So a little while ago now, I was at the Nordic Larp Talks 2022 and spoke a bit about organizer burnout, and how to avoid it.
Helpfully, I didn’t have any useful slides to accompany the talk, just a few memes. But a few people have asked me for the content — so here’s a copy of my notes.
Larps and larp events are lovely! But we wouldn’t have them without organizers, who put in lots of time and emotion and sometimes money to make them happen.
The rewards can be great. But so can the cost.
I’m going to talk a little about how organizers can become burnt out – and how to avoid it.
Here’s a picture of the organizers’ room at a recent larp, about six hours in.
Things that burn organizers out include:
- dealing with uncertainty around running the larp at all, and around getting enough people for it
- (especially in these current times, and dropout rates seem to have multiplied)
- it starts at launch, with fear of people disagreeing with the larp’s topic, or with design choices
- complications around logistics, budgets, team, media, equipment, and other practicalities
- dealing with the needs and demands of participants
- once the event starts, unforeseen consequences of the design interacting with the real world
- which can end up like this:
What can participants do to help?
- remember that, for most organizers at least, this is not a job – they are doing this in their spare time, for the love of the hobby, wanting to help people have a good time. You are not a customer of a business, you are a collaborator.
- when the event is launched, remember that not all larps are for all people – if this one doesn’t work for you for whatever reason, perhaps the next one will
- if you don’t get a place, don’t make it personal, particularly in your communication with the organizers
- make payments and other responses on time as asked, don’t make organizers have to chase you
- pay attention to announcements, read what you are asked to read
- communicate in the way(s) that you have been asked to, not via other channels – and in general, respect their boundaries, even if you are a personal friend
- be open, early, about your own needs, so the organizers have the best chance of being able to meet them
- let them know as early as possible if there’s a change that might affect your participation
- after the event, respect the ‘week of stories’ or whatever space the organizers may have asked for after the event
- and even if they haven’t, leave space anyway, and in general be thoughtful when you talk about the project on social media, etc, as they will likely see it or hear about it – if your emotions are high, maybe just draft it for now and come back the next day to see if you want to post it
- otherwise this is what organizers end up like:
What can organizers do to help themselves?
- keep support manageable by restricting it to one channel of contact
- work with people whose values align with yours
- delegate more, micromanage less
- have someone on the team who is looking after you, not the participants
- and ask for help and support, if you need it
- also ask for help if things change to become more difficult (eg weather) – including from the participants, they want the larp to happen too
- trust that if there are issues during the larp, participants will come to you: don’t go actively looking for trouble
- don’t be like this person: