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So I am taking part in organising an event for around 100 people. This is a leisure event. It is not work-related. These are events that take place three times a year, lasting from Friday to Sunday.

We are an association that organises a LARP. The participants are generally recurring, so from event to event there are a lot of the same people. The events are advertised on our website and facebook pages.

One of the participants, let's call her Alice, is someone that demands a lot of attention, doesn't fit well in the group and takes a lot of time from the organising committee. Every past event ended in some kind of drama, either public or private, that the organisers had to deal with.

As the organising committee, we think that Alice isn't a good fit for the group and what we do.

We have heard from other participants, as well as others involved in the organisation, that they really have issues with Alice, that they would strongly prefer her not to come.

We agree with this and would block her from going to the upcoming event(s).

I am not sure how to break this to her though. For now, she hasn't registered for the upcoming event though. Our suspicion is that she has come to the same conclusion, and decided to stop coming. We don't know for sure though.

So we can either tell her now and potentially put salt in her wounds if she already decided for herself not to come. Another option is to wait for her to register, and only then break it to her.

So how should I/we handle this problem? Of course, we don't want to hurt Alice unnecessarily, but we also want to make very clear that we don't want her at the next event.

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    Please don’t write answers in comments. It bypasses our quality measures by not having voting (both up and down) available on comments, as well as having other problems detailed on meta. Comments are for clarifying and improving the question; please don’t use them for other purposes. – Arwen Undómiel Jan 23 '18 at 11:03
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    What's the connection between the 100 people coming? Is it a neighborhood BBQ? Is it a parent's of all students of west-ville-highschool? Is it a homeless of new-york event? I think the connection is important. – Pieter B Jan 23 '18 at 16:02
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I think that you are absolutely right to want to have your reaction planned in advance if Alice tries to sign up for the event. That suggests that you are trying to minimise the drama for all concerned.

I would suggest that you and the appropriate other members of the group consider a couple of things.

Other than drama during previous events, has anyone ever addressed this with Alice? Did anyone ever contact her afterwards to say something like

Hey Alice, I’m speaking on behalf of the group here…yesterday/the last event was well out of order, you can see that as much as anyone, so what’s it all about? Do you see how much extra work it makes when you X and Y? That’s why we always end up with you at the middle of some drama. It stresses you and everyone else. Can you undertake to not X and Y at the next event? If not, we’ll have to ask you to stand down from the group.

If that never happened, then the group ducked a responsibility to one of its members. I'm not excusing her behaviour and you don’t have to keep her in the group, but it is fair , and general good citizenship, to give someone the opportunity to make a change, with the consequences of failing to make the change known to them.

If nobody has spoken to Alice about the effects of and problems with her behaviour previously, it seems to not be constructive to cast it up to her only when it is too late for her to remedy, when you are effectively barring her. That is only going to lead to bad feeling and possible further unpleasantness down the line.

So my recommendation would be for the rest of the group to take it on the chin this time if Alice wants to attend. But, Alice’s attendance should be conditional on you and/or others in the group having the above conversation with her and Alice agreeing to not do X and Y behaviours. Alice should be left in no doubt that if she fails in that she will no longer have access to your events.

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    I am presuming alice is an adult, and as such should be fully capable of seeing she has generated drama "Every past event", you don't have to put up with more rubbish because she is blind to her own actions. – WendyG Jan 23 '18 at 16:25
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    @WendyLisaGibbons Well yes, in an ideal world etc etc. But is there any great harm in being the bigger person and offering an olive branch opportunity for change and accepting that we don't always realise when our behaviour impinges on other people? Different personality types have different awareness levels for the effects we have on other people and a gentle wake up call could actually lead to Alice having a happier life, if its is delivered sympathetically and she is receptive rather than defensive. There is a distinct possibility of a win-win here rather than just an angry, rejected lady. – Spagirl Jan 23 '18 at 16:43
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    but it isn't just you, it is 100 other people as well. I like the answer below to discuss it with her before accepting her booking. – WendyG Jan 23 '18 at 16:49
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    @WendyLisaGibbons I'm glad you like the suggestion of having that conversation with her before accepting my booking, because that is also what my answer says. :) 'Alice’s attendance should be conditional on you and/or others in the group having the above conversation with her and Alice agreeing to not do X and Y behaviours.' Alice no play nice, Alice no go. – Spagirl Jan 23 '18 at 17:02
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    @WendyLisaGibbons If every adult was fully capable of seeing and understanding the consequences of their actions, this stack would not be needed in the first place. – walen Jan 25 '18 at 8:49
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It depends on what your goal is here:

If you want to keep Alice's feelings intact, and want to get out of this situation with the least amount of drama and bother, then I suggest not telling her until she actually registers. If she "got the hint" so to speak then there is no reason for you to further talk to her about this, and you gain nothing from explaining yourself further. You would then keep this silence going until she registers again, and only then tell her, and remain vague while doing so. If you don't want to face the fire, you can't afford to be direct and rake the coals.

If you want to help Alice grow as a person, you should definitely tell her though. It's easy to become absorbed in your own perspective, and Alice probably is. With no concrete actionable feedback it's very hard to change for the better. You might say that not being invited should be a hint that something is wrong and a cause for introspection, but not everyone is that socially aware. In fact, people who cause such difficulty for others often are not socially aware enough for this.

Yes, it means more bother for you. Yes, she might react poorly and get offended. And yes, her feelings may be hurt. But it's also a opportunity to grow as a person, something that not saying anything isn't going to provide at all.

It boils down to how much you all care about Alice, really, and what you judge the chances of success of such a thing. Things only you can know about.

  • A variation on this would be to say 'not this year', and leave open the possibility that she might be welcome in the future. – Sean Houlihane Jan 25 '18 at 13:56
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For the current event, I think the way you tell someone that you don't want them to attend would be quite simply that: you tell them.

Barring them from the event physically brings up its own problems if they still show up.

And the fallout after telling them is going to be an inevitable mess of drama if they decide to make it one, regardless of what "the truth" is.

Ultimately you will need to decide for yourself what matters most. Dancing around the bush on it is not going to make it easier. If you choose a route like this, a clearly defined set of issues is important in explaining why, and it helps if they're more explicit than just citing a bunch of interpersonal conflicts that starts to sound more like highschool than anything else.

Ideally, in a situation where nothing has been discussed, there are no actual rules or codes, and you just don't want that one person present because of things they've done in the past, you would offer them a course of action that would allow them to attend if they can improve their behavior, assuming said behavior has not crossed certain lines of actually harming others (versus "merely" being an inconvenience to organizers?).

So how should I/we handle this problem? Of course, we don't want to hurt Alice unnecessarily, but we also want to make very clear that we don't want her at the next event

Personally I think you're being unrealistic. Alice is going to feel hurt if you single her out to not attend. Things have clearly gone on too far, and either Alice is aware of the issues with attending and won't, or you will be bringing things up to someone who doesn't realize they've been doing anything wrong and will be unlikely to admit that their own behavior is the issue.

It's nice that you don't want to hurt Alice, but I feel like stepping around her feelings on this is only going to make things worse. There's no nice way to tell someone you're disinviting them/barring them from attending something with otherwise open attendance, particularly when you're not instead saying "look, we need to discuss some problems which occurred the past few events, and can't have this behavior occurring again" instead of simply "don't attend."

There are ways to try to de-escalate/minimize any conflict inherent in confronting Alice about this (who is present initially, the setting, how the issues are cast), but ultimately if you have no interest in giving Alice a path to attending I think feeling like there is a way to do so that isn't going to result in some degree of definite hurt to Alice's feelings is unrealistic, because ultimately this is likely to feel unfair to Alice and like she is being singled out, which is not altogether untrue either, in how you've described the situation, even if you do have reasons for doing so.

The best way to mitigate the impact of all of this would be to address the behavior rather than the person (in which case the best approach is not to be accusing about past events in terms of responsibility, but rather to address it in terms of what can't happen at future events), but if you don't want Alice to attend the current event whatsoever, I'm not sure you have many realistic options other than being direct in simply telling Alice not to attend.

Is the problem really Alice, or is the problem the things that Alice does?

Once an event grows beyond a circle of friends, whether it's a professional conference or even simply a get-together, it goes past the point where you can actually just rely on people to "generally behave appropriately."

Can you isolate the behavior from Alice that is actually toxic versus merely frustrating?

Frustrating behavior can largely be deferred. Suggestion boxes and similar things are an easy way to push someone away. Giving them actual responsibility and then holding them to the tasks given to them can be another, if they can be trusted to do an appropriate job.

Sometimes someone who is being a busybody or similar actually does care, and they just need to be channeled into applying that caring to something productive rather than something that's creating more work for everyone else. It's also a good way to deflect any related complaints if they turn down the offer of a particular position, because you did try to give them a way to participate in how things are run. It's usually important, if you go this route, that you create a fairly constrained and specific role for them to act within, that gives them oversight but only over a specific element of the event, and where some extra attention would actually be helpful.

Toxic or even abusive behavior, particularly when it's something that can be clearly delineated in harming others or their experience at the event, is another problem entirely, and it's something that needs to be consistently addressed.

Consider a Formal Code of Conduct

If this is going to be a recurring event, and you've grown past 100 attendees, it's probably a good time to consider instituting a Code of Conduct and a related reporting structure.

People frequently mistake Codes of Conduct for being some terrible thing that impugns a community simply by being brought into existence. Instead, the ideal is that a Code of Conduct means that such behavior won't occur to begin with, and can be dealt with fairly in an organized fashion in the worst case event of something happening that does fall under it. It sets forth what you want to stand for as a community and sets an acknowledged standard for the event of expected behavior, with clearly outlined consequences for not behaving appropriately (while everyone likes to believe they are adults, not everyone chooses to act like one—or worse, they choose to abuse that expectation of appropriate behavior in order to prey on others—and the pretense that such openly acknowledged and delineated rules aren't still needed among adults is a false one in groups of strangers, even professional groups). This encourages people to come to events where they might be afraid of how they would be treated, while clearly signaling what will and won't be tolerated to others.

And finally, if Alice can't take the hint, something like a Code of Conduct sets clear guidelines for banning someone from future events who is causing problems.

Simply put, if you are organizing a repeat event hosting over a hundred people, I would highly advise looking at frameworks adopted by various conferences of similar sizes. It may seem like a bunch of bureaucracy and busy work, but once you already have events that require an organizing committee it's actually the type of thing that makes things run smoother in the long run, and can even help to stave off pockets of toxicity developing within your community and being allowed to persist far past when they should have been ousted.

It also provides a clear framework for dealing with problem behavior where the focus can be on the behavior and not on any particular individual engaging in that behavior, which helps deal with related fallout from actually addressing problems. The key here is that you have set a consistent standard, and then applied it consistently, which emphasizes that actions taken are fair and fair warning existed in regards to the consequences enacted.

The Citizen Code of Conduct and the Contributor Covenant are two good places to start when drafting a code of conduct, just off the top of my head. While it might be too late for the current event, it's something to consider having in place for the following ones. Sites which revolve around conference organization and maintaining/building things like open source communities are likely to have more good advice about drafting a strong Code of Conduct than would fit here.

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    +1 because this suggestion not only addresses Alice herself (in a very fair and mature manner), but protects the organization from future Alices or worse. – user61524 Jan 23 '18 at 23:46
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Given that its a public invitation I think you may be beyond the point where you can politely rescind the invitation.

Community management is hard, but one of the things I've found is that rather than banning/blacklisting a person, you should ban/blacklist behaviors.

Identify the actions and behaviors that cause extra work, and identify steps to be taken if they occur. One warning, then being barred from further alcohol consumption or certain activities if they are related to the behavior, then ejected from the event.

Not only will this allow you to avoid having to uninvite someone, but it'll serve you well when others cause similar problems.

It will require additional effort, but as you've probably found events this large do require some additional management of this type, and being fair and even handed will be a shield to possible accusations later on. Further, having such rules in place will make it a nicer party for everyone.

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Assuming you want to maintain a good relationship with this person and do not want to alienate them then it might be good to be proactive about this.

One-on-one you can try:

1 You: Hi Alice, the big event is coming up soon and we see that you haven't registered yet. Will you be joining us for this one?

2 Alice: Yep, I see that it's coming up but I don't think I'll be attending.

3 You: Oh, no? Why not?

4 Alice: Explains previous blunders and airs her concerns.

5 You: I see. It's funny that you mention this, I've heard some people express similar concerns. Are these situations things that are out of your control?

6 Alice: blah, bah, blah

7 You: I see. I think that we too want to make things fun for everyone.

Hopefully up to this point Alice has made it clear whether or not she intends to go. If she mentions that she does want to go then this is your chance to say something like

I'm glad to hear that you will be attending but I must let you know that the other organizers have noticed the past behaviors as well. There is a considerable amount of hesitation in having you attend this event. Would you be willing to give your word that x, y, nor z will happen this time?


If at Step #2 she obliviously says "Oh, yes! Sorry, haven't had a chance to rsvp. Put me down though!" then you will need to lead in with something like:

Oh excellent, thanks! Listen though, I am not sure if you are aware but in previous events there has been some tension. The other organizers and I have been meaning to ask you about x, y, and z actions at previous events.

Make sure to engage in a back and forth conversion and do not just continuously dump all of her past blunders at once.


If she royally effs up this event then make sure to speak to her privately in person within the next two days and explain that you guys will not be extending an invite for future events.

Overall, I think this should achieve the best result for both parties involved and Alice will not feel misled.

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As things are right now, you may not need to do anything.

For now, she hasn't registered for the upcoming event though. Our suspicion is that she has come to the same conclusion, and decided to stop coming. We don't know for sure though.

You may be looking for a solution to a non-existent problem. If she isn't planning on showing up, why say anything at all? Wait until she commits before you do anything. This is the best way to avoid hurting her feelings.

If she does decide to go after all here's what I would do.

I'd let her come to the event. And I would keep an eye on her when she does. If she stirs up some sort of drama at the event I would - at the exact moment she does - explain to her that she is taking an undue amount of time and resources from the committee. Explain it to her right there and then. "I'm sorry but we are very busy, there are 100 people here we are trying to accommodate, and you are taking an undue amount of our time."

She will either change her behavior or not. If she does, then all is well and problem solved.

If she does not, then you use this event to lay the groundwork for not inviting her to the next one, if she doesn't shape up. You'll be able to cite a concrete example as to why she is not invited. This way if you elect to not invite her it won't blindside her. Being excluded is always painful, but this can hopefully soften the blow a bit.

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For other people looking for this solution, here are a couple of options to make this painless.

  • If the unwelcome person doesn't sign up, no problem. By having a registration, you can filter for who signs up. Unlike inviting people directly who allow guests, this should help prevent an unwelcome person, though the next steps will be good as well and require this step.
  • One way to solve this without offending anyone is to organize the event with a limit of attendees in place from the beginning. If someone signs up who you prefer not to allow, they won't know if they'll make the final cut, and since there is no guarantee anyone makes it, you can have them on the cut list.
  • If you don't want to keep a limit, you can simply be clear the person is unwelcome when they sign up. Unless you have security, keep in mind this could be inviting a confrontation, especially if this person doesn't care (which the question seems to imply). Starting with a "limited number of attendees" does help.
  • Invite people directly without the option of plus-ones. Be explicit about this and make it clear that you will not admit anyone who is not directly invited. You can put this on your invitation as well - because we've had unwelcome people in the past show up, we will only allow the people we've directly invited. This is to make sure everyone feels comfortable. You must be clear about this and willing to enforce this.
  • Hire a few security people and allow anyone to come - including the unwelcome person - but be clear that anyone who engages in unwelcome activity will be escorted out. This situation welcomes the most possible conflict, but may be the only option, depending on where you live (if the other options could be construed as discrimination, which in theory, shouldn't be if this is a social event only).
2

As a fellow LARP player, I can feel your pain.

Contrary to what some answers seem to think, I don't believe you are so bored during the preparation phase that you are desperately looking for a good approach to nurse or help Alice grow as a person. You simply want that she doesn't spoil the event you are most likely putting every single of your spare time hours into.

Quite honestly, the best way is to not do anything as long as she doesn't sign up. Do not manage problems that do not appear. Some LARP events I know offer people to pay at the event if they last-minute decide to come, but it's not very common. Depending on your event, you may or may not worry about Alice showing up unannounced.

If she signs up, simply reject her application (if your tools allow that, otherwise by an e-mail) and bluntly tell her that due to past experiences you are not approving her application. Never forget that it is your event and you are the host and you have every right to accept or reject anyone for any or no reason.

This is not unheard of. Several of my friends are LARP organizers as well, and there were events were players were clearly requested to not sign up for future events. On one event I arrived and said hello to the usual crowd that I know well, and asked about another player who was a regular as well. Someone plainly told me that he's not there and won't be at any future events as he was told that his playstyle is not appreciated.

The important IPS thing to keep in mind is to communicate without judgement. Maybe Alice is perfect for someone else, maybe some other organizer treasures her. That is not your concern. She does not fit to your events and that is what you should communicate. Not that she is a bad person, but that you and her don't fit together, and since it is your event, if one of you should better not be there, it's logically her.

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General advice that you probably already follow

Set expectations and rules before events. It might be a written list of rules that detail variants of "behave yourself during the event", or an obligatory gathering at the start of the event where the rules are laid out (which I suspect you already have in place in some way). If it is clear in advance what is not acceptable behaviour then you have legitimized future actions to exclude/ban/block/send home attendees that misbehave.

Regarding the situation at hand

It depends on how severe past issues have been. I interpret the situation as such that someone needs to do something regarding Alice otherwise you risk losing people organising (or other low-drama attendees). Before talking with Alice make sure you have a clear explanation of what cause you to block her referring to incident(s) involving her. If you are communicating in written form, take screenshots in case she later want to cause drama regarding what was said.

If she has done something unforgivable then refer to that incident and that you want other attendees to feel safe and to have fun. Whatever her reaction is; stay calm and don't negotiate. You are only doing this cause you already decided that her behaviour is unforgivable. I am not to say what is unforgivable at this kind of event, but from your wording, I guess this is not quite the situation?

If what happened in the past is forgivable drama and annoying behaviour, then explain to her why she is blocked from this particular event. But since you already decided that her behaviour is forgivable, you can make the block temporary. How you continue this really depends on the people involved, but if you say that the block is temporary then you must mean it and any conditions stated.

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