CoDI Mentors scheme has offered me an opportunity to think seriously about a range of issues that I have not reviewed on for years.
Over the past month, my mentor, Matthew Whiteside, and I have had some deep discussions in event organising. Matthew is known for running the wonderful The Night With…, an organisation promoting live contemporary music. His experience and knowledge in this area is excellent without doubt. Therefore, we decided to start the mentoring with this topic, rather than going into composing straightaway, as we both agreed that event organising skill would become very useful for me very soon since I’m close to finishing my PhD studies (hopefully!). I really liked the idea as I had never encountered any other mentoring scheme that could provide me with a chance to talk about this aspect in details. Now, with 3 online meetings done, I must say I am deeply satisfied with the outcome and I can feel my understanding on event organising slowly evolved.
When I applied for the Mentors scheme, I had just started planning a new concert event that will take place in my hometown Xiamen, China. I was feeling very unsure about this project because it will be my first time running a public concert from scratch. And the main reason it looks scary is the fact that I have to create a budget and look for fundings. As a matter of fact, I have run countless events in schools/university and a few public charity events. And I also have those marketing and business knowledge that I gained from my BSc Economics which were supposed to make me a professional straightaway. But the truth is that I didn’t have any real experience in the real business. The moment I stepped into this ‘wildness’ on my own, everything started to look intimidating and unfamiliar again.
Thankfully, Matthew is the expert on this topic. During the first meeting, he told me that his career started in a similar way by first organising university concerts and gradually expanding his reach. Upon hearing that, I immediately felt encouraged and better connected to him. Matthew was very good at summarising his experience into a language that was easy to follow, and we managed to go through all the fundamentals in event planning in 3 meetings. Of course, the process has been more like a ‘check and fix’ procedure, so I only update those knowledge that was outdated or not applicable for professional use. But, of course, the most important thing was the confidence Matthew gave me through the conversations. This is something that I couldn’t gain elsewhere.
There is one practical thing — to write a professional event proposal — that I indeed did not know how to do before meeting Matthew. Before the third meeting, Matthew gave me the task of making an imaginary event proposal, including a budget. I spent an entire day coming up with one, which made me realise the difficulty putting one’s idea into words. However, I would soon know that to make the idea seem plausible and attractive to funding organisations is much more difficult.
During the meeting next day, Matthew and I spent much time thinking about the ‘why-question’ on almost every sentence I’ve written. This helped me dig out a better and more appropriate way to describe my true intentions. On the other hand, designing a budget proposal was an easier task, partly because I have always enjoyed playing with all those formulae in Excel. But again, I was quite impressed by the amount of details that I need to consider money-wise. It also made me realise how easily an event plan can become infeasible because of all those costs involved!
I’m very looking forward to using all these new skills soon. However, due to the unpredictability of the COVID-19 situation in both China and Europe, the concert I’m planning may have to be postponed from this June to sometime later in the year. Luckily, the lockdown currently in place won’t be able to affect my Skype meetings with Matthew. I really can’t wait to have another conversation with him in many other topics such as the career as a freelance musician and, of course, composing.
A screenshot of the proposal, which is way to go from finished!