How can I persuade people who don’t already agree with me to see my work?

Convener(s): Dan Barnard

Participants: Becky, John, Daniel, Christina Elliot, Rebecca Manson Jones, Vicky Graham, Cristina Catalina

(lots of other brilliant people whose names I epically failed to record – sorry!)

Summary of discussion, conclusions and/or recommendations:

Really learn about the audience you are targeting – read their newspapers, really try to get into their heads.

Do pop up performances of tasters of the show

The most persuasive thing that makes someone see a show is if someone they know and trust recommends it to them.

Try piggy back emails with organizations that have your target audience.

Talk to Audiences London about your objectives and see if they can help.

Give lots of people 5 tickets to sell – they might well sell them to friends and relations who aren’t directly interested in the subject already 

Be nuanced – what if the character you want to like in the play is often shown to be wrong?

Don’t put your conclusion in the marketing – let people work towards it with you.

Politics by stealth/Trick people!

Where is the show happening – take the show to the trouble spot – don’t expect people to come to you.

Taking a show outside London (or to outer London venues) can mean you connect to a different audience – in London there is so much choice that the audience is often even more self-selecting

Think about making the theatre aspect only part of a wider campaign.

The flip side is that if people care about an issue they might come to a show when they wouldn’t normally go to the theatre.

Take the show to the audience you want, make it free or cheap and create a forum that allows people to leave (part of the fear that puts people off theatre is that you are trapped).

Is theatre the best medium for the thing you want to say and the audience you want to reach? Always ask yourself this question.  Also, can you make the same piece work across different platforms?

Allow the process of making the show and researching a show to change your own mind – if you’re asking people to change you must be prepared to be changed yourself. 

With theatre you can reach fewer people, but perhaps in a more intense way.

Much discussion of the notion of preaching – people don’t want to be preached at. They might not even want to pay to be questioned.

Outdoor theatre or theatre in contexts that people are comfortable in (e.g the local pub) is another way of getting to harder to reach people.

If you devise or write a show through interviewing local communities or the audience you want to reach, if you involve them in that process and create an attachment to the project, they are more likely to come and bring their friends.  Consider running open rehearsals that people can wander into from the street.

Consider having a non-political title and a strong marketing aesthetic that appeals to the people you want to reach.

Stratford East got local community members to programme six months of work – this work attracted a whole new audience.

Plan in detail your marketing strategy, targeted to those you want to attract

Consider having an evening of live music of local bands after your show so that people come to the whole evening.

More popular forms of entertainment are more participatory – if theatre could be more participatory would it attract a different audience?

Can you market one angle that is part of a show that gets people in who might be less aware of the other? Example of a show with subject matter including Jewishness and Gender – many Jewish people came and some of them had not thought about the Gender issues before.

Put thoughts about the audience at the heart of the creative process – potentially this could be part of the dramaturg’s role?

Idea of working with problematic collaborators – e.g an evening of three shows with different political perspectives so that audience of one watch all three.

Offer people structures to take any political activism the play stirs in them onwards.  A specific suggestion of postcards with : If you have one minute, if you have 5 minutes, if you have a day, if you have a week, if you have longer – what you can do.

Also the idea of making post show discussions a forum for debate where experts or activists talk or debate the issues of a show – and they offer other ways of engaging with the subject. This sort of information and debate could also take place online.

In terms of getting non theatre goers to go to the theatre, a study that Royal and Derngate carried out concluded that it was pointless to try to engage those who never go to the theatre and that you should focus instead on trying to get those who come to the theatre 3 times a year to come 4 times a year – and so on – that this was much more attractive.

Also, look at what other forms of popular culture have and see what you can steal from them to make theatre more attractive.

The idea of a theatre reward card  (like Nectar etc) to encourage people to go to the theatre more – the more you see the more you save