If you know a bit about chess, you might have noticed that the chess piece pictured above is not really the king but a pawn. The cliché that customers are kings is simply not the best business model for many endeavors, and certainly not good for tango events.
Tango organizers have many important social relationships, and many people to please--not just dance customers who may see themselves as all-important. Organizers have to have good relationships with volunteers, paid staff, DJs, the building owner, neighbors, and perhaps even the city.
The organizer, just like us pawns with crowns, can only move one space at a time. However in chess, the king must move only one space at a time but in all directions. Those eight directions for the king are the relationships surrounding the organizer.
What kind of king do you have at the event you go to? An autocrat? Won't listen? Or are your favorite events run by someone who listens to sound counsel, as all good leaders do? Are they active or passive?
There's a"dance" of organizers with customers
My hat is off to tango event organizers. They most often are doing what they do because they have certain organizational skills, love people, and love the dance. How do we, as customers/dancer follow their lead? Well, not very well if they are not good leaders. In Buenos Aires and any well-organized milonga, organizers are checking on customers, DJs, volunteers/staff with an active oversight and supervision of how things are going. They are navigating how things should go--especially on the dance floor--and keeping things on course. Customers want to feel safe and at home, and that takes good leadership. Are we following a good lead? Do we stop going to an event without even seeing if the organizer will listen to our concerns when things are not going well?
This is what I notice of events that are truly well organized--
Organizers create a sense of the feeling of home, taking care of these six basic needs:
- Temperature: Is it too hot or cold? As simple as this may seem, every customer has a different "need." But men can take on jackets if they are too cold. Women should not have to look like Eskimos so that men can wear T-shirts. I suggest temperature changes only when I see women who are obviously too cold (usually at overly airconditioned US milongas).
- Water: I immediately look for hydration. I get cramps if I don't drink a lot. Can I hydrate easily and at a reasonable price (or for free)? My favorite ongoing milonga is Flores in Mannheim, Germany. They have free water, and a nice bar if you want other drinks.
- Food: The best milongas have either some basic goodies out or a bar that serves food for a reasonable price. That's what hosts do. An early milonga after work, perhaps on Friday, needs something to eat. A wise organizer charges extra if people will be coming hungry, which is better than not being aware of basic needs as a host. Christian in Regensburg is especially keen on having hosting a milonga with finger food.
- Safety (Traffic control): Wise organizers know dance etiquette (los codigos) and redirect rouge and dangerous dancers. Also, wise organizers create a good traffic flow by having at least four entry points to the dance floor. Milonga traffic control causes less frustration and is where organizers can shine. Customers who think of themselves as king of the dance floor are usually the very people who need to be sent home, as is done in Buenos Aires.
- Sleep: Paying attention to sleep is a wise business decision. Starting earlier allows people to travel to your milonga from farther away without reserving a hotel. Organizers who advertise well in advance that the milonga starts earlier and ends earlier are astonished by how their attendance goes up. Also, more organizers are paying attention to a general public understanding of good sleep discipline and the circadian rhythm. Presently, I simply do not go to late events. I state my preference and have helped enact huge changes in some cities. I believe if organizers would only attempt earlier times, they would see an increase in business. But change is hard for some, or even impossible because of the building contract.
- The need to communicate: This basic need is a bit more complicated than one might think. It has three parts: The ability to hear at a milonga, the ability to listen by being silent, and the ability to speak.
> Hearing: Could you imagine if the organizer had a single small speaker at an event and you couldn't hear well? Now, imagine being deaf as a permanent condition because of going deaf early from micro-damage from multiple events with loud music? Unfortunately, nearly every organizer I know is not taking charge of protecting the hearing of his or her customers. A good organizer has an app that monitors decibels and requires that DJs do the same. Constantly being over 100 decibels is harmful to hearing. Because of passive organizers, I often wear earplugs made for DJs, but of course, I wear them because of DJs! We shouldn't have to.
> Listening/being silent: Communicating social etiquette throughout life sometimes means remaining silent more than 50% of the time in order to listen before responding. The listening/silence percentage could be as much as 95% at a milonga because we are mostly listening to the orchestra--or so one would think.
> Speaking: In tango, we request and accept dances without talking; we don't talk while dancing; empathetic guests don't talk while standing next to the dance floor (and organizers watch for this and redirect people conversing while standing next to the dancefloor). Is your favorite organizer actively taking care of this part of a milonga's ambiance?
Organizers are amazing people. They need your support by being fair and diplomatic about what would make their milonga or event better. But if you do not speak up and give good counsel to your organizers, then their precious event may slowly die out. They need our help.
Please add other ideas in the comments or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have trouble making a comment.
Photo credit: Great photo of chess board. Please read the excellent article, challenging "the customer is king" myth."