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Takeaways from Wordplay: Minnesota’s Largest Party for Books

As we approach anoth­er sum­mer of events, we took time to reflect on our recent work help­ing pro­mote a soon-to-be icon­ic Min­neso­ta event, Word­play. We part­nered with The Loft Lit­er­ary Cen­ter to help tell the sto­ry of the inau­gur­al “par­ty for books” that brought more than 10,000 peo­ple down­town Min­neapo­lis through­out the week­end of May 10–12. Atten­dees heard from the likes of Stephen King, Amy Tan, Mitch Albom, Nora McIn­erny, Jeri­cho Brown, Ross Gay, Mary Karr and many more, both through dis­cus­sions on eight stages Sat­ur­day and Sun­day, as well as at the Rock Bot­tom Remain­ders con­cert Fri­day night at First Ave.

Head­ing into event sea­son, here are a few good reminders, for both inau­gur­al events and annu­al favorites:

Tips for an inau­gur­al event

  • Cre­ate visu­als. With a first-year event, there aren’t pho­tos from pre­vi­ous years to share with media, but The Loft cre­at­ed fun videos with the par­tic­i­pat­ing authors’ book cov­ers, plus had access to all of the author head­shots. This came in handy for TV seg­ments that need­ed visu­als to show dur­ing inter­views.
  • Put your­self in the atten­dees’ shoes. Walk through the space. How does the flow feel? What would make the expe­ri­ence even more enjoy­able for atten­dees? At Word­play, Tar­get pro­vid­ed cozy read­ing nooks for atten­dees to rest and read from their new books pur­chased at the fes­ti­val. Don’t for­get to con­sid­er the needs of the whole array of your event guests, from baby-chang­ing sta­tions to phone charg­ing hubs and every­thing in between.
  • Roll out the red car­pet for your VIPs/volunteers. The author head­quar­ters at Word­play were amaz­ing – the space itself, along with the food, bev­er­ages and com­pli­men­ta­ry mas­sages, real­ly showed the authors they were wel­comed and appre­ci­at­ed. Even on a bud­get, small details can make a big dif­fer­ence when it comes to recruit­ing spe­cial guests and vol­un­teers in sub­se­quent years.

Gen­er­al event reminders

  • With almost all events, you can plan as much as pos­si­ble, but know there will be changes and adjust­ments. Go with the flow. Not every­thing will work out exact­ly as planned, and you’ll have to bob and weave. By hav­ing a sol­id plan in place, when things inevitably need to change, oth­er event aspects will be run­ning smooth­ly and you can focus on the nec­es­sary adjust­ment. Take these things in stride, and enjoy the ride!
  • Anoth­er good reminder the Word­play plan­ning com­mit­tee empha­sized: keep things in per­spec­tive. Sna­fus with nametags or sched­ul­ing might seem like a big deal to you, but they aren’t an emer­gency and event atten­dees like­ly won’t even notice. And if there is an actu­al emer­gency, refer to your cri­sis plan and enlist the appro­pri­ate pro­fes­sion­als to help.
  • Smile and have fun. While they can be stress­ful, events are sup­posed to bring peo­ple togeth­er. Remem­ber your event’s pur­pose – and watch the people’s faces as they enjoy your months of hard work and prepa­ra­tion.

Also, if you get the chance to see Stephen King and the Rock Bot­tom Remain­ders per­form – jump on the oppor­tu­ni­ty. King’s per­for­mance of “Surfin’ Bird” is some­thing to behold!

If you weren’t able to make it to Word­play this year, check out some of the cov­er­age below:

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