Day 1 of the Broadway League Conference: How to engage your staff and your audience.

In case you missed my tweet from yesterday AM, I’m currently south of the Snow Line in sunny Ft. Lauderdale, Florida for the 2015 Biennial Broadway League Conference.

The biennial conference is one of my favorite league activities (and not just because it gets me out of the sludge and slush of NYC for a few days), because it’s about big-picture Broadway thinking.  You know, the kind of stuff that is important to those of us who have been in the biz for a couple of decades and plan on being in it for many more.

We talk stuff like Audience Development, Customer Loyalty, The State of the Road . . . and that’s just during the sessions.  I can’t even publish what’s talked about during the coffee breaks, cocktail hours, and at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino at 1 AM.  🙂

It’s fun, educational, and of course, full of schmoozing.

In case you’re not down here with me, I thought I’d fill you in on just what you’re missing.  So here are some highlights from Day 1:

The morning session featured Harvard Professor Linda Hill, author of the book Collective Genius, who schooled us on leadership and how to unleash the power of the people in your organization.  In her 30 minute talk, she shattered our preconceived notion that the most innovative companies were led by one creative genius. Rather, they were organizations where leaders inspired others to be creative.  Simply put, the most innovative companies out there “had more cooks in the kitchen.”

My takeaway?  Get my staff more involved and more engaged in everything that I do, from the beginning.  Everyone who gets into the arts does so because they love it.  If you don’t allow them to be creative and just keep them chained to their desks, they will eventually realize they can make more money pushing paper for a wicket company, and will eventually do so.  Oh, and they’re smart, so I bet they could help me solve half of my problems, if they only knew what they were.

The afternoon session was led by Sara Billmann from the University Musical Society, who kicked off the convo by putting up this infographic from a recent NEA study that isolated both the motivations and the barriers for arts attendance.

The biggest motivator for getting folks to the arts?  To socialize with friends or family (73%).

The biggest barrier for getting folks to the arts?  Give you one guess.

If you said price . . . you are wrong.

The biggest barrier was having the time to attend (47%).   Click here for more.

That’s an interesting barrier to derive a takeaway from, because you can’t make time.  If the top barrier was price, you could just lower the prices.  If it was “we hate your shows,” you could program differently.  But time?  What do you do?  Give them a different watch?

The truth is . . . their barrier isn’t time.  It’s value.  They are not making the time for theater, which means they don’t value the experience of theatergoing over the other things in their day.  So it’s price, it’s content, it’s parking, it’s everything combined.  Our challenge is to make theatergoing so valuable that they would drop anything and everything just to see that show.  In other words, just like your staff, your audience needs deeper engagement in the experience.

How do we do that?

Hopefully we’ll answer that question at Day 2.  Tune in tomorrow for more!


(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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– This week on the Podcast:  Broadway gossip columnist Michael Riedel from the NY Post.  Listen here.

  • Jed says:

    “So it’s price, it’s content, it’s parking,”

    The idea of the masses watching Broadway shows, or any show for that matter, and not just in NY, will happen when they are finally filmed in 3-D and the audience will then view it through 3-D in goggles in the comfort of their homes.

    Of course the shows won’t have to have the production values of Sweeney Todd, the movie, which I loved. But to simply film the musicals and release them over the internet, for pay, is the only way to reach mass audiences. IMO

  • Kay says:

    It’s the pre planning. If you are an out-of-tower, it’s wether, family, etc. and non exchange policy.

  • R. Scott Williams says:

    I cannot comment on the content of this post, as I am too distracted by the glaring anomaly: the Biennial Conference of something called The Broadway League is taking place 1000 miles from Broadway. Perhaps the big obstacle to getting audiences involved in the Arts isn’t price OR time. It’s the weather. Ironic that members of The Broadway League don’t want to be anywhere near Broadway in February. It must be like the actor who attends classes at the Royal Shakespeare Company. In Cleveland.

  • Ah, Fort “Liquordale” – my old stomping ground! Bar hopping by boat along The Intercoastal, great music, Las Olas Blvd. and Sawgrass Mills Mall. Glancing over NEA’s Report gives me one quick idea flash for the 22%. Just as solo travelers often long for companionship, theater-going clubs could help bring like-minded groups together (singles, seniors, teens, etc.) to see NYC shows. I’d need to ponder more for additional solutions. R. Scott Williams has a valid point – many snow birds fly south for the winter – a definite challenge for this season on Broadway. And as Jed concluded, tech has high value in 21st Century society so this integration would be beneficial.

  • lisbeth says:

    Just always such juicy rich content ken..thanks for sharing and can only imagine how inspiring and fun! this conference must be…… many wizards of super live experience in one room?! OMG…and the after parties………….lol…but indeed the insights are thought provoking………the “time” thing doesn’t shock me as through my strategic analysis to support creative work…its been an issue for some time…especially in dual income families…….but I for one would still see price in the heart always is moved to turn on more to the broadway experience………and insights you share around this table surely invaluable to keeping broadway strong and growing stronger…wonderful you take time to share beyond the tweet (and yes I did tweet your share here:)
    thanks s much look forward to more!

  • Ilene Argento says:

    Seems like the same business practices they are talking about in your meeting are the ones I’ve been using in non-entertainment management for years! Happy staff equals creativity + productivity + loyalty!

    Love the recap. You left me wanting more! Looking forward to Day 2!

  • An says:

    I take the time response more at face value. For more than 7 years, I worked in Times Square in a corporate (non-theatre) position. On most nights I left the office as the theatres let out in the evening. I enjoyed weighing the relative crowd sizes and listening to the conversations. On two hands, I can count the number of times I could plan ahead to be out before curtain rise (ok – this does not include weekends – see next point). Note how a lot of prime time TV has now shifted to 9 or even 10 pm, admittedly easier for a one-hour TV slot than for a 1.5 hour theatre w/commute add on. But time is not just “available at curtain time,” it is also the time to purchase tickets. The navigation of TicketMaster (unless you are searching in the best available category) and similar sights is NOT geared towards virtually instantaneous purchase. Countless times I have tried to purchase tickets only to find the first date I tried had no availability, then had to navigate back to the start search to begin again, then get interrupted by an urgent call or stop-by. Or found the tickets, and was interrupted then timed out and had to start over. Then there is the time once you’ve found next available that meets your schedule to check-in with your theatre-going buddy. I envision a site that allows you to ping your theatre buddy to join or follow your online ticket search and chat (found time to search most often, when technically on a conference call…), when you can set your filter categories in the first screen, fas one does to find furniture and clothing purchases, and be given a list of dates when tickets in are available, or makes side-bar suggestions.

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