"Year of the Adopted Family" book release

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Math Madness: 3 Number Types to Track that Add to Success in the Arts

This post was inspired by past experience as well as by Wendi Hassan, Executive Director of the Alliance for the Varied Arts and a consultant to Utah Presenters. She created a presentation and CD called “A Metrics Primer for the Artistic Mind”. Contact Wendi at whassanarts@gmail.com for more details. Or click here and order a MP3 recording for $5. It was commissioned by the Utah Arts Council.

Hovering over a calculator may be the last thing you want to do.

From taxes to bills, numbers could drive any artist to insanity.

Never fear.

There are numbers out there that have nothing to do with sending money to someone else. Rather, these numbers make it possible to RECEIVE money from others who love the arts.

Every number has a story and it is up to you to transform cold fact to warm experience.

You might be connected with an event that has been an annual tradition for 20+ years. You might be on the brink to start an event.

So what kind of numbers do people want to know about your art?

Remember to track these number types:
1. Audience Types and Consistency
2. Volunteers and Community Involvement
3. Direct Costs and Indirect Impacts

Audience Types and Consistency
Besides smiling at everyone who attends, notice details about the audience. You will often be fascinated by: average age, range of ages, and ethnic groups—attending and “missing”.

Ticket stubs or hand-held metal clickers could be inexpensive items to figure out attendance.

Some events do not require a ticket. Other places have “free” tickets as they serve more of a reservation or RSVP than an actual proof of purchase.

You could provide surveys or feedback forms that use 1-10 scales on enjoyment to receive “hard” numbers. A mix of 3-8 quantitative questions with 1-2 qualitative usually avoids overwhelming the audience member. Attempt to fit the questions on no longer than half sheet of paper.

Be sure to have a place for audience members to put their name and contact information. Include a way for audience members to grant permission for the possibility of using quotes for advertising.

You may want to have a drawing for anyone who returns a form. To promote privacy in answers, a person could receive a ticket stub in exchange for a completed form. Prizes could be mailed to the address on the stub.

The audience type and consistency could give you a hint as to the target market to reach the next year. It could also indicate that the intended audience did not match to those who actually came. Either you could celebrate and continue to connect with the type of audience that did show or you could reevaluate the advertising literature and strategies on why different results were received.

Volunteers and Community Involvement
You probably sent thank you cards to your glorious volunteers and sponsors, but how much do you know about them?

Detect trends, if any, of these people and organizations. You might consider creating a survey similar to what was created to learn more about the audience members.

As for volunteers, these people may range from Cub Scouts groups to retired individuals. Remember any event planners, directors, or Board members who may not have the title of “volunteer” but are still giving of time.

Though most of the attention focuses on event’s profit or impact, time is the most precious commodity for any event or organization.

For volunteers, consider the following and expand to address your needs:
  • How many volunteers helped out?
  • What is the average age of the volunteer?
  • What is the range of volunteer ages?
  • What was the average volunteer time dedicated to the event?
  • What was the range of minimum and maximum time given?
  • How did the volunteers learn about the opportunity to serve?
As for community involvement, this could mean corporations, associations, or individuals who sponsor through money, in-kind, or services.

For sponsors, consider the following and expand to address your needs:
  • What category or type of organization or business does the sponsor fit in? Examples: Art Group, Retail Business, Civic Organization, Youth-Oriented Association, Retired Individual, etc.
  • What was the value of the donation? (Product vs. Service)
  • What donations, if any, has this sponsor provided in the past for your event? Plans to provide for the current year? Intends to give in future years?
  • What is the key motivation for the gift? Other motives?
Direct Costs and Indirect Impacts
Consider the cash flow. Gather all the invoices and receipts in one place throughout the planning and implementation.

These receipts may include:
  • Location Rental
  • Artist Fees
  • Employee Wages
  • Stipends or Grants
  • Advertising Event
  • Website Space and Maintenance
  • Certificates and Awards
  • Hospitality Bags
  • Transportation/Lodging
  • Food
  • Sound Equipment
  • And on and on and on!
Correlate the not-so-obvious impact with such things as:
  • Hotel Occupancy Rates
  • Restaurant Receipts
  • Retail Sales
  • Property Values
Classic Equations
  • Cost Benefit Analysis = Expected Benefits vs. Expected Costs
  • Return on Investment = (Income – Investment)/Investment
  • Sales Tax Gap Analysis = Expected City Expenditures/Estimated Taxable Sales (less than one means leakage)
  • Lifetime Value of a Patron = Annual Expenditure X Average Years Retention
  • Economic Impact = Direct and Indirect Spending X Multiplier
Multiplier is a measure of how quickly new money “leaks” out of a geographic area.
Leakage is what fails to be consumed, attended, etc. and could refer to money, taxes, products, or performances.

If these equations seem “scary”, then recruit someone to work out these calculations for your event or organization.

Your Number Story
Tell the story of the event’s results once numbers are gathered about the audience, community impact, and other costs. What do you believe caused or impacted the numbers? Why?

Play with possibilities rather than being perfect in the answers.

The telling of this audience story may be most useful when shared aloud, written down, or recorded. There could be several versions of the story. As the story is told over and over, feel free to tweak or change the story as more information or insights are illuminated.

Sometimes the numbers provide a “happy ending” for the event. . .or it could be better described as a Greek tragedy. No matter the results, recognize that “things happen” for good or bad. Be humble with high and encouraging numbers. Comfort yourself that there will be improvement with any pit-of-the-stomach numbers.

Besides, you are involved. That should count for something!

***Besides collecting statistics for your event, search for any other number stories available for events that are either similar in art form, style, or that match your intended audience. When gathered before your event, personal goals could come from it. You might also gage your success by looking at those numbers.

Until we tell again,

Rachel Hedman
Professional Storyteller
Tel: (801) 870-5799
Email: info@rachelhedman.com
Family Famine Series Site: http://www.familyfamine.com/

Thursday, April 01, 2010

When Fools Rush In: 3 Ways to Boost Wisdom with Story Introductions

A story could survive without an introduction.

Though often a storyteller receives an introduction by an emcee to further excitement from the audience. It seems fair that a story receive an introduction so as to experience similar results.

What to Remember About Introductions:
1. Dedicate Time To Have Intro & Of Appropriate Length
2. Ponder What The Story Means To You
3. Strengthen Lead-ins Without Revealing Plot

Dedicate Time To Have Intro & Of Appropriate Length
Some storytellers tell stories as if careening down a mountainside or as if a “ready, set, go” button was pushed.

I have acted in such a rapid way. When competing in a Liar’s Contest, I had five minutes. One sentence was all I spared to recognize the audience. I would have preferred a few more moments to reach out to the audience.

Any storyteller could make a conscious decision to include an introduction whether it lasts thirty seconds to over a minute.

Ellouise Schoettler, one of the Exchange Place Tellers at the 2009 National Storytelling Festival, was given twelve minutes. At this event, it is taboo to go over time. She considered telling one of her fourteen-minute signature stories. Then, rather than condensing the story and forgoing the introduction, Ellouise chose to tell a seven-minute story with a few minutes of breathing room. After the festival, Ellouise was glad she gave the time to solidify a connection with the audience.

Her wise decision to give time for a story introduction led to a happy memory.

Balance the length of the introduction with the story. I have heard introductions longer than the story! Any introduction over a couple minutes will need strong rationalizations. There are exceptions to any rule. Sometimes a mini story is needed to make way for the longer story.

Ponder What The Story Means To You
Another name for an introduction is a “mindset”. It implies that one must look within first.

All of the reasons that you chose a certain story may not surface as introduction material. However, your tone at the beginning may be influenced by these feelings.

Sometimes we rush to tell a story before understanding why we were drawn to tell it. A perfect answer is not necessary. You may find the answer being “I don’t know” but that would at least proved that you asked yourself the question.

As you gain life experiences, an introduction you used in the past may not be how you feel about the story now. Feel free to change stories as you change.

The current events may convince you to take another route with the introduction. In fact, reminding the audience that you are aware of what they are aware . . .could that be another approach to “mindset”?

Strengthen Lead-ins Without Revealing Plot
I have always appreciated learning trivia before someone tells a story. Perhaps that is why I sometimes love to reveal important symbolism before a tale is told.

If the symbol is not a key part of the plot, however, then it may be better suited for commentary and not an introduction. Though, if it gives away how the plot may resolve, then you may want to rethink your need to share that bit of information.

The title itself could give away the ending. If so, then you either may want to change the title to something less revealing or save to share it at the end as a kind of “by the way” after the applause.

Whenever I tell the Iraqi folktale “The Sparrow and His Wife”, I begin by sharing some facts about the Evil Eye. There is an action done at the end of the story that becomes more meaningful if the audience knows this ahead of time. Could the story be fine without the introduction? Yes. But I have already determined my favorite part of the story and would like the Evil Eye explanation at the start so to magnify the possible reactions from the audience at the end.

So the next time you are ready to tell a story, consider the first words that will come out of your mouth.

Your audience—and story—will appreciate it.

Until we tell again,

Rachel Hedman
Professional Storyteller
Tel: (801) 870-5799
Email: info@rachelhedman.com
Family Famine Series Site: http://www.familyfamine.com/