As I write this blog, I am eagerly anticipating this evening’s seventh game of the World Series. Although I have lived in the Chicago area most of my life, I have never been much of a baseball fan and, until this past week, haven’t watched the games. But it is incredibly compelling to get caught up in all the current excitement. Will the Cubs finally break their 108 year drought? (Indians fans: I know you are similarly on the edge of your seats, but I hope you understand my perspective.)
Two keys to the excitement sports fans experience are anticipation and the unexpected. Anticipation is a factor throughout each game: every pitch, every at-bat engages viewers. By the nature of the game, what happens at each play is unexpected, even if viewers anticipate that the relief pitcher will strike out the next batter.
You are probably reading this after the winner has been determined and wondering why I wrote something so time-limited. Naturally, it is because I am pondering how can the arts capture some similar excitement. Of course, we all well know about the magic of “Hamilton” and how even people who rarely attend theater are talking about how they got tickets to see this amazing show, or are boasting about the fact that they have seen it. Even teenagers are excited about “Hamilton,” and some young people I know actually know the words to all the songs, which means they know the entire script, since it is largely sung through.
Such a once-in-a-lifetime (maybe, if we are lucky, once-in-a decade) masterpiece can’t serve as a guide for the rest of us theater managers and marketers who are seeking a bit of magic to excite our current and potential audiences.
Let’s thrill some audience members and create anticipation for others by taking some small steps at our performances:
- You have some unclaimed prime seats open for this evening’s performance, such as house seats or box seats. Why not offer them to last-minute ticket buyers as a free upgrade — even and especially new single ticket buyers. This will give them an extraordinary and most memorable experience at the performance and one that will certainly be retold to others with enthusiasm and great appreciation of this special privilege.
- Alternatively, as people arrive at the theater, offer unsold desirable seats to patrons who have tickets in the upper balcony or otherwise less desirable seats.
- Before the audience arrives, put a note on the seats of select audience members inviting them backstage after the show to meet performers and take a brief tour of backstage activity. You can select these guests at random, or you can be strategic in your choice: for example, invite people you have determined are good candidates to get more involved in your organization, but not those who have already received such benefits.
- Offer special benefits to people who are celebrating an occasion of their own. If we know a birthday, anniversary, or other occasion is being celebrated, we can leave a special candy or flower on the celebrants’ seats, offer them a complimentary beverage of their choice at intermission, invite them backstage after the show, or any other benefit that works for your organization to show your patrons that they are special to you. How do we know when patrons are celebrating an occasion at one of our performances? We should collect this information as people purchase tickets and regularly contact subscribers to ask them to email us if they will be celebrating an occasion at a performance.
These types of special offers are bound to generate pleasurable reactions from the unexpected and highly appreciated personal attention, anticipation among future attenders, and therefore, the kind of buzz every organization seeks.
If you implement any of my ideas, or try others of your own along this line of thinking, please email me about your initiatives and their results. I’d love to hear from you.