Sometimes A Cigar Is Just A Cigar

Joe Patti posted a thought provoking article at Butts In The Seats on 11/11/13 title Sometimes They Just Want To Go Home which examines the bear trap of over analysis and searching for profound meaning where none exists. Patti’s post comes at a good time and serves as a practical anchor to remind us that in the meticulous search for answers to improving the audience experience, it can be easy to slip into the trap of overlooking the obvious.

ADAPTISTRATION-Guy-170Patti’s article recounts following an online discussion unfold via Twitter from the recent #NAMPC conference where an arts organization that wondered why people left one of their fundraisers so early. They had double the expected turnout, loads of things to do, good conversation going on, etc.

Nonetheless, people cleared out after pretty much a half hour.

The discussion began to focus on reasons that more or less focused on some degree of institutional fault. For instance, arts consultant Alan Brown (who attended the conference) wondered why arts organizations, generally, were so quick to chase people out after the event was over while another participant wondered if the institution created enough audience value.

Those are all worthwhile options to explore but Patti goes in another direction and suggests that perhaps everyone left after a half hour because they had the good time they were looking for and were ready to go home.

Simply put, sometimes a cigar is just a cigar and this organization did everything right, maximized the event’s potential, and that’s that.

In the end, it’s no surprise that arts groups should always be looking for ways to indentify bad habits and improve; at the same time, don’t over analyze.

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About Drew McManus

"I hear that every time you show up to work with an orchestra, people get fired." Those were the first words out of an executive's mouth after her board chair introduced us. That executive is now a dear colleague and friend but the day that consulting contract began with her orchestra, she was convinced I was a hatchet-man brought in by the board to clean house.

I understand where the trepidation comes from as a great deal of my consulting and technology provider work for arts organizations involves due diligence, separating fact from fiction, interpreting spin, as well as performance review and oversight. So yes, sometimes that work results in one or two individuals "aggressively embracing career change" but far more often than not, it reinforces and clarifies exactly what works and why.

In short, it doesn't matter if you know where all the bodies are buried if you can't keep your own clients out of the ground, and I'm fortunate enough to say that for more than 15 years, I've done exactly that for groups of all budget size from Qatar to Kathmandu.

For fun, I write a daily blog about the orchestra business, provide a platform for arts insiders to speak their mind, keep track of what people in this business get paid, help write a satirical cartoon about orchestra life, hack the arts, and love a good coffee drink.

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1 thought on “Sometimes A Cigar Is Just A Cigar”

  1. Although speculation and self-flagellation can come up with some fantastic explanations, perhaps the use of a simple post-event survey would reveal the source/non-source of consternation for the patrons. .
    You will be astonished at the things that bother or thrill your attendees. My favorite odd ones to date are the absolute hatred of the flowers and how the voice of another attendee was so annoying it made them need to leave. However, we’ve also been able to address minor sound issues, seating problems and a variety of other items that otherwise may have turned into major complaints.

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