Whose rules are you following?
Who makes the rules?
Are you a rule breaker, a rule maker, or a rule shaker?
Some things in life are soothing. One of them is following the rules. The traditions. The way we do things.
Rules: The Back Story Upfront
I was living in France and invited to a friend’s weekend home. It was spring and the weather was gorgeous. My friend had loads of visitors and family there. When I arrived, everyone was gathered outside and they all beamed at me when I walked up. It was so strange – I didn’t know anyone but the host and his family. Everyone stared at me expectantly and I was unsettled… then he introduced me “This is Jan, she’s from America. Jan teaches us how to play the baseball!“
Panic–if you know me at all you know that I don’t know anything about sports. All I knew about baseball was that there’s a bat, a ball, and a glove, and the ball fits in the glove. I said as much. They were relentless. They said, “We need your help! We are sure you have a better idea of how to play than we do!“ I looked around and saw that they had placed three bases and a home plate. They had a glove, a bat, and a ball.
What could I do? I split them up into two teams, had somebody pitch, somebody bat, and somebody catch. I told them to run if they hit the ball, and if they got tagged they were out. We had a blast and we all won.
Events and Rules
Rules: when to break ‘em, when to make ‘em, and when to shake ‘em.
Rule-following, -breaking, and -shaking happens in the world of events because there is ALWAYS something unexpected that happens. Frequently, it’s the rules that change. Maybe somebody didn’t tell us their rules. Maybe they mis-told us the rules. It could be that they simply didn’t know which rules to tell us.
Planners, entertainment companies, venues, caterers, AV companies, DJs, and designers all have their own ways of doing things. Do they have hard and fast rules? Sometimes. WHY do they have those rules? To prevent a log-jam for the service elevator? To make sure their equipment stays safe and ON site?
How Other People Do It
It doesn’t always matter how everybody else does things. Take a moment and try something new. I am happy to say that I’ve learned to improvise with the best of them. For example, your structure starts ‘blowing in the wind.’ Amazing how many different solutions you’ll find….
Some rules are really important. For example, the load-carrying capacity of a beam is indisputably important. The amperage that a circuit can carry is of paramount importance. The order of a ritual might be important for some people and it might be open to discussion for others. If you don’t ask you’ll never know. Even though I wouldn’t put acrobats’ lives in danger by using a beam that is structurally inappropriate and I wouldn’t overload a circuit, I would rewrite the rules of The Baseball.
The Low-Down on Rules
Sometimes we don’t know what the rules are or that there are rules. Sometimes we have to improvise. Probably more often than we think. When you don’t know what the rules are, you have a couple of choices:
1. Look around and see what everyone else is doing.
2. Pretend you know what you’re doing.
3. Admit you don’t know the rules, and ask for guidance.
How do you decide which choice you should make?
- Will you potentially hurt anybody or anything? (Is it safe?)
- How important is it?
- How quickly do you have to react?
Here are your three basic choices:
- Terrified, you leap into action, make the wrong decision, and are scarred for life.
- You take a deep breath, do a relatively good job, size up what you could do better, and note it. Everybody is thrilled with the results.
- Jump in, accidentally break the rules but save the day. Then realize it wasn’t so bad after all (actually pretty cool!) and you’ve figured out a better way to do things!
Use those moments where everything has been turned upside down, equipment breaks down, venue operator doesn’t arrive on time, the bride’s dog gets into the cake—whatever it is, you’ll be amazed at what you learn when you make up the rules. Play Ball!