5 hot tips from Blind Dates

5 hot tips from Blind Dates

Jon Solmundson

One of the biggest challenges of taking performances around WA is understanding the incredible diversity of regional audiences. Enter Country Arts WA’s Blind Dates.

Blind Dates offers Australian producers who are in town for the Perth Fringe festival the chance to chat with presenters, staff from Country Arts WA and CircuitWest to get some top quality insights to connect their show with regional audiences. But not everyone can make it into town, so we’ve picked our 5 top tips for producers benefit:

1. There’s more than just the show

Regional communities enjoy attending performances for sheer entertainment, but it is good to remember, they do so to socialise and catch up with friends and family also. If you have ideas on how the presenter can add to the event, they love hearing about it. For example if you are a country music singer, how about suggesting the presenter have a dinner and show, a fancy dress competition: or suggest they decorate their venue in country and western style with hay bales to boot! These ideas are always welcome.

Presenters also like to take advantage of any community engagement opportunities that a producer can offer. Have a think about all the skills your touring party already has in their kit that could benefit a regional community. This could be a professional development opportunity, for example public speaking, or a yoga lesson or a workshop. Workshops are an incredible opportunity to generate hype for your show, and create a lasting impression on the town – all of which can only help to earn you very positive word of mouth to bring in the crowds next time you’re in town.

One Blind Dates regional presenter said they are always on the lookout for the skills a producer might bring that could add value to the town. These extra opportunities to give something to the audience outside of your show create community engagement. Community engagement is incredibly important for presenters to pursue as well, as we wrote in an earlier article, so if you’re actively thinking about what you can do to create engagement before or after the show it makes you a very attractive option for presenters.

Picture by Jon Solmundson.

2. Make sure your show is visible

Before any regional presenter can pick up your show, they’ve got to be able to see it. The easiest way to kick-start this visibility is to express interest to pitch at various showcases and performing arts marketplaces, or list touring menus wherever you can. CircuitWest coordinates the WA Showcase, which you can read more about here. Country Arts WA runs a call out to eligible producers to list themselves on the Shows on the Go touring menu every year, via National Touring Selector. NTS can be an asset in of itself to improve your show’s visibility, as it provides a place for presenters to find your show and a way to contact you.

As well as making the show generally visible, it’s also important to ensure that the information you’re providing is clear and useful. It’s tempting to make a show sound like it can be all things to all people, but this may actually just frustrate presenters’ efforts to figure out how the show will suit their community. Wherever you pitch or list your work make sure that it’s clear what the work is about, and who it is for.

3. Provide quality marketing materials

On the more material side of things, a good marketing set up can make a presenter’s life much easier (and hence make your show a better catch). High quality, professional pictures are a must – they are absolutely necessary to get the tone and idea of your show out to the potential audience in the presenter’s community. This means that the pictures should be truly representative of what the show is, so no one is thrown off when they buy a ticket only to discover it’s something completely different from what they expected (not usually in a good way).

To help the presenter communicate your message it’s also a good idea to have a full recording of your show if possible, or at least a short sizzle reel. The full recording would be for the presenter’s eyes only, but it helps them get a sense of the show so they can better market it to their community. A bit of effort on social media can also go a long way: Many towns have very active Facebook community and discussion groups. Making an impression in these spaces is a great way to promote your show.

4. Build relationships wherever you can

One of the big reasons we do Blind Dates, the reason we engage people to communicate with regionally-focused arts organisations directly, is because those relationships (best formed in direct one-on-one communication) are the basis of any regional touring career. Because of how different each community is, it’s a huge bonus to have someone with local knowledge who can tell you what will and won’t work for their town. A local ear is also a great resource to get informed about local festivals, shire events and other opportunities to get your work on stage. If you haven’t signed up for Blind Dates, there’s still sessions available here – and if you’re a WA producer CircuitWest’s WA Showcase is a great chance to meet up with and get your work in front of regional presenters.

Picture by Jon Solmundson.

5. Ask whether your show suits the audience

Not every show is suitable for every audience or every venue, and that’s alright. Before you start trying to take your show on the road ask whether it’s going to find a crowd. Use your personal networks or National Touring Selector to find presenters and don’t be afraid to contact them directly. Presenters are often more than happy to provide advice, plus, once you pick up the phone and make one-to-one contact you never know where that relationship might lead!

Once you get talking though, realise that your pitch shouldn’t always be the hard sell. It’s a two way relationship; by all means tell the presenter about the awesome qualities of your work, but ask questions and listen to their insight about what the local audiences are into. We see a lot of shows say that they’re great fun for any audience, but that’s not actually useful information. Giving the presenter a truly accurate understanding of what your show is, and what audiences it is and isn’t suitable for, gives them the confidence to contact those audiences and bring them in for the performance.

You can always get an idea of what works for some regional communities by checking out our past Shows on the Go tours, as those shows are voted for and selected by regional presenters.

Blind Dates is about creating awesome opportunities for producers to get their work in front of regional audiences, if you’d like to sign up there’s still spots left to have a chat (and we’ll even buy you a coffee) on 27 February. Just tell us when you’d like to meet up and we’ll make some space for you.

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