Thoughts on small vs large audiences

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    From: “Ziyadliwa”

    Date: Wed, 26 Apr 2017 14:07:36 +0200

    I’d love to hear your thoughts on telling to small vs large audiences, if you have any experiences that you’d be willing to share. I organise storytelling evenings in Innsbruck once or twice a month and we usually have around 30-40 people popping in. Last night we had closer to 60 people, the result being lots of people sitting on the floor and in the aisles, which was okay but perhaps not ideal for the people who couldn’t get any seats!Hello from a grey and chilly and un-springlike Innsbruck…

    Having chatted to a few people who come regularly, they seem to feel that perhaps I ought to go for a larger venue, with a capacity of 100-250 and as I have always told to smaller audiences, I am in two minds about this.

    With around 50 people, there is still the feeling of an intimate, living-room storytelling experience, and lots of people are now getting to know each other and a few unlikely friendships have formed. I love this sense of community building. I need no mic, and can greet every person who comes along personally. On the downside, this means that the audience will always be fairly restricted.

    A larger room potentially means dealing with acoustics, mics and so on; thinking more seriously about lighting; and possibly losing the lovely atmosphere that we’re creating. I organise and promote all events myself, and perhaps a larger room means more work on this front too, although I am not sure about this. On the plus side, this means reaching more people, which may lead to more work, but of course, it could go pear-shaped and I could end up with a massive space and a tiny audience!

    If anyone has experienced something similar, weighing up pros and cons of small vs large spaces, I’d be grateful to hear about your thought processes and what you decided to do in the end…

    With gratitude,




    Oral Storyteller telling Wise, Wonderful & Earth Tales

    +43 (0) 660 378 2939

    Gerhild Diesner Strasse 14-8, Innsbruck, 6020, Austria


    From: “MEGAN HICKS”
    Date: Wed, 26 Apr 2017 15:53:03 -0400

    I’d rather perform for standing room only in a 50-seat room than for 60 people in a theater. I’ve done both. When you have to turn people away more frequently than not, that’s probably a good time to explore the possibility of a larger venue.




    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!


    From: “Susan Searing”
    Date: Thu, 27 Apr 2017 01:20:35 +0000

    Another possibility if you want to keep the audience relatively small and continue in a beloved space, yet not turn folks away, is to add a second performance on another evening or a weekend afternoon. It increases the options for your regulars as well as new listeners. A local chorus I was involved with did exactly that when faced with the happy problem of too many fans.


    Sue Searing, Storyteller


    From: “Smith, Nick”
    Date: Thu, 27 Apr 2017 22:35:11 +0000

    That can work, depending on the venue’s situation. One very small venue in my area has done that on many occasions. They can only seat 49, due to fire regulations, so multiple shows permit audiences familiar with the artist and the location to have options.

    With some venues, a matinee is not possible. For instance, the place where we hold our Tellabration concerts functions as a store in the daytime, so it only set up as a concert venue in the evening.

    –Nick Smith


    From: “Richard Martin”
    Date: Thu, 27 Apr 2017 08:34:21 +0200

    Whilst the buzz of a packed house is great, it is always good to keep options open. So much depends on the options the larger room offers. I’ve played in cavernous spaces (one was actually an old railway station building, another a 19th century state-of-the-art cow stall) where clever lighting and the use of simple screens created an intimate space which could be adjusted to the audience size (Tim’s big top).
    OTOH we all know of how sterile a school gym, etc. can be.

    Let us know what you find!
    Richard Martin
    The Three Sillies is the latest upload to the video gallery – over 60 folk tales available to watch


    Date: Wed, 26 Apr 2017 14:37:36 GMT

    If you have been regularly filling the house, I would say it’s better to remain where you are. An audience who see a full house will think the program is better than a house partially filled. Getting folks sitting on the floor is great advertisement for your programs. Two problems if you move, audiences may not follow you, and you may have problems with connecting with your audience.

    Steve Otto

    Storytelling is NOT for Some people
    It’s for ALL people


    From: “Smith, Nick”
    Date: Wed, 26 Apr 2017 16:41:14 +0000

    I have run music concerts for years, and what Steve says is very true. There is a different energy in a room that is mostly full than in one with lots of empty seats. Also, even an occasional “sold out” sign nudges people to make their plans earlier.

    Also, and this may seem weird, but people get used to one venue, and may not transition to another one, even if it’s equally convenient. The venues we’ve used are almost all within a radius of a thousand feet, but there are still people who get confused when we’re not in the “usual” place.

    So, unless your performances begin to overflow on a regular basis, I would hesitate to move to a larger space.

    –Nick Smith


    From: “seema wahi mukherjee”
    Date: 28 Apr 2017 12:00:16 -0000

    Hi Suzzane,

    Greetings from Delhi where we are about to have a dust storm, which hopefully would bring down the temperature.

    Honestly, after reading your mail, would love to attend your session at Innsburck one day.

    Your description of the current location seems ideal. Loved reading that the people had to sit on the aisles. It has its own charm and warmth. In my opinion, in case you take a place which can seat 100-250 people, the warmth which is evident in the description of current place may not be easy to recreate.

    Hopefully, the increase in number of audience becomes a regular feature rather than one off incident. In that case, you could increase the number of sessions and have them pre-book rather than all walk-ins.

    Warm regards,

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