Samhain Post-mortem

Montengarde Samhain (Nov 6-8 2020) class: Construction of an Iron Age Finnish dress

Montengarde Samhain (Nov 6-8 2020) class: Construction of an Iron Age Finnish dress

A while ago I posted about working on the classes and whatnot for the November 6-8, 2020 Montengarde Samhain event. I don’t know that I’ll end up working on another similar online event anytime soon…. but I thought I’d record som

e of my thoughts about working on the event.

This is another one of those “probably only of interest to me” kind of posts.. and I do geek out a bit with statistics and analytics cus that’s my jam…

On September 9, the event announcement went up on the Montengarde website, and on Sept 15 I started sending out emails to people asking them if they’d consider teaching. I had hoped to stream towards a few specific topics just to make it easier to recruit presenters and attract students from around the SCA world, however the sponsor for the event (the Baron) didn’t want to focus on any few specific topics, and rather wanted a general approach, so that opened up a lot of different opportunities.

As an aside, Montengarde is the Barony (basically Calgary), and Avacal is the Kingdom (basically Alberta, Saskatchewan, and part of BC) – for any readers who are not part of the SCA.

Montengarde Samhain (Nov 6-8 2020) class: 16th Century German Hats

Montengarde Samhain (Nov 6-8 2020) class: 16th Century German Hats

I did however try to cover a few different bases:

  • German Renaissance
  • Hats & headwear
  • Viking
  • Martial
  • Youth
  • Bardic

… and for my own interests, I also tried to get a few classes on:

  • Finnish Iron Age
  • Ottoman
  • Diversity & Inclusion
  • Culinary

As I was told that the heralds of Avacal were already meeting on a regular basis online, I did not put too much focus onto heraldic or scribal classes/activities (though there were some) and did not focus too much on the “welcome to the SCA” classes, since our online Grand TUA (The University of Avacal) had included many of these classes just a few months earlier – and our group did not appear to have seen many newcommers join since that point.

Montengarde Samhain (Nov 6-8 2020) class: Viking age oval brooches

Montengarde Samhain (Nov 6-8 2020) class: Viking age oval brooches

I also gently steered away from classes where students would work-along with the instructor. These are far-and-away my favourite classes in person, but having been to many online classes since March 2020, I’ve seen how poor the participation rate is there. Even when their sewing kits are only a few feet away, it seems rare for people to participate in these (including myself) when given the chance. Most just sit and listen… (possibly while doing other things).  Not sure why this is…

In my “dream event” I think I would like to hone in on a more cohesive focus – picking 3-4 areas to really focus on to really draw a deep-dive into specific topics. (Like the Spanish-focused I attended early on.) However, costuming and bardic classes seemed to be the majority, and I suspect a big part of this is what people are used to teaching online…. (vs in person) and the kinds of classes people are accustomed to. For instance.. it’s rare to have a hands-on/immersive culinary class in person, because the space doesn’t often accommodate that. Thus… we tend to have more lecture-style culinary classes, and more hands-on sewing(etc) classes.

Instructor demographics

graph illustrating the percentages of teachers from Avacal, and not from Avacal who were invited to teach at Samhain

graph illustrating the percentages of teachers from Avacal, and not from Avacal who were invited to teach at Samhain

I ended up inviting a number of people to consider teaching, and 68% of them were those who call Avacal home, with 32% instructors who I knew from groups from outside of Avacal.

There were very few class cancellations – but I’d anticipated a higher number of cancellations than actually happened – which was quite nice. Dame Arwyn told me from her experience that cancellations would be lower online than in person – and she was right!

graph illustrating the percentages of teachers from Avacal, and not from Avacal who taught at Samhain

graph illustrating the percentages of teachers from Avacal, and not from Avacal who taught at Samhain

After the cancellations, 24% of presenters were from Avacal, with the remaining 76% of instructors coming from outside of Avacal.  I wondered if part of this was due to a no-response from people from Avacal, but actually 75% of the people I reached out to in Avacal DID respond to me, albeit frequently that they were unable to teach at this time.

In comparison, 81% of non-Avacal folks responded to my inquiry – though I would anticipate a slightly higher response rate, since many of these people were instructors who had already been teaching online – so the comfort aspect would be potentially higher. If this were an in-person event, the sheer number of out-of-kingdom invites would be considerably smaller of course as well. To mean this just means that more people from out of kingdom were WILLING to teach and participate than people from here in Avacal.  (And yes… I did even contact people I don’t personally care for to teach – because I know that they’re good teachers and active.)

With 24% of instructors at Montengarde Samhain 2020 from Avacal, the next most represented kingdoms included:

  • West – 11%
  • Atlantia – 11%
  • An Tir – 8%
  • Midrealm – 8%
  • Caid – 5%
  • Artemesia – 5%
  • Ansteorra – 5%
  • Lochac – 5%
  • Ealdormere – 5%
  • Meridies – 5%
  • Middle – 3%
  • Outlands- 3%
  • Northsheild- 3%

(all numbers are rounded, so add up to 101%)

For a total of 14 different kingdoms participating in teaching classes at Montengarde Samhain.

I think that this lower willingness to teach percentage from Avacal, also is reflected in the students, which I’ll get to in a minute.

Classes

There ended up being a LOT of Bardic classes and activities – so many that when I was putting them into a schedule, it was impossible to not have a few time-slots that had two bardic classes/activities to choose from.

Montengarde Samhain (Nov 6-8 2020) class: Making your viking age gear more specific

Montengarde Samhain (Nov 6-8 2020) class: Making your viking age gear more specific

Unfortunately it was very difficult to find presenters for either youth or martial classes, and unfortunately one of those that were specifically targeted to that area ended up having to cancel.

October 2nd I started announcing classes in various places online, focusing mostly on the Facebook event. I made (largely) one post per class, with an accompanying sharable social graphic using generally the same basic format for consistency. At first I was posting one per day (using Facebook’s post scheduling mechanism, because otherwise it would be too time-consuming to ensure I was on every single day) however as the day got closer, and more instructors confirmed their classes, I ended up having to post two per day, and very close to the end – a few days where I posted three classes.  If I were to do this again, I think I’d LIKE TO plot out the final number of classes in advance, and work backwards to still only post one per day.  (However this is tough, without imposing “you can only teach a one hour class” etc… and not getting all of the social-space information or information from champions/officers until much later into the process.)

Montengarde Samhain (Nov 6-8 2020) class: Viking art styles and jewelry

Montengarde Samhain (Nov 6-8 2020) class: Viking art styles and jewelry

There were 5 different classes about headwear (and of course I attended all of them!), two about Finnish (again, count me there!) several about Viking (and I attended most of those too!). I think almost all of the classes I attended were really interesting, well-attended, and well-received. Our moderators were also really good, very smooth sailing overall IMO.

I found personally that taking two two-hour classes on Sunday became a bit tiring, and think that if I were to approach the schedule another time, I’d try to space that out – but there weren’t many two-hour classes fortunately. I also had originally planned lunch and dinner breaks into the schedule, but they were removed – if I were to make a schedule again, I’d likely plan for at least a 30 minute break for people because it became very challenging to choose between a fabulous class with an instructor I’d likely never be able to learn from in person… and food. LOL

Our tech steward advised starting the event on Friday with a few classes, and we did – and I think this was a good addition. However I find that with other events, I often end up missing the Friday evening activities because I’m too worn out. She also advised that come around 3pm on Sunday, people would be worn out. I feel that if I’d had one-hour classes, and started later as I’d originally planned, I wouldn’t have been as worn out by 4pm as I was… but it’s definitely a thing, so that’s a good call for future thoughts as well.

Participants

Unfortunately, although the Baron had hoped this event to be a way for Montengarde and Avacal citizens to reconnect online – I don’t think this ended up being the case. Unfortunately it’s hard to say for sure, because very few participants put their kingdom into the chat or participant’s list (as they have at many other events) but through conversations and looking at the classes I was in – it appeared that there were only 2-4 people from Avacal in each class.

Montengarde Samhain (Nov 6-8 2020) class: Planning and preparing a period hike

Montengarde Samhain (Nov 6-8 2020) class: Planning and preparing a period hike

Which means, the majority of people attending classes were from other kingdoms (and in a few cases not even part of the SCA) which means that my advertising of the event in groups, and the teachers doing their own promotions made a significant impact on the guest list.

However, the number of students was quite good.  I’ve been attending a LOT of online SCA events with classes (see my SCA involvement post for more on this) and have found that the majority of one-of classes tend to have 4-8 people, and most large events with multiple classes tend to have 6-12 participants. At Samhain, the majority of classes I was in had between 10-18 participants, however I may have also been attending the most popular classes – I haven’t heard from the tech steward or Baron about numbers they recorded from the class moderators.

On October 2 (the date I posted the first class announcement on the Facebook event) there were 16 people indicating that they were “going” to the event, and 52 more who said they were interested. While these numbers mean very little as to who will actually attend – it means that 68 people had seen the event and taken some kind of action.

By the last day of the event, 130 people had RSVP’d as “attending” and 441 had RSVP’d as being interested, for a total of 571 people who had seen the event listing on Facebook and taken some kind of action. To note, there were also two other online SCA events on the same weekend as Montengarde Samhain, in fact, some of our teachers were volunteering at those as well! To compare our numbers, the following weekend there were also three online SCA events (I attended them, in three different time zones too – that was scheduling fun!) and by Saturday, November 14, their Facebook statistics were:

Overall

On it’s face, I think it was a successful event, and I got out of it what I had hoped to. I think a longer lead time would be helpful, but ultimately the goal of ‘bringing together’ people from Montengarde and Avacal was not reached the way I think it was hoped for by our Baron.

I sent my thoughts about the event to the Baron the Tuesday after the event, and asked to hear his as well, but at the time of writing this (Nov 14, this is a scheduled post) I haven’t heard back from him yet.

Honestly, in all of the other online classes I’ve attended since March, I’ve seen scant few other Avacal names in participants lists, and I suspect that the problems in the kingdom before covid, may play a part in the participation rates online. Likely also a lack of ongoing, regular online activity in the Kingdom (ei: Arts & science nights, bardic nights, etc) may also play a significant part in this. It’s possible that people who would otherwise be interested, are simply not accustomed to this ‘new normal’ we’re experiencing, and thus it’s hard to jump on in. I’ve also struggled trying to reach out to officers and ministers, and suspect that their lack of accessibility may impact the ability of their offices to continue ‘the dream’ in this new virtual form.

For myself, going online has restored my interest in the SCA – however I’ve been “playing” in kingdoms other than Avacal. If we were to return to the same kind of in-person events that we had before (where A&S and education are  largely treated as an afterthought behind fighting, and events are largely physically inaccessible to me in a meaningful way,) its unlikely my interest would be sustained.

…. it’s an interesting conclusion to come to really……..

Let me know in the comments if the SCA ‘going online’ has had a positive or negative impact on your interest level.

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