How to run an unsuccessful showcase
No agency wants to produce an unsuccessful showcase. There are few things as soul destroying as proudly demonstrating your acts to your prospective clients, spending huge chunks of time and money, not only your own but your artistes’ as well in the process - and then not gaining a penny from it.
None of us intends to disappoint, irritate, annoy and generally piss off our audience, but it happens more often than you think. You could be making some huge mistakes without realising it. Here are some of the most common mistakes - and how to avoid them.
First of all - remember that some of the crowd will be event planners or former artistes and more will be agents - all of whom have first hand experience in doing exactly what you are doing right now. They won’t only be critiquing the acts on show. They will also be judging you on presentation, on co-ordination and delivery of the show. The rest of the crowd - “the audience” - will simply be viewing the event from the outside-in as opposed to the inside-out. This creates an ‘unseen conflict’ which you must be aware of.
So remember - every person who attends your showcase has their own personal reason for attending. They are the ones who ultimately will decide whether the event has been worth their attention - and then make it a successful one by booking an act from you.
When they don’t receive the attention and the experience they expect… well, they’re going to be annoyed and disappointed.
Those of you who know me will know that I’m a talker. I like talking and I’m good at it. Whenever I’ve been to events, I talk. I talk to acts. I talk to agents. I talk to clients and everyone else that I can. And I learn a lot.
Over the years, I’ve heard so many complaints over and over again. I’ve seen the same mistakes. Not minor irritations but major things that become almost emotional issues to them.
We annoy our prospective customers when we:
Pretend we know the audience, when we clearly don't. If you key on one particular sector of the market, and then put acts on who don’t fit into that sector - then you obviously haven’t done your homework. You might have several important audience segments, so don’t target just one unless they are who you have specifically invited. Showcase attendees hate having their time wasted.
Claim this showcase is different, then deliver something same as the last one. Take last year’s showcase. Put a different date on it. A new flashy logo. A different venue. What do you have? Last year’s showcase. A different coloured pamphlet won’t disguise the fact that you are treading old ground.
Ask for comments and feedback - and then ignore it. A current trend is to encourage input from attendees, even suggestions for improving future service. Let them tell you. Let them give you ideas. Then do exactly the opposite. Of course they are going to be annoyed. Again, you have wasted your time and insulted them.
Pigeonhole people. Every concert secretary is in his 50s, drinks lager and loves pork crackling. All hotel bookers are 35, in great shape and are aggressive competitors. Holiday centres maestros love to party all night and can function the next day - right? In reality, the people who attend showcases get lumped together but they want an individual experience that’s tuned to their business and professional needs. Don’t deliver a ‘one-size-fits-all’ showcase.
Treat your customers like kids. Attendees love being treated like they’re stupid. They particularly like being given a map to move them from one location to another. If these people can manage to find their way to your event, they should be able to figure out what to do. Keep things simple and make sure you have clear signage and enough staff to be able to point them in the right direction.
Really short breaks and really long artiste spots. Going to the bathroom isn’t an Olympic event. For most of us, at least. Do you really think that a hundred people can exit a concert room, sprint around the s-bend in the corridor, wait in line for the toilet, enjoy a coffee and then be back in their seat in 15 minutes. Make the breaks realistic for the size of the audience - and the age. Do you want to thrill your crowd? Pack in as many acts as you can in as short a space as is possible while still delivering value for their trip to your venue. A showcase with half-an-hour of each act should be against the Geneva Convention.
Serve heavy spicy food that they wouldn’t eat at home. Meals at showcases are seldom adventures. Finding something you want to eat is a challenge. Keep food simple and logical. Be honest - if you wanted a culinary trip around the world, would you go to a showcase to find it?
The secret to winning over your audience: It’s no secret, not really. Just endeavour not to get so hooked up in the planning, logistics and production of your event that you forget about the people who will be attending it. Here are 3 simple rules to think about:
1 - Deliver the experience and the artistes that you promised, plus a bit more if you can
2 - Treat every person who attends like a special guest - not just ‘an audience.’
3 - Try not to annoy anyone.
Do you remember the ‘unseen conflict’ I referred to earlier? Your audience walks in after all of your preparation work has been done. They don’t care about your blood, sweat and tears. Attendees are selfish - and so they should be.
You’re the one producing your showcase - and often that makes you feel like your objective is survival. It’s not! During the planning, don’t get obsessed with timings, with logistics. Go make a cup of green tea, put your feet up. Relax. Find the people within the process. Then -
Treat your prospective clients like intelligent, professionals, even when they might not be. Make the showcase easy to attend. If you have to pick between what’s most valuable for the attendees and what’s most convenient for the artistes - well, do I have to answer that for you?
Adopt a high standard of service. How do you like to be treated when you go to an expensive restaurant? You expect the staff to be considerate, attentive and professional. You want them to be available. Make sure your attendees get what they expect at your showcase.
And finally… Forget the goodie bags. Drop the name tags. Don’t worry about the expensive, glossy brochures. There is only one thing that you need to remember every time you produce a showcase.
Your attendees are the reason this event is running. So cater to them - not your own agency - and you will be successful. Easy!