We get ’em while they’re going. Why not while they’re coming?

Here’s my general marketing rule of thumb:  If everyone is doing something one way, do the exact opposite.

Here’s an example . . .

Many a Broadway and Off-Broadway show choose to add value to certain performances by hosting post-show talkbacks.  If you’ve never been to one, they’re great.  They often feature the stars, or the creative team . . . or sometimes, like what we did on Oleanna, they can go beyond the people in the room and ignite fantastic conversation that can fuel word-of-mouth and piss off your author.

Talkbacks are great.

But, truth-in-ticket-sales be told, they don’t usually generate sales.  Instead they do three things:

  • They get press
  • They add value
  • They stoke the word-of-mouth fire among your biggest fans

These three things are all good.  Which is why just about everyone does them.

So . . . if everyone is doing post-show talkbacks, why not do pre-show talkbacks?

This concept would be ideal for the shows that require a little primer in the dialogue, or the plot (Shakespeare anyone?) Or, the talkback could just serve as a warm-up for an audience about to take-in a comedy (Jay Leno, Letterman, etc. all have warm-ups before they start their shows for a reason).

Or maybe the pre-show talkback takes place at a restaurant nearby.  Package a dinner, and a special appearance by a cast member to help explain a little about the show they are about to see.

Opportunities are endless of course, and the cool thing is that they all seem original . . . because everyone is doing the other thing.

Try it for yourself.  The next time someone suggests something, ask yourself if the exact opposite might work even better.  You might still end up going with the first suggestion.  But “Examining The Opposite” is a trick I use that helps encourage creativity and inspire originality.


(Got a comment? I love ‘em, so comment below!  Click here then scroll down to say what’s on your mind!)



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  • Liz says:

    Lincoln Center Theater does this with their Platform series. I remember for War Horse they did it on Wednesdays, so it was after the matinee and before the evening show, open to everyone.



  • Kendra says:

    My theatre in toronto (theatre passe muraille) does this. Our AD is named Andy so we do egg rolls with Andy. We provide egg rolls and the like in the bar area pre show while he discusses the show.

  • Steven U says:

    Many (or most) symphony orchestras in the USA do pre-show talkbacks so that their audiences will be informed as to what they will hear. I agree, Ken, we should this.

  • Terrence Cranert says:

    Talkbacks are not new,of course. My favorite talkback comment is attributed to John Barrymore who was asked following a performance of Romeo and Juliet if he believed the two lovers had premarital relations, to which Barrymore quipped in response: “I know the ones in our cast did.”

  • Mari says:

    We have been doing this at the Lake Dillon Theatre for 2 years now. Actually we do a pre-show talk with the Artistic Director or a member of senior staff BEFORE the show-and then a traditional talk-back with the performers after the show. (We call them the Prologue and the Epilogue.) They have become so popular that patrons who cannot make the Prologue for some reason have asked us to e-mail our notes to them.

    Now we send those notes out to everyone on the email list as a post-show “thank you” to our patrons.

  • Joe says:

    Ken- The idea of a pre-show talkback is awesome. I would certainly pay for that especially if it’s a show that may not be well known or that I may have not done the research on it yet. Great idea!

  • Joe says:

    Actually, Ken, when our group did “Merrily We Roll Along” which is confusing enough because the show goes backward in time, we had several cast members do a talkback at intermission asking audience members if they knew what was going on and did they have any questions for the cast members. It was a great ice breaker and it generated a lot of chat between cast and audience members.

  • Paula says:

    As a graduate of Douglass College, I was invited to a
    pre-show luncheon before a Thirteen matinee. The pre-talk was led by one of the producers, also a Douglass
    graduate. She gave us a lot of background information
    about the “world of producing” and the show. Tilles
    Center at C.W. Post, LIU, on Long Island, has pre-talk
    with some of the musical performances with “the”
    performer or an expert in the particular art form. Had there been no cancellation of tonight’s performance,
    we would have had a pre-talk with Joshua Bell. It’s a
    great idea, Ken. Sometimes the audience can appreciate
    a show more with prior clarification.

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