Running a science event is a good way to get an idea out there without the risk of pitching an idea for a show you haven’t written yet for funding, and hoping you can make it work.
So you book a venue, settle a date, book a bill of acts and then panic for a month and a half about how on earth you’re going to sell enough tickets.
TFers Rachel Wheeley and Aimee Eckert run Dead Talks and Dr. Jiggs Boson’s Charming Science Friends. We have put on half a dozen gigs since the Talent Factory rolled into town, with decent audiences, sell out shows, not so sell out shows and bookings at Green Man and Cheltenham Science Festivals. Talent Factory has also produced Agony Auncles of Science which will be performed at the Edinburgh festival in August this year.
Don’t be afraid to fail. If an idea needs tweaking, you will find out by putting it on. Not everything is going to be an overnight success like Dr Jiggs. Rach genuinely thought it would be a good idea to do a show with a shredder on a plinth in the middle of the stage for people to come and shred their notes at the end of a set (I still think that’s a good idea – Rach.)
Datewise, try to avoid clashes with things that will draw your audience (depends where you are and what type of show it is.) If it’s a science thing, don’t have it on the same night as a Science Museum Late, or anything by Steve Cross. Anything. If he’s in a pub, all the science people will just sort of flock to it. Ideally, run your event when he’s out of the country.
First things first
Book a venue
- What capacity room should you book?
- Does the venue have the right AV equipment?
- Does the venue have someone who can run the tech for you on the night?
- Is there a cost to hire the room, a door split or a minimum spend on the bar?
- Will they promote your event on their website & social media?
- Will they provide a cash box and float for on the door ticket sales?
- Don’t assume anything.
What format you do is pretty open ended. From stand up to all singing, all dancing cabaret, to panel show to monologue. It’s really up to you.
Be clear with acts what the date is, what the likely call (arrival) time will be, what the brief is and whether they will be compensated with expenses or a fee. If the gig is for charity, let them know which one. They may have a personal connection. If you are charging for tickets and it isn’t a charity gig, are you paying the acts? Can you afford as many acts as you’ve booked?!
Email the acts and other organisers – remind them of the venue, the address, call time, brief, timing requirements, your social media details and a contact for someone on the night itself. Give them a deadline for slides.
Be prepared for it to go wrong – book one more act than you need. Give some thought to your running order. Work out where the energetic acts are and where the less energetic acts are. Don’t clump them together. Try to give the event a flow of energy, culminating in something excellent!
Make a poster for the venue. If you don’t have Photoshop, you might be able to cobble something together in Powerpoint.
Submit your event to the press association etc…
Londonist (other conurbations are available): https://londonist.typeform.com/to/mKTdSo
Make a FB event. Invite all the acts, plus organisers/other associated folk. Ask people to share the link with their networks. Add details to it every so often so that the event looks alive. Bear in mind, images wise that a FB event header is 1920 x 1080 pixels. It is worth making images that fit this exactly or you risk losing important info in the cropping.
If there’s no difference between the ‘on the door’ price and the advance price, people won’t buy in advance. Aimee cleverly side steps this by coming up with ideas that sell out weeks before they happen.
Always Be Selling
Tell everyone about your next gig. Which reminds me, have I mentioned Stand Up for Towel Day?
Don’t forget to write and prepare your set!
The problem with running a night is that you can get very pre-occupied with ticket sales, logistics and admin. This is not great for coming up with funny ideas, or researching your topic.
Allocate some time for writing your set, even if you haven’t sold any tickets yet, plus time for rehearsal, if that’s how you work.
Consider assigning one of the organisers ‘producer’ on the night, who can deal with audience members, venue staff and acts so that the MC can get in the zone.
On the night
Some seating arrangements are terrible for comedy. Experiment, but it may be necessary to rearrange the seating arrangement in your venue before you start. If there are any chairs facing the opposite way from the stage (it happens), get them turned around! Packing everyone together in rows can help to create a good crowd dynamic. Encourage people to fill the venue from the front row backwards (people are often nervous of the front row.)
The first thing your audience is going to experience when they come into the space is the music you’re playing. Ian Bowkett (the tech who demands respect) has a playlist with inoffensive rock songs on it, and it works very well. Inject a bit of energy into the room, but don’t put anybody off. You can’t beat the White Stripes.
It is worth making a few signs to direct people to your space. Especially if the space is upstairs or downstairs in a pub, or somewhere difficult to find.
Also, stick a running order up somewhere for the acts. If they can clearly see where they are in the bill they won’t need to ask.
Does the venue have decent enough lighting? If not, could you bring some along to help set the right mood? Parcans are good for a car headlight style spotlight effect. LED lights are cheaper but can throw weird light around the space and annoy Steve when he’s taking photos.
Beware that a projector directly behind the stage means that everyone will have their slides projected onto their face. Not always a good look.
I mean, you can just stand to the left or the right of the screen, but even better, find a venue where the screen is above head height. Like the Imax at the Science Museum. Erm… yeah.
Do you have the right connector for your laptop? Have you received all the contributor’s slides? Do you need a clicker for your presentations (yes you do.)
If you’re MCing, hand over the running of the gig to your producer 10 minutes before you start, so that you can get into performance headspace.
Once you’re there and on stage in front of your audience, forget about all of this and allow yourself to respond to the room. React to things that happen, don’t stick too rigidly to what you prepared and stay on your toes! (Sprezzatura is Italian, it means “be in the moment”, roughly.)
Have a mailing list for people and you can start to build your audience! Hand it around at the beginning of the second half so it can be passed around. Enter these into a Mailchimp (other email distribution options are available) and let people know when the next gig is.
Anything we’ve missed? Add it in the comments. Good luck!