|Mark Twain knew how to stir up his audience|
It drives me bonkers how poorly many events are publicized in Hartford. It doesn't have to be that way, and it's not that difficult to do an adequate job. If you're going to spend the time organizing the actual content of an event, please put aside the time (and a little budget) for the outreach and publicity. There are so many amazing events and shows in Hartford that have an imperceptible audience. If a show is lacking publicity and attendance suffers, you're doing a disservice to yourself as the organizer. It hurts a lot (I know) when you spend days and weeks planning an event, and then only a handful of attendees show up.
This past Saturday I stopped by Charter Oak Cultural Center for live ukulele and dance as part of the severely under publicized Hartford New Music Festival. There were maybe six people in the entire auditorium. I made it a point to attend after catching one mention of the event via FaceBook. Deborah Goffe was performing, and I hadn't seen her dance yet. Deborah and Kevin Hufnagel put on a splendid performance for the intimate audience. I didn't know a ukulele could do that, and Deborah accompanied with much strength and grace. There is another concert next weekend, and you should follow the link to get more information.
Such that we don't continue this pattern of well performed, but under attended shows I'd like to offer some basic tips. Remember. I am not an event planning professional. This is common sense. You have it. Use it. And you don't have to be the organizer to make these things happen. Bit players and volunteers working with an event can help to bring the outreach and publicity home. If you don't see it happening, it probably isn't - and that is your cue to chip in.
- When picking the date and time for your event spend at least 15 minutes thinking about conflicts and your target audience. Google the date to make sure there aren't other events that would draw your same crowd. Consider which nights and times seem to work for events like the one you're planning. For example, don't schedule the same day and time as the Wadsworth First Thursday or RAW Creative Cocktail Hour if you are targeting Hartford's arts crowd.
- Plan your event far enough in advance that you have time to announce the date and do appropriate publicity. I like to target having enough detail wrapped up at least a month in advance for small events. For big stuff you might need 3-4 months, and really big stuff with major sponsors I would recommend almost a full year in advance to catch their funding cycles.
- Do the cheap and easy stuff first. Facebook event. Post it to the various local media outlets. CTnow.com. Hartford.com. LetsGoArts. RealHartford.org. Write your own blog post. Put links to the event page or FB event on your page and other related FB groups that you belong to. Ask your friends to share the link. Ask folks that have said they are going to attend to share the link.
- If you know of organizations that have a similar mission or individuals that have a lot of connections. Send them an email with the event blurb and link. Ask them to share the information via their email list, blog, or Facebook. Reach out beyond your immediate circle of contacts.
- Posters. Yeah. Posters are nice, but they take time and money. First make sure you get the electronic posters up on blog posts and FB Events. If you have the time and money, spread printed posters around at locations and businesses where folks will see them and the event will be reinforced.
- Hit them. And hit them again. Unless they are Superfans, you need to touch them multiple times before they pull the trigger and buy a ticket or put the event on their calendar. Just because you sent out that link on FB once doesn't mean that folks are going to magically show up. It only takes a couple minutes to re-invite, send out event reminders, and update that FB event page with a teaser update.
- Sell discounted tickets ahead of time. If you're coordinating a larger event, pre-sale tickets will guarantee a bit of income to offset expenses while also increasing buzz. You can ask those that purchased tickets ahead to spread the word to friends, and they are now part of the publicity network.
That's all I've got for now. Please get better at publicity Hartford-ites. We've got so much going on and it's a shame not to tell folks. Hartford does "Have It", so let's not be shy about spreading the word. Mark Twain knew how important publicity was, and we do too.
Note: This post has very little to do with bikes. Well aside from my event organizing associated with bike-type events. I'm creating a new blog called - In Hartford We're All Famous Together. I'll use that blog venue for posting non-bike related musings on Hartford.