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Students practice inverts during a workshop

Pole Retreats—The Good, The Bad and Everything in Between: How to attendees and organizers can improve constructively

As most PoleCon attendees know, pole retreats and conventions can be a great escape from jobs and everyday life to come together with pole friends, take workshops with some of our favorite pole stars, buy new pole merch, enjoy visiting a (sometimes) new city and see some dope performances. Retreats can range in cost from less than a couple hundred bucks to a couple months’ rent and everything in the middle. Some are large in size (PoleCon for example) whereas others are limited to less than thirty people to create an intimate environment. Every retreat should have three main outcomes. One of my fav pole stars put it best when he said in a recent Facebook live video that all retreats should be safe, educational and fun (and in that order). He went on to say that as long as you have fun and felt that you learned something, then that’s always cool.

While everyone reading this is probably familiar with PoleCon and, potentially with Pole Expo, there are many other retreats held throughout the year in locations all over the world. Some are in fun and exotic places, some have different themes, some are for ladies only and some are geared to even entice those not in the pole community to join in. Regardless of what kind of retreat it is, it should always remain safe, educational and fun. So, it pains me to hear when this is not always the case – especially when some of these retreats were more costly than others. If I’m paying say a couple months’ rent to attend a retreat, I’d expect it to be amazing and would compare it to staying at an all-inclusive resort somewhere. The food should be great, the workshops should be conducted in a fun and still professional manner, my dietary restrictions should be met and I should leave feeling like my money was well spent.

Some of the popular retreats include the BGP retreat, International Pole Training & Retreat, Barcelona Pole Camp, Pole Expo, PoleCon, Stripcraft Retreats (organized by LuxATL), and other pole camps held in different countries. As mentioned, these all vary in price and number of attendees. Some include food and lodging whereas others do not. A good listing of pole retreats can be found at https://www.polefitfreedom.com/pole-dance-retreats-2018/ This site provides a detailed list of retreats and camps, pricing, location and what is included with the cost.

Over the past month or so, several people in our community have publicly aired their grievances on social media about pole events from both the attendee and workshop leader perspective. They’ve all asked many of the same questions: What happens when things don’t go as we had anticipated? If we don’t get paid what we thought we were going to be, if we have a falling out with the event organizer (as either a workshop leader or attendee) or feel like our money was not well spent? There isn’t really a Yelp! In the pole world. Even if the person running the retreat has their own business, it may not be on Yelp! or Google to leave a review. As a result, Facebook has become a tool for people to discuss the pros and cons of different pole events.

I can’t personally speak to how safe, fun and educational all these events are aside from the few I’ve personally attended. I do know, however, everyone will always having varying opinions on events. The few I have attended were well-run, took necessary measures to be safe and educational and I had fun because I got to see a lot of my Facebook friends who live around the world, meet some of my pole idols, take great workshops and explore a cool city. And from what I’ve seen on FB, most of the retreats DO meet these standards. But, as we all know, this may not always be the case.

Sometimes, unfortunately, retreat organizers are stuck in the middle of people airing their grievances online which may not be the best way to first report a problem. Such has been the case for a couple of retreats/retreat organizers over the past few weeks. No retreat is ever going to be perfect and things occasionally don’t always go according to plan – especially if the retreat is something the organizer is trying out for the first time. There are ways, however, to make up for things and professional ways to go about doing so.

Hopefully attendees and organizers always want to improve the event and provide constructive feedback. When that’s the case – try these suggestions to improve post-event/retreat communications.

Specifically, event organizers can:

  1. Do a survey (I have always admired Colleen’s approach to collecting feedback after every PoleCon and making adjustments when and where she’s able to do so. It shows that she is listening to her attendees and trying to be as accommodating as possible when she’s able to)
  2. Create clear FAQS and policies (especially for refunds) on their website that are updated regularly
  3. Create a volunteer team of people to answer questions (like PSO Unicorns)
  4. Acknowledge when there is a problem (bonus points for explaining)

Specifically, attendees or workshops leaders can:

  1. Contact the event organizer directly first to resolve issues
  2. When reporting an issue on Facebook, post facts first then emotions.

No retreat or organizer is perfect or going to go off without a hitch. But I think we can all agree that if we pay to attend an event, whether not we only spent a couple hundred or a couple thousand bucks to attend, we would hope it would still be safe, educational and fun. We hope to walk away having learned a new combo, a new way to stretch perhaps or even maybe how to go about looking for pole jobs in entertainment (shameless plug about my seminar tehe!) and had a fun time doing so. We, as attendees and/or workshop leaders should and can have a right to speak up if we feel our needs aren’t being met but also should take into account how this will affect the event organizer. As such, we should do it in a way that is constructive and useful to that person/group of people so that it can continue to improve for the next session. We are a community of people who love pole dancing at our core and should always keep that at the forefront of our minds whenever planning or attending an event.

Lily T.
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