secondly, just because everyone else is coming doesn’t make the case for the customer experience I’ll have once I show up. My interest in in how the hosts connect the dots…how they ensure that the patron’s overall experience is a positive one and how they ensure that the patrons keep coming back if the event is an annual one. If I’ve attended an event and the hosts have done an exceptional job of points 1 thru 9, chances are I’ll be coming back and you should too!
These are attributes that I believe great hosting organizations have to ensure that their patrons have the best weekend experience possible, thereby maximizing the return on their investment dollar. As always, I’m sure I’ve missed a few and that you can come up with your own list of attributes. Feel free to share the attributes you think good hosts should have to make a weekend event memorable. Leave a comment below and if it’s a good one, I’ll give you a shout-out and add it to the list!