#136–Budgets & old folks require flexibility . . .

 

This past week, I learned again and again that it pays to be flexible, to come up with new ways of doing things, to adapt when things don’t go to plan, to go with the flow, and to enjoy veering away from the script.

FFOB Budget

This past Tuesday was the first meeting of the Florence Festival of Books. Although, the event doesn’t take place until September 27, the committee’s work has begun.

When working on the 2014 budget for the meeting, I quickly discovered, it was going to take some doing. In fact, I did two budgets––one showing no increase in fees and one showing increases.

We had a really good turnout last year of both participants and attendees. But we had some things in our favor that won’t be happening again this year. There was the 2 ½ page story spread (including the whole front page) in the NW Boomer & Senior News and the 11,000 flyers that went out in the Central Lincoln PUD bills as well as two other big events happening the same weekend that brought lots of people to town. And there was a huge storm that drove everybody inside. Can’t tell about Mother Nature, of course, but don’t think we can count on another big storm in September on one particular day.

And now that the FFOB is an official FEC event, it needs to show more profit. I never factored that in before; I just tried to stay within our budget and not lose money. And we know that to keep authors participating, we have to generate crowds of people to come buy their books.

Because of all these factors, I felt we needed more advertising. In talking to an ad rep, I realized just how expensive advertising can be. I was advised to double our fees but knew that would never pass the committee.

What to do? Our only income sources are sponsorships and table fees for participants. So I spent most of a whole day working out various configurations. I finally came up with a grand compromise that raised the rates and sponsorships enough to allow for additional advertising.

Here is the FFOB Planning Committee: Connie Bradley, Shelley Taylor, Maire Testa, Meg Spenser, Kevin Rhodes, Ellen Traylor, and me.

Here is the FFOB Planning Committee( from left to right): Connie Bradley, Shelley Taylor, Maire Testa, Meg Spenser, Kevin Rhodes, Ellen Traylor, and me.

At our meeting, I gave a very impassioned plea as to why we needed to make these increases before passing out the budgets. After much discussion, one committee member came up with a brilliant suggestion regarding the sponsorships that everyone approved, but most of the members wanted to have until the next meeting in May to consider the fee increases. I had hoped to get it decided at this meeting, because it puts the brakes on nearly everything until we do. But the budget isn’t mine, it’s the responsibility of the whole committee and these are major decisions. I went with the flow.

PowerPoint & Old Folks

Then on Wednesday, I had two PowerPoint presentations scheduled about my bridge books and Oregon’s coastal bridges––one in Springfield in the morning and one in Eugene in the afternoon. Both were at assisted living facilities, and once again I learned to be flexible.

It has been months since I had given a presentation. And this new one I had only given twice before. So I spent a whole day working on it. I went through and made numerous changes both in the text and the photos before practicing and timing it a couple of times. When I felt ready, I got everything in place by the door: the projector, laptop, props, big bridge chart, flyers, business cards, and the printed text as well as Google maps. Boxes of books were already in the car.

On trips to the Eugene area, I often get lost if I veer off my usual routes. I worry as much about that as the presentations. So I got the Google maps ready before I even worked on anything else.

The day of the event, I got away about 10 minutes late, lost about 15 more minutes because of work stoppages on Hwy 126, and when I got there, I lost another five minutes trying to find the right building. So instead of getting there an hour early to set up and be able to greet people as they come in, I was arriving with only a half hour to set up.

My first clue that things might not go smoothly was when the person I expected to help greeted me and dashed off to drive a bus because the driver hadn’t shown up. She did point me in the direction of the TV room upstairs for the event. I borrowed a couple of staff workers and they helped me get my stuff upstairs and then helped me rearrange all the furniture in the room before getting back to their own work. The big heavy upholstered chairs had to be turned to face a different wall. The TV and a large window filled the whole wall that the chairs had been facing. I was also glad I’d brought my plug-in bar for my projector and laptop cords and my heavy-duty extension cord.

I worked like a demon and got everything set up just in time. In walked two sweet ladies. One had a large decorative butterfly on her head and the other had something strange sticking out of her ear. Upon closer inspection, I found her hearing aid in upside down. She was quite stressed about it. I seated her so that her other ear with the hearing aid right-side up was closest to me. I waited a bit, but these two were apparently all who were coming. After I began the presentation, a third lady showed up.

Butterfly lady was totally enchanted with the Siuslaw River Bridge, which is also my favorite.

Butterfly lady was totally enchanted with the Siuslaw River Bridge, which is also my favorite.Photo by Bob Serra.

It was very cozy. I didn’t even stick to my script. I just talked as each photo came up and didn’t worry about the time. These three gals got more than most people get and the opportunity to ask endless questions. I didn’t sell a single book. But we all had a good time.

After packing up, and loading everything back into my car, I headed to Eugene. In spite of my Google maps, I still got lost around Prairie Road and Hwy 99. I’m not sure how I found my next destination but I did. And I was early enough to eat my packed lunch. Good thing, because I ended up being by the kitchen where great baking smells emanated.

The problem at this residential center was not that I was tucked upstairs in a not so prominent room, but that I was not separated in any way from lots of activity. I was in one end of a huge dining area alongside the door to the kitchen with a walkway going by between me and my screen. And the screen was a white sheet tacked to the wall. It worked fine until someone walked by. Then it billowed.

Lunch had just ended and the staff, made up of young folks, was cleaning up. They were used to shouting across the dining area to each other and my being there didn’t change their routine. I started my program to the accompaniment of their shouts as well as the clatter of dishes and silverware being cleared. I was relieved when they finished. But that was short-lived. Within a couple minutes, they were back, setting up each table for dinner.

Between the workers, the passersby, and the nearby lobby with people chatting and coming and going, it’s a wonder that my audience heard me or paid any attention at all. There was no microphone, so I used my loudest voice and projected it as much as I could. I began with a group of eight that grew to about 20.

I learned that having a PowerPoint is a good thing at an assisted living facility, because those that can’t hear have at least something to look at. One lady who came in the middle sat down and asked the person next to her something and she said in a loud voice, “I don’t know. I can’t hear a damn thing!”

Whether they could hear or not, they were attentive; only two nodded off briefly. And after awhile even the talkative staff quieted and started listening. There were marvelous questions during the presentation. I veered away from my script again and again and didn’t worry about the time. The group stayed with me. Afterwards, I met some really interesting people.

One woman grew up in Tillamook and drove a milk truck in the early 1940s to the Tillamook Cheese Factory. These memories were triggered when I showed a photo of the Wilson River Bridge in Tillamook on Hwy 101, which she drove through on each trip to the factory. Others had memories related to some of the other bridges. The photos generated lots of good conversation, and I even sold a couple of books. So I felt it was a success.

You just never know how things are going to turn out. It pays to be flexible whether dealing with budgets or old people.

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About crossingsauthor

Freelance writer/editor and author of Crossings: McCullough's Coastal Bridges, The Crossings Guide to Oregon's Coastal Spans, and Around Florence. Spent 22 years teaching 1st and 2nd grades and 21 years as editor/staff writer with Oregon Coast and Northwest Travel magazines.
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