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!


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– 6 more days to enter Will It Recoup? for a chance to win $500 of Broadway Theater Tickets!  Click here.

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

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Ken created one of the first Broadway podcasts, recording over 250 episodes over 7 years. It features interviews with A-listers in the theater about how they “made it”, including 2 Pulitzer Prize Winners, 7 Academy Award Winners and 76 Tony Award winners. Notable guests include Pasek & Paul, Kenny Leon, Lynn Ahrens and more.