Wyewood's Guide for Autocrats

In addition to the information presented below, check out the
Required Site Fee Exemptions in An Tir page, so you're fully prepared.

Introduction

So you're thinking about being the autocrat for an event . . . first of all, thank you!
We appreciate your willingness to consider this important job.
Allowing Wyewood and our guests to have a good time, meet new people, learn new skills and maybe make some money.
It's important that you have a good time, too; after all, you're one of us--and a successful autocrat is a much-appreciated asset to any group.
So it's in Wyewood's best interest to help you do the best job you can.

No autocrat is an island; you will be part of a team.
Communications with your various helpers is essential; it makes for a smoother event and repeat volunteers.
No one knows everything, nor is anyone expected to--asking questions is fine and certainly beats making avoidable mistakes.
Every event is different; the following suggestions and guidelines are meant as a framework to help you feel comfortable as you learn.
It is not meant as the complete guide to being an autocrat under all possible circumstances.
The aim is to guide you through planning an event and putting together a bid in accordance with Society and local rules.
A guide that should create the least amount of stress possible.
We hope you'll find it useful.

Starting Out--Organizing Yourself And Getting Help, Part One

Start way in advance.
Give yourself at least four months lead time, six months or more is better.
For some major events, a year may not be unreasonable.
Make a notebook and keep your notes, lists, e-mails, notes of phone conversations, business cards, and everything else pertaining to your event plans in it.
Make a time line!
Leave spaces to add and adjust time planning as it will most likely be needed.
Note when a goal or milestone is reached and if not; why, what is being done to bring it up to date, and when it is expected.
This is to a "who screwed up list" but is meant to help your whole team stay on track and on the same page.
Sometimes things do not go right or you can underestimate a time frame.
We've all been there and know the best laid plans can go awry.
You will be very glad later on that you took the time to do this.
Take it with you to the FCS, events, business meetings and everywhere else you go.

If you are a new autocrat, or have never before done an event the size of the one you are contemplating, you must have an assistant autocrat.
This is someone in Wyewood who has experience being the autocrat for an event along the same lines as yours.
Maybe you already know someone who you'd like to work with, if so, talk to them about it and see if they can commit to being your assistant.
This is an important job; this person will take over the event if some disaster befalls you, and they will need to be available to give you advice and guidance.
So make sure that whomever you select is able and willing to commit the time this will take.
If you aren't really acquainted with someone who fills the bill, talk to the seneschal and get suggestions for suitable people.
Once you have found somebody willing to work with you, it's time to go into the next thing--

Finding a Site

So you have this great idea for an event.
In order to make it happen, what would you need in a site?
Good indoor space, high ceilings, a big kitchen?
A large camping area, lots of woods, tons of parking?
Make a list.

Now--where are sites that fulfill your requirements?
Talk it over with your autocrat team, check with the seneschal, other prior autocrats, the Yellow Pages, acquaintances who own land, etc.
This is one of the biggest challenges facing a prospective autocrat.
Sites in King County tend to be expensive and may have a lot of limitations on activities such as archery.
Keep looking.

Once you have located a prospective site, the following are questions to consider when talking to the owner--

What would the total cost be?
Would there need to be a deposit?
Refundable?
Is there a cancellation fee?
How far in advance need the site be rented?
What dates are currently available for this site?
Is someone from the owner's staff required to be on site during the event?
(Janitors and security personnel are the most usual requirements in these cases.)
Do they need to be paid in addition to the site rental cost?

How many people are allowed to occupy the site?
(If an indoor site, there are usually fire marshal regulations in this regard.)
How much parking is there?
What are the hours of accessibility?
What are the site's facilities?
Are there any facilities on the site that are not included in the site rental?
What dates are available?

Is there potable water on site?
Is it included in the site rental?
Trash removal?
Would biffies need to be rented?
Restrictions on open fires?
What is the emergency access route?
Alcohol policy?
Restrictions on collecting money on site?
Is there a kitchen?
What are its features?
Is its use included in the site rental?
Are there tables and chairs included with the site?
How many?

Will someone be at the site to contact for plugged drains, burst water heaters and such?
If not, how do we get in touch with the owner/caretaker?

What happens when it rains?
Does the whole site turn into a bog?
Is the ground rocky, wooded, hilly, flat?
Are there streams or rivers on the site?
If grassy, would the site be mowed before the event?
Are there restrictions on driving cars onto any areas of the site?

Many more questions may occur to you, depending on the circumstances.
Ask them all.
Make notes of the answers, with whom you spoke, and the date.

Do not offer to get an insurance certificate.
Talk this over with the Seneschal first.
This may need to be added to your time line list.
The Seneschal will be able to help with information on how long this takes.
If the owner or manager says one is needed, find out just what is required, this includes any special wording that may be needed on the certificate.
Again, talk to the Seneschal about it.
These can be obtained if need be.

DO NOT, repeat DO NOT, SIGN ANYTHING YET!
You are just in the information gathering stage.

Now you have found a potential site, and it's time for the next step.

Date Considerations

Sit down with your assistant autocrat and take a look at the Crier, with special attention to the Calendar.
Check the online version at http://www.antir.sca.org/Upcoming/.
See what events are happening in your area around the time you want,
Try to avoid conflicting with those that are likely to appeal to pretty much the same crowd you expect to attract.
If you are unsure about what may be considered in conflict with your event, contact the Kingdom Calendar Deputy directly at calendar@antir.sca.org.
The rules regarding event conflicts change, and it is always best to be sure.

So you've found a date you like, and it appears to be clear.
You've checked back with the site and it's still available at that time.
Now it's time to take a look at Worksheet A, the Site Fee Worksheet.
You should now have all the information you need to compute the site costs and site fee.
Pencil is OK (actually, recommended) at this point.
If you're not having a feast, and there is no extra camping fee involved, you're done with that sheet.
If you are having a feast, hold on, we're coming to that part.
There is one other thing that you may need to consider, and that is whether your proposed event is subject to the Non-Member Surcharge, or NMS for short.
Talk to the Seneschal and Exchequer for more information.

Filling in the Details

You have an idea for the main event activity, perhaps, but what else is going to happen?
Is there going to be a tourney?
Rapier, Heavy, both? Children's activities?
A feast, quest, Court of Love, A & S competitions, archery, classes?
Is your event going to be part of one day, all one day, two days, more?
Make more lists.

This is where the advice of your autocrat team can be especially valuable.
No event can have absolutely everything, you need to decide what you want to concentrate on.
Take a look at how many people we have, what they are presently interested in, where most of our out of town guests are likely to be drawn from, and other factors like the season, particular features of the site, and so on.
Come up with at least one major and two minor activities--for instance, a big feast, a small tourney and some informal A & S classes.
Or, perhaps, a war, some rapier classes and a potluck dinner.
This can be varied ad lib depending on the time available, but try to keep things varied, interesting and maybe just a little nonstandard --it's nice to be able to offer people something out of the common ordinary event formula.

This is a good time to start drawing up a proposal for the funds that you may need to run this event.
This will give you a better focus as to what activities you really want to have at your event.
Will the A & S need supplies?
What is needed for the planned childrenís activities?
What is your goal to complete your feast in?
Will you be giving prizes?

Once you and your assistant have a rough outline of ideas as to what activities you want, you can start thinking about the next, very important step--

Getting Help, Part Two

It's time to assemble your event team.
Again, your autocrat team can be a great help in deciding what mix of assistants will work well for your particular needs.
Take a look at the Event Report Form; what positions will you need help in coordinating?

For our purposes here, assume two types of event help--

  1. Support personnel.
    These are people whose work is mostly before the event actually starts, or behind the scenes while it is going on.
    These include people like your head cook, dishwashers, gate keepers, and generic laborers who set up erics, haul tables and chairs, put up day shades, fetch water, set up signs, unload cars, and generally make themselves more valuable than gold.
  2. Activity personnel.
    These are people who will be in charge of an event activity or responsibility.
    Examples are the marshal in charge, the field herald, the person in charge of any A & S activities, Pied Piper, and so on.

First, talk to the various Wyewood officers.
If you are going to have a tourney, speak with the marshal.
Is he going to be available that weekend (don't take that for granted!), and if not, what other warranted marshals are locally available?
The same applies in their own fields to the herald, the A & S minister, and so on.
Each officer should get first crack at being the responsible person at the event, but they may not always be able to, so make sure to ask.
If Royalty, or their representatives (Patrons / Baronage), will be attending, ask them if they would be interested in holding court.

If you are going to have a feast, you need a head cook.
It is best for a novice autocrat to work with a veteran head cook, and vice versa.
Again, confer with your assistant autocrat, the seneschal and previous autocrats about choosing a head cook if you don't already have one in mind.
Don't be afraid to ask for references, this person is going to be responsible for a lot of expenses and more than one event has gone over (or not) on the strength of the feast.
Go over Worksheet B, the Feast Planning Worksheet, with your cook.
Start penciling things in.

Now is the time to get out Worksheet C and Worksheet D.
As people tell you they are willing to act as support or activity personnel, pencil them in, too.
Keep in mind that life happens and things may change; people can't always be 100% sure of their commitments several months in advance.
Stay flexible.

If you are having difficulty finding enough people to fill out your autocrat team, or can't find the right people for the positions you want, it may be that your idea needs some work still.
It could be that Wyewood is not ready at this point for the type of event you have in mind.
It is better to discover this now rather than later.

It's Event Bid Time

So here you are--you have assembled a remarkable amount of information in your trusty notebook.
You have a line on a good site, you know how much it's going to cost us to hold the event you're thinking about, you've got a general plan of what we're going to do there, and you have at least some of the folks lined up who will help you make it happen.
What now?

Now it's time to sell your great idea to Wyewood.
You may think, but I've already talked to all these people, and they know I want to do this, isn't that enough?

No, it isn't.
In order for the branch to put on your event, the decision has to be made to spend branch money on it.
Now is the time for you to go to take a long look at the Wyewood Financial Policy.
It may not be exciting reading, but familiarity with it is a must for a prospective autocrat, particularly Sections VI and VII.
There you will see that in order to get an event approved by the branch, you must submit "a written description of the event, including activities and proposed site, an Event Budget Worksheet, detailing the estimated income and expenses expected for this event, and a list of people that have committed to perform the necessary functions to put on the event, including the approval of the officers responsible for the activities proposed at the event.
That is a long way of saying "The contents of Worksheets A, B, C, and D"--which you have already done.

You will see that there is yet another form to fill out--that is the Event Bid Form.
This is a condensed version of all the information you have already gathered on your worksheets; it's easier to refer to in a meeting, being only one sheet.
Fill out the bid form, make several copies, and tell the seneschal you have an event proposal to bring to the next officer's meeting.
We're almost there now, only a couple of steps remain--

A Kingdom Requirement

Per Kingdom Events Policy kingdom_event_policy.pdf

3. Autocrat:
The proposed autocrat shall be a member in good standing with the Society of Creative Anachronism and must maintain their membership until the close of the event.
This will provide an additional level of insurance coverage under the SCAís Officers and Directors policy.
Autocrats must have access (either directly or through a deputy) to the Internet and email, as a large portion of communication with Kingdom and the populace is accomplished in this medium.
The proposed autocrat shall be selected and confirmed by the sponsoring branch as an acceptable representative of the branch.
The Council of the Exchequer shall confirm the acceptability of the proposed autocrat when they accept the Event Bid.
Previous experience with event management shall be considered valid criteria when reviewing the qualifications of a proposed autocrat.
Should the proposed autocrat lack sufficient experience, the Kingdom Seneschal may require the sponsoring branch to supply a consulting autocrat.
The proposed consulting autocrat shall be subject to the same requirements as the proposed autocrat.

Selling Your Event

Now you are going to attend the officer's meeting, and persuade the folks there that Wyewood needs, wants, and can afford to sponsor this event.
This is best done by coming to the meeting organized, with your notebook and copies of the event bid to pass around, able to answer questions about the site, your plans and your personnel, and with a confident attitude.

You may wonder why this step is necessary, and why don't you just bring up your bid at the regular business meeting.
There are several reasons for this and most of them are for your benefit.
One is that an autocrat, by definition, is for the duration a deputy seneschal.
The seneschal will need to feel confident that you can be relied on to do the job right, and may have some questions for you.
If you're like most people, you'd probably prefer to answer these in a less public setting.
It is possible that, in spite of all your best efforts, something important might have been left out of your event bid plans.
Again, you'd probably rather discover this in private than in public.
The other officers will likely have questions for you as well, but there shouldn't be too many, as you have, of course, already talked to them in the course of putting your bid together.
Suggestions on the format may be made, and things may need to be changed, particularly the profit margin figures or the number of activities offered.
Remember that staying flexible is good; everyone there wants us to have a successful event.
Think of this as a final polishing of your bid, to get it into the best shape to present to Wyewood as a whole.

Let's assume that all goes well, as it probably will--the officers feel that they can support this event, the seneschal gives the final OK and we can afford it.
Now the bid will be brought up at the business meeting the following week.
As you will recall from reading the Financial Policy, an event bid (or any other request for money) must be brought up at a business meeting and considered for approval or denial at the next month's meeting (now you understand one of the reasons for that long lead time.)
Those present at the first business meeting may, sometimes, decide to waive this requirement, but it's not wise to count on this.
You need to be at this meeting, or if something dire happens to you at least a member of your autocrat team.
Once again, questions are likely to be asked.
The branch members present will vote on whether or not to accept the bid, and if it goes well, you're in.

This is also a good time to find out if members of Wyewood are willing to participate.

The Home Stretch

And now, at long last, here you are.
Your great idea is now an event bid approved by the branch.
Now you can get with the seneschal and exchequer to arrange for paying for the site and other expenses.
KEEP YOUR RECEIPTS. ALL OF THEM.
You may not be reimbursed for expenses if you don't (remember the Financial Policy, Section VI? If not, go back and read it again, as many times as necessary.)
Remind any autocrat team members spending money (for instance, the head cook) of this as well.
The branch has approved your budget, remember that key word budget.
If you find that you will need more money than you thought, this will need to be approved separately at another business meeting.
DO NOT just spend it and assume you'll be reimbursed, that way lays unpleasant surprises.
If in doubt, talk to your assistant autocrat, the seneschal or the exchequer.
That's what they are there for, after all.

Running the Gate

The gate is a very big part of your event.
It is also one of the most important.
This is were everyone will check into your event.
You should create a volunteer roster and schedule a rotation for your gate people.
Remember that no one wants to be at gate during the whole event.

Have a talk with the exchequer about how Gate money is going to be handled.
Who do you have to run your Gate?
All persons running and/or responsible for Gate must be approved by the Exchequer.
You and your Gate Keepers are jointly responsible for coming up with a way to ensure the control of cash at the event (see the ever-popular Financial Policy, Section VII).
See to it that your Head Gate Keeper understands the procedure thoroughly and gets all the necessary forms from the Exchequer.
You will be the one to deliver all the funds to the Exchequer along with the necessary reconciliation forms within seven days of the event.
You will be issued a receipt for these funds.
Do not assume that the Exchequer will run the gate.
Put it in your notebook and don't lose it; in the unlikely event of questions being asked, it could become very important.
You will also need to request any petty cash for the Gate's cash box from the Exchequer.
Also, donít forget to make arrangements with the Exchequer to get the cash box itself.
This needs to be done a good two weeks in advance of the event, so plan accordingly.

Have you talked with the seneschal to get the gate box?
Donít confuse the gate box with the Exchequer's cash box.
The gate box holds all the waivers that your participants must sign.
You may even need a second person at the gate to be in charge of waivers.

Filling out the Required Forms

As each branch is required to have at least one official event listed on the Kingdom Calendar each year consider this as a must do step for any event!
Go to http://www.antir.sca.org/Offices/Seneschalate/Date-Reservation.pdf and download a copy of the Date Reservation Form to give to the seneschal to fill out.
Send it off to the Kingdom Calendar Deputy, keeping a copy in your trusty notebook.
This will get your date reserved on the Kingdom Calendar, which is published in the Crier.
Depending on the type and scope of your event, you may want copy to appear in the Crier as well.
If so, download the Event Information Form at http://www.antir.sca.org/Offices/Seneschalate/event-information.pdf and fill it out according to instructions.
This is also sent to the Kingdom Calendar Deputy, and must be received in order for copy to appear in the Crier.

Event copy is what will make people want to come to your event.
If you don't feel like you're much of a writer, ask your autocrat team for help.
Use the various Kingdom mailing lists as well as those for local groups to spread the word.

If you need to send off for a Certificate of Insurance, this will need to be done at least 45 days prior to the event.
You will need to make a copy of the request and check for your records.

Gathering the Equipment

Start making lists of what equipment you will need to hold your event.
The seneschal and exchequer have records of what Wyewood owns, and where these things are currently located.
Think about transport needs both to and from the site.
Again, make arrangements for collecting these things (feast supplies, SCA signs, etc.) well in advance (at least two weeks) of the event.
Do not assume that this will be brought to the event with out you asking for it and making the appropriate arrangements.

Remember that the site needs to be taken down, as well as set up.
Organize your support personnel so that the same people are not doing it all both times.
We leave places cleaner than we found them, and if that means you are the last person on site, picking up stray bits of trash, well, that's your job.
Do not forget to thank them at the end of the event.

Talk things over regularly with your autocrat team, in person or by e-mail.
Make a note of anyone who is doing especially good work, they might need an award recommendation.

Before you go off to enjoy your event, there is one last thing--

The Very Last Form--The Event Report

You may recall from your reading of the Wyewood Financial Policy that every autocrat (in conjunction with the exchequer) is required to submit an event report within thirty days of the conclusion of the event (see Event Report Form).
This is VERY important; failure to submit this form on time will result in disqualification from being the autocrat of any future Wyewood events.

Lastly, once it is all over and all the paperwork is finished, remember to thank everyone who helped you.
Profusely.
A small gift of some sort is nice, too.
Knowing that their efforts are appreciated will bring people back to work with you again.

Congratulations, you did it.
It really was a great idea.