Saying goodbye is even more important than saying hello.

I recently found myself at a vacation destination . . . where the local economy is fueled almost entirely by tourists who fly in from places around the world.

When I arrived, I was welcomed with open arms, given gifts, and made to feel so welcome.  Yep, they warmed me up to get me to spend money.  And it worked.

But when my trip was over, an interesting thing happened.  No one seemed to care about me.  It was a customer service version of “Don’t let the door hit you in the a$$ on the way out!”

Staffers were slow, people were rude . . . and don’t even get me started on the airport – uncomfortable, no food, broken facilities,  long lines, no wifi despite it being advertised, etc. (ok, you did get me started).  Boy, was getting out of this place not fun.

Now, guess what memory I took with me the most.

Yep, the last one . . .

I had forgotten about the hello . . . it was days ago.  The most recent memory was what I was most likely to recall . . . especially when people said, “Oh Ken, you just went to XXX.  How was it?”

People are most likely to spread both positive and negative word of mouth right when an experience ends, whether that’s a show, a vacation, or a break up!  Catch ’em right after the final moments, and that’s when people are the most passionate, which means saying goodbye is even more important than saying hello.

If you’re  a regional theater, how do you say goodbye to your audience?  How do we do it on Broadway?  Or if you’re a playwright, how does your finale compare to your opening?

Or if you’re a blogger, how do you end your blog?


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

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  • Amy Leigh says:

    I’ve been lucky enough to see shows like American Idiot and Spiderman on dates when the cast would come out into the lobby, pose for pictures and collect donations for one cause or another. Working in high school theater, that’s always a big deal – cast meeting the audience and vice versa. The experience doesn’t have to end at the curtain. Nearly all Las Vegas shows do this.

    (P.S. Let a girl know when you’re coming around to Vegas again, k?)

  • After each performance our actors come out and thank the audience for coming as they leave the theatre. In tjhe summer we also hand them our new season brochure as they are leaving the theatre.

  • After each performance our actors come out and thank the audience for coming as they leave the theatre. In the summer we also hand them our new season brochure as they are leaving the theatre.

  • David Merrick Jr says:

    It’s a well-known fact, consumer-wise, that a negative experience has more impact than a positive one.

  • @bflood28 says:

    It is SO important! I am so glad you wrote this and connected it to plays. I go to the Humana festival at ATLouisville every year and so many shows start with a bang but end in a whimper of a sad, poorly hastily written, non ending. Such a downer lol. NYMF is that way too often. Great new musicals there, that often fizzle out ending wise. Seems like the playwriting gods don’t know how to end these things.

  • Greg Hartley says:

    Prior to getting a job in theatre last year I worked in a theme park for 31 years. Standing at the front gate thanking the families as they left the park was not only a a final ‘warm & fuzzy’ for them it gave me the opportunity to get feedback on their experience. In my current position of Audience Development Coordinator, standing in the lobby after a show has helped me connect with our subscribers and groups. It has also allowed me to turn first time patrons to season subscribers. It is all about the total experience. Thanks for writing about this topic.

  • Andrew Beck says:

    For nearly all of the Goodspeed Opera House’s 50 years (Happy Anniversary!), its Executive Director and/or a member of its administration, along with any other staff and volunteers on duty, have stood at the bottom of the theater’s grand staircase and said good night to all patrons, even shaking the patrons’ hands as they departed. This on top of hearing the delightful band playing some memorable music from the show as you left the theater and headed for the stairs. Patrons are frequently addressed by name since at least someone in that farewell entourage must know who you are. Musicals have that ability to send you out on air, but it’s harder for plays. It’s quite disheartening to see the closed off box office, the closed refreshment stand, as you leave. It’s almost as if everyone important had something more important to get to while you left the theater!

  • What you say is so important. The best thing you can do to get people to come back again is to let them leave on a high.

    That is my one big problem during the Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS drive. It’s such a good cause, and so important, but by stopping the audience applause and then asking for money — you can feel all the good juju being zapped out of the room on those nights. I always feel for the actor who has to make the pitch.

    Some people stand in place, some sit back down, some scurry up the aisle — everything they just felt about the show is instantly gone.

    I wish the producers instead could do something a little more creative (like some do for cellphone silencing reminders and candy wrapping rattlers) — at the top of the show mention something like:

    “Tonight’s performance is dedicated to the annual Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS” drive, [info here; info here] so during intermission you will see some very special autographed items for sale, and at the end of the evening you will see actors stationed in the lobby collecting, and we hope you will be generous. The last performance we collected more than [amount here] but frankly, you look like a richer crowd, so we’re expecting more from you.

    Last year [title of show] won the prize for collecting the most money, so this year please help us beat those sons of bitches. And Oh yes, now would be a good time to turn off your cellphone and unwrap your noisy candies. And if we see you texting during the performance, you will be executed. Well, maybe not executed, but at least slapped around.”

    So this way they can know BEFORE the intermission about those special items for sale.

    And then when the actors come out to take their bows they can all be holding the collection buckets to remind the audience of the earlier message — no need to repeat it, and no need to interrupt the love, so the audience can leave on a high.

    And who knows? Maybe they’ll contribute more money than they would have otherwise.

  • Paula says:

    It’s what we call – “leaving a bad taste in your
    mouth”. I hope you wrote to whoever needed to
    hear your comments and hope they learned from you.

  • gjc says:

    Where’s this XXX place you were mentioning?? Sounds verrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrryy interesting !! (ba-DUM-dum) ;P

  • Robert Hawk says:

    Yes, I was wondering why you didn’t mention where you vacationed. It would be no skin off your back — and do a service for your readers, so they can avoid this place. Sounds dreadful.

  • Aaron Loo says:

    Really great insights!
    *Make the last impression a show stopper that will demand encores!
    Out here in L.A. loving the NY Attitude!
    And miss it so much.
    From someone who used to live on Broadway and 125th St.
    Thanks so much for starting the conversation and the spirited dialogue.

  • Joe Brancato says:

    At the Penguin Rep the “goodnight and turn your cellphones back on” is as important as the “welcome and turn your cellphones off”, so a stay and chat with the actors, director or designers is offered. It has helped us develop a loyal following who have become a part of our theatre now for 35 seasons. The audience has come to realize their relationship with us goes beyond one particular show but as an ongoing relationship and journey from play to play.

  • Debbie Saville says:

    Thanks again Ken for another great blog. It helps those of us who are creating shows know that unique choices with our openings/endings can work as we see them in our minds. And with that thought, after the intermission, or mid-week on vacations, or relationships after time has passed… all need the unexpected boost as this will recharge the show, the vacation, the relationship. And with a grand finale to remember, shows, vacations, everyday life and love will keep you filled with excited anticipation knowing already that anything is possible as it moves you towards your next big adventure! 🙂

  • Doug DeVita says:

    ROSE: “Let’s try the finale. After all, if you have a good strong finish, they’ll forgive anything.”

  • Zanne Hall says:

    Very wise suggestion to keep in mind.

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