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.
Patti’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.