Getting to Know You: A way for Orchestras to Reach out to their Audience

Connecting with our audience has never been more important - particularly in this economic climate

Erica Sipes recently blogged about a performance tour of her and her husband. Prior to the performance they would greet and talk to the audience members as the audience came into the hall. This type of "showmanship" isn't new as "barking" -standing out front calling attention to both yourself and your upcoming performance- has been around since the earliest performers.

Standing out front where your audience can connect with you and talking to them creates a sense of accessibility like no other. Audience members want to connect with performers. If they feel like they know you, the connection is stronger. The reason tabloid papers sell so well is because these personal stories of the stars, whether they are true or not, give people the feeling they are learning something they wouldn't get from just the performance --a deeper sense of connection.

What would happen if the musicians in an orchestra, all 80 of them, were to walk about into the concert hall before a performance? If they treated the pre-concert time as a cocktail party and went to mingle with the audience, the people in the audience would get that sense of connecting with the orchestra! It wouldn't just be one or two people, but 75 or 80 (or more) walking about, talking about the upcoming performance and sharing their "jitters" of performance. Audiences would eat this up.

Donor appreciation events are often this sort of "get to know the musicians." Mingling with the musicians is a great way to get people to give money. Well... a concert hall of 500-1500 people is a pretty large donor group. What if you could turn that entire crowd into donors for your symphony???

There are probably a few musicians who would balk at the idea; "I'm here to play music, not to be a good will ambassador." In my opinion, you couldn't be more wrong. As an orchestra member, you are a performer 1st and foremost. As a performer your job is to connect with the audience. Getting out front and talking to the audience is the best way of connecting with them. Plus, if it's good for the orchestra, it's good for you.

Musicians are fascinating people. Even the shyest of the bunch are passionate about music.  This passion translates really well in conversation.  When the passion for the music is translated to the audience before a performance, the audience will be more passionate about the performance (which will lead to more standing ovations, better reviews... the list goes on).  Get passionate with your audience by talking to them before a performance!

Here are a few talking points for those musicians who are reticent to talk to strangers:

  • Ask the if there anything on tonight's program they are particularly interested in hearing?
    • This will allow you to highlight your thoughts on the piece.
    • You can then talk about
      • what you found challenging 
      • what you found interesting
      • what part you like best about that particularly piece
  • Ask if the have ever been to an orchestra concert before
    • If they're regular attending, praise them for their support
    • Ask them about other shows they are going to see this season?
      • This leads you to talking about shows they didn't mention
      • or highlighting exciting points in shows they did
    • If they've never attended before, thank them for coming tonight
      • talk about what they can expect, things to look for in tonight's performance
These talking point should give you 5 to 10 minutes of flowing conversation.  Once done, thank the audience member again for coming to tonight's performance and then say, "I should probably talk to some other's before the concert begins."   

Nothing in this "patter" is outside conversations you already have with people you know.  You're just extending to people you don't know, but want to get to know you, want to support you and your orchestra. 


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