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Failure: You Can Plan on It!

March 18, 2019
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Failure: You Can Plan on It!

Failure happens. But, as Neil Gaiman says “If you’re making mistakes, it means you’re out there doing something.” 

Failure happens. But, as Neil Gaiman says “If you’re making mistakes, it means you’re out there doing something.” 

We were out there doing something. We were hard at work planning our Boomers and Beyond: Aging Well on the Peninsula program series. We had been talking about Boomers boomers BOOMERS BoOmMeRs until we were blue in the face. We had our offsite locations lined up, and we had phenomenal partners coordinating with us. What could go wrong? 

Ah ... let us count the ways.

The good, the bad, the jackhammers going off when it’s time for yoga

In our last blog post, we left off saying that if you have that nagging feeling you may have forgotten something, listen to it. Well, with the frenzy of working with 14 partners and coordinating 35 programs over 9 months we may sometimes have forgotten to keep in close touch with some of our partners after our initial agreement that X program would happen at Y location on Z date. We advertised, wrote reports, spread the word to the community. We just forgot to follow up with some of our partners until maybe the day before an event.

Again: It happens.

Most of the time things worked out totally fine; one time we were even pleasantly surprised to be greeted with fresh baked cookies. (Absolute score.) Another time we wrote an email the day before a program just saying, “Hey! Looking forward to seeing you tomorrow at Z for X program!” and found out that oops, by the way, there is extensive construction going on in the parking lot. We got to the site to set up and jackhammers were pounding away outside the room we were to hold yoga in.

If you just gasped a little, that’s totally normal — so did we. Luckily the day was not lost. We spoke to the construction crew and they agreed to halt work for an hour to let our class take place (and let them have lunch), but you better believe once the clock struck the top of the hour, those jackhammers were back on.

Lessons learned — always keep in constant contact with your program partner, clearly outline expectations, and be ready to roll with the punches.

It was a good idea ... in theory

Our cooking programs are usually door-busters, but we had one with very low attendance. We met an older couple outside the room where it was being held and asked if they were joining us. “Why in the world would I want to go to a HEALTHY cooking class?!” one of them said. We laughed, but the next time we held the program we changed the name from “Health Cooking Demo” to “California Fresh Cooking” and got more attendees!

We also scheduled a Feldenkrais class that had great attendance (some people told us they came because they wanted to know what the heck Feldenkrais was) but our instructor forgot to come! We took names and phone numbers and rescheduled and re-invited people to that one, and it was well attended.

Sometimes crazy, chaotic things happen during your programs. Sometimes the opposite happens, and you find yourself standing in a silent, near-empty room with just one program attendees. Yes, you might want to crawl into a hole to never come out, but take comfort in knowing it’s happened to all of us.

Some of our Boomers and Beyond programs were stellar, well-attended and everybody loved them, proving us to be programming geniuses. Others left us wanting to crawl back under the covers, never to host a program again. You may never figure out why these things happen, and it can be especially frustrating when you are responding directly to a community request or when you know this is something valuable that would really benefit your community.

Our advice: Get back on the horse

So, what can you do about it? Take it in, dust yourself off, and if your supervisor agrees ... try again. But first, learn from your mistakes.

  • Do you need to tweak the focus of the program just a bit? Is it “Cooking for One” or “Cooking for Fun?”
  • Was it the title? When we offered a fun, harvest-friendly cooking demo and tasting, we lamely named it ”Healthy Cooking.” In retrospect, we could have done better.
  • Was it the timing or location of the program? If your program is too early, good luck getting everyone out of bed for it on a Saturday morning. If it’s too late, you might be right up against dinner time, and if parking options aren’t great or there isn’t a bus stop close by, that can be a real show-stopper.
  • Did you forget an essential advertising piece? Our seniors really use the calendar of events in our local paper. When we’d forgotten to submit our programs, we definitely saw a dip in attendance.
  • Talk to patrons who come to similar programs and ask why they didn’t attend that one. This is one way to start figuring out why that particular program didn’t fly.

Currently, we are taking our own advice with a Chair Yoga program. Last year the turnout wasn’t what we had hoped for, but this time we changed some things based on feedback we got from patrons, such as the frequency and location of the event. So far the response has been phenomenal.

There’s no guarantee Chair Yoga will be well attended, but our fingers are crossed and we’ve done all we can to make it successful, so here’s hoping!

Next time we’ll talk about location, location, location!

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