Last weekend, I spent four days at Seattle Center working the largest free folk music festival in the country: The Northwest Folklife Festival. Here are some valuable lessons that I gained from the experience:
-Don’t react. Take a minute to process each situation unless it’s an absolute emergency. Even in urgent cases, reflecting on the situation and best course of action is really helpful to finding an appropriate solution.
–Bring business cards. I know I have said this before, but business cards can be your best friend! Working at a festival is one of the best opportunities to network with staff, volunteers and patrons, so be ready with your contact information!
-Know how to smile and nod. Interacting with patrons and several volunteers ultimately put me in front of people that I could not understand, did not agree with, and sometimes that I flat out did not like. Regardless, I am the face of the organization and therefore need to maintain a level of friendliness, clear communication and professionalism no matter what my opinion is of the person I am interacting with.
-Be prepared for the worst and hope for the best. I was instructed to bring extra shoes, socks, clothing and other helpful items such as snacks, aspirin and sunscreen so that I would be comfortable throughout the day no matter what the environment was like. It was also good to be willing to handle crises the right way and follow protocol at all times. For instance, an unfortunate but inevitable situation that occurs at Folklife is that children are separated from their parents and guardians. I had a situation where I did not stay with the person who notified me, and then later that person could not be found. Neither did they return to follow up with the situation. It’s likely that the child was reunited, but we will never know because I did not keep an eye on the adult who notified me. Situations like these are really important to learn from. I definitely will not make that mistake again!
-Get lots of sleep and try to preserve your health leading up to the event. Since Folklife was a four-day event, and since my hours were about 8:45 a.m. to 9:30 p.m., it was really important that I come straight home and sleep. Unfortunately, my roommate was sick at the time and on day three of the festival I fell ill. I worked the rest of the festival, but it was hard to enjoy the experience being under the weather.
-Be willing to help out anyone with (just about) anything. Event management handles a lot of chaos and sporadic situations. In Folklife’s case, we had several staff, but the festival truly relies on volunteers, many of which would need at least a little bit of assistance when working their shift. People don’t show up, or sometimes get sick. There can be errors or discrepancies in printed documents or changes in programming. The list of things that could go wrong literally can go on forever. Need I say more? Just being willing to help pick up the slack is a huge support the team and event overall.