Friday, March 8, 2013

How to Host a Crop

In the world of scrapbook crops, the people attending are made of two separate, but equally important groups, the attendees and the hostess. This is their story. ( Cue the Law and Order theme music)

Last weekend I did what I would have considered unthinkable about two months ago. I opened my home to people and hosted my first scrapbook crop. Up until now, the only crops I ever hosted were at the library. That seemed like a piece of cake. Book the room, set up when the library opens and start cleaning up 45 minutes before the library closed. They had the tables, the chairs and the announcement on their calendar. All I had to do was show up with my bags. It was a pretty easy gig. But then something happened. All of a sudden, no one was showing up. People were RSVPing yes but not coming. After a few crops with zero turn out, the library said we couldn’t book the room anymore. So it was moved to the local scrapbook store. But even that one was getting a low turnout. It seemed our scrapbook group was dying a slow death. Even the activity at was down.

That is until it came time to pay the 6 month dues again. All of a sudden I was receiving emails from stating we were going to be dismantled unless someone stepped up. Every time I received one of those emails, I just opened it and shook my head. I would glance at the email, shake my head and say “that’s a shame.” And then hours before we were going to be shut down, my brain lost control of my hand and before I knew it, I paid the dues and was assigned as organizer. It was at that point I panicked. What the heck did I do that for? What was I thinking? Why would I pay to keep a group going when the group had no where to meet and I did not know how to look for a place?

If I wanted to get my money’s worth for the dues, I would have to host a crop…somewhere. Prior to this moment, I never considered having a crop in my home. I had tons of excuses for not inviting people over. My home was not ready for public viewing. The walls were not painted the “right” color. The blinds in the living room were ratty and the curtains were non existent. The carpet needed to be removed and replaced with hardwood in the bedrooms and hallway. The walls were naked and lacked frames or some sort of decor. My kitchen longed for stainless steel and granite countertops. No, I had to protect her. I couldn't let her be seen like this. She wasn't ready.

But, in my eyes, she will never be ready. And I had to face the reality that if I didn’t want that due money to go to waste, then I had to invite people into my home. Hopefully I can share some ideas here that will help you with your crop.

First thing is to relax. You are hosting a crop and not on a Home Tour. People are coming to scrap and not to get decor tips. When it comes to your home and the state that it is in right now, just make sure it is clean. Well make sure the the areas you will be using are clean. (My bedroom was a disaster during my crop. I shoved everything that didn't belong at the crop into my room.) Don't buy new curtains, bathroom accessories or any home decor items for that matter. Trust me, once you set up for the crop, all of the little things you bought are just background noise and won't take center stage at the crop. So , if you have the room in your home to host a crop, take advantage of the convenience for you and open your home. And besides, it saves you the hassle of packing up and taking your stuff to another location or trying to explain why it is not central to everyone invited. People are not going to expect you to move so that the crop is in a centralized location. They will just be glad you invited them to the crop. Ok, if I haven't convinced you to host it at your place then read the section titled Venue to help you decide on another location.

SET DATE AND TIME Everyone is busy and so are you. If you ask those you are going to invite, what day they would prefer for a crop then you will probably get several different answers. Pick a date (or several), time and duration of the crop that first meets your needs. Then review your choices to make sure you are not stumbling over any important holidays. For example, Easter Sunday is probably not a good idea. People like to spend that day with family. However, Superbowl Sunday can be a great day. Some women don't like football and their husband's love it. He watches the game with his friends and she scraps with her friends. It is the best of both worlds. Just make sure whatever date you pick that you give people enough time to prepare for it. I try to give at least a month notice. This gives people time to move things around, put it on the books before anything else comes up or find a babysitter. As for duration, people prefer for a crop to last more than eight hours. Most scrappers do not travel light. You want to make it worth the effort to pack up all their things and haul it to your event.

VENUE Decide if you want to have it in your home or somewhere else. If you decide to do it away from home, you may have to be flexible on your dates because you will need to see what the venue has available. Libraries, churches, and community centers may offer free or low cost rooms. Guestimate how many people you believe are coming, determine how many tables you need (see next point) and make sure the venue has enough space. Whatever you choose try to make it central to your guests, especially if it is a one day event. Find out if they have tables and chairs available and if so, is there an extra cost for them. Do you have to set them up and/or take them down? When can you go in to set up? If there are several outlets throughout the room, ask if you can use them or if there is a fee? Is there a place to keep food cold/warm? What are the hours of availability? Is there good lighting?

SET UP Table space Whether you have this at your home or another venue, real estate is important. I try to give people at least 3'x3' of table room. The way I see it, a layout is 12" or 1' square foot. Your guests will need some room for their tools and to actually work on items for their layout. And if they are working on a double page spread, well there goes all their room if the space is any smaller. You don’t want your guests to feel like sardines for 8 hours or more. If the chairs don't look comfy then you may want to suggest to your guest to bring some cushion for their tushy. I also go to the dollar store and buy white table covers. Watch the sizes. You may not need one for each table. They are pretty big. But the table cover will help protect your table and also give your guests a nice light, neutral background for their workspace. I would stick with white table covers. Colored covers may be distracting to a scrapper. Just imagine scrapping at a pink /blue/green desk at home. I also put a small brown lunch bag on the table in front of every chair. Guests can use it for their trash/scraps. Some may come with scrap-a–ma-bobs but not everyone has one of those.

FLOOR SPACE Scrappers are not light packers. Let’s face it, we are teetering on being hoarders. And for those who attend crops, well we are hoarders on the go. But I like what Ikea says about hoarding, “If it’s organized, it’s not hoarding.” Sure you may have a one show up at the crop with one bag over the shoulder and a dish of food in their hand, but they are a rare species. With 88 members in our meetup, I have only seen it once or twice. Usually we carry so much stuff that it takes several people several trips to a car to get one person’s bags out of their car. So make sure to try to leave people enough space to wheel their bags to their spot and enough room to park their stuff near them. I gave them 2 1/2 ' by 3' (the width of their workspace) to put their stuff and chair. That was the minimum. I actually gave them more room because I strategically placed the tables so that tables were facing eachother rather than back to back. This required less floor space and people could chat with people across from them and beside them.

FOOD/BEVERAGE It is nice if you can have snacks close by but not so close that if someone has an accident it will spill on someone close by that is scrapping. If you have the room, have a separate eating area (especially at long crops where they may actually eat lunch and dinner), then your guests won't have to worry about dropping something in their own work area or (gasp) in their neighbor's work area. Try to make it finger foods and offer a variety. Or if it a potluck you can offer people to sign up under certain categories of food (desserts, drinks, breads, fruits and vegetables, small snacks, utensils and table ware) or just keep a close eye on what people say they are going to be so that you can make adjustments. There is nothing worse than having twelve people show up with cupcakes.

LIGHTING Make sure there is enough lighting. There is nothing more frustrating that trying to scrap in the dark. If you don't think you have enough lighting, make sure you have outlets available and let people know they are welcome to bring their table lamps (if the venue allows it).

AMBIENCE I love Pandora. It is a phone app that allows you to play music for free. You can create a station by artiste, genre or song. My group ranges in age from their 20's to 50's so music preference varied. I created a Frank Sinatra station and everyone seemed pleased. I set it up away from all the scrap areas and played it loud enough to hear but low enough to not drown out any conversations. By setting it up away from the scrap area, you prevent it from blaring or becoming annoying to someone sitting by the speakers. Just think of going to a Mexican restaurant on a Saturday night trying to enjoy your meal with your loved one and the Mariachi band decides to play right next to you for the duration of your meal. Don't get me wrong, I love me some Mariachi music but I prefer it to be at least two tables away so that I can still enjoy conversation with my beloved. I wanted to make sure no one felt like they had a Mariachi band playing next to them all day.


DECOR As for any decorative item, well I'll leave this to your discretion. It is not necessary to decorate. Your guests are there to scrap. However, I have pinned hundreds of party decor ideas and I was dying to use some, so I did. But if it stresses you out, don't do it. I plan to do a few theme parties, Breakfast at Tiffany's (decor blue and white), Mad Hatters Tea Party (serve several types of tea), Christmas in July (yes I will decorate with Christmas items in July), Breast Friends (all pink for breast cancer awareness). Well you get the idea.
GAMES Games are always fun. You can play scrap bingo (create your own custom bingo cards at Print Bingo) and ask your guests to check off items as they use them throughout the day. This allows them to play a game but doesn't take them away from scrapping. This is the only game I play. It is just my preference. I didn't like participating in games while I scrapped. It was hard enough for me to get things done when all I wanted to do was talk to everyone. Adding another thing for me to do was a guarantee that I was not going to get any done.
TOOL STATION If you have tools that you are willing to share such as an embossing machine or die cut machine, you can set up a small work area with those tools. (This way your tools all stay in one area.)
DONATE TABLE: Invite people to bring things they don't use or want to get rid of and have a donation table. Encourage everyone to browse through those items and take what they want. At the end of the day, if any items are left on the table, pack them up and take them to a local church, nursing home, school or Goodwill.
ALCOHOL You can open this event to alcohol. I suggest cutting off the alcohol about two hours before the end of the crop and if there are children around, clearly mark the items that have alcohol.
CHILDREN Which brings me to the last option, children. Some people are SAHM (stay at home moms) and they see scrap time as mommy time. They prefer to scrap without children around. Or sometimes, the conversations among adult women can be inappropriate for young ears. I am not talking cursing or pornographic but the subject matter may not be well suited for young children. You know the people you are going to invite and their preferences. Some don't mind children and others will not come if there are children. Either way, I would make it clear on your invitation if children are allowed or not. Hopefully this will prevent any awkward moments of "Oh Jenny I see you brought your toddler Joey. I am sorry this is an adult only crop." or "Really? If I had known there would be children here, I would have stayed at home."

FOLLOW UP Okay you have decided on a date, scheduled the venue, sent out the invitations, rented the tables and have mentally laid out all the tables in your head. Hey, you may have even gone out of your way and have some ideas about decorating. Now you can sit back and rest until the day of the crop, right? No, no your job is not done. Follow up is very important especially if you planned the event far enough in advance so that people could clear their calendars or pencil your event into it. But remember, life goes on. People sleep, go to work, to school or both and they forget. And before you know it, you are the only one showing up at the event. You don't think it can happen? Trust me it does. It happened to me more than two times. Gone are the days when a person's RSVP "yes" meant they were guaranteed to show up. No, now a days that "yes" means that you have to remember to add them to the group email, phone list, Facebook reminder, whatever you use, to remind them of the event. I have taken reminding them a bit further. I drum up excitement about the upcoming crop by leaking small bits of information about the party once or twice a week. By doing this, they are more inclined to read the email since it doesn't just say "Reminder that the crop is on blah blah." No, each email offers different and exciting information and because of that, they are more willing to read it and remember the crop date and time. Ok, now you are prepared to host your first fantabulous scrapbook crop. Remember to have fun and relax. You are going to do a great job. And leave me a comment on how it went. I would love to know. And if you can think of anything I may have forgotten, please leave a comment also.