Reply To: Thoughts on small vs large audiences

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From: “Tim Sheppard”
Date: Thu, 27 Apr 2017 00:16:35 +0100

This sounds like an adventure worth exploring. You won’t know what you want to pursue most until you try it out, so give it a go.
100-150 people can still feel fairly intimate if you have the right kind of venue and seating arrangement, but it will definitely feel different.

I suggest that you:

    Ask your past attendees whether they’d support you by coming to a new (specified) venue as a one-off.
    Dream up a special event for that venue – not just the normal night, but to celebrate something – give it a title
    Include a few special touches that make it sound like a step up from the normal night, without giving you much extra effort or expense – a special cultural snack, or participation activity, or…?
    Pay attention to creating a good atmosphere – what decor, props, welcoming ceremony, warm-up, lighting, or surprises would bring a little magic? I once attended a show where one by one each arrival was taken through a small opening, marked with a mysterious symbol on the forehead, and sworn to secrecy before sitting in their seat. Atmospheres can be fun!
    Ask your past attendees to bring extra people, and create some buzz about the unique event
    On the night, ask people whether they’d come again, whether the venue is good, whether they’d bring another friend

This should give the night a good chance of success but also provide you with helpful indication of how much appetite there is for another one on that scale. If you and they both like it, you can transition to the larger venue more often, or every time, even without it being a special event. If not, there’s no expectation that the old venue/night will be changing.

It’s better to fill a medium venue than hire a large one and show everyone that you couldn’t fill it. There’s a great circus trick for building fresh audiences up without leaving the first shows feeling empty. This is easiest with a big top, but you could perhaps do something similar in certain venues with the right screening. This is how it goes: the circus rolls into town and they put on the first couple of shows for whoever they can attract. But they don’t use all the canvas for the walls – it’s a small top, with fewer seats than normal, so the place is packed out. They give out 2-for-1 vouchers etc. and ask the audience to spread the word. Now more people turn up and they’ve expanded the space a bit, and put in more of their seats – the tent is bigger but nobody realises, and it’s still packed out, and the audience feels it. The word is spreading about the circus in town and the full houses, so they expand to being a big top. Now they can fit in twice as many people as they started with, and business is booming. But no one ever felt they were at an sparsely-attended show earlier on.

Good luck with your experiment!

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