There's nothing more dangerous than a good idea, if it’s the only one you have.
I attended an audience development session in Montreal last week, conducted by Opera Canada, and had a chance to spend two days brainstorming with marketing people that work in all of our country’s opera companies. While these types of training sessions can be overwhelming, I came out of it feeling as energized as you do after a double espresso. The sessions were facilitated by Claude Legrand, author of Innovative Intelligence, a book that literally teaches you how to come up with good ideas. Claude believes that good ideas can only be a product of group work, and that if you come up with a great idea on your own, it’s most likely by accident. You need to be in a productive environment, surrounded by both experts and non-experts, creative and practical people. That way, you have a good mix, and great potential to have a successful brainstorming session.
It was certainly time well spent; we all put our minds together in this crazy, wild process that Claude teaches, and started stripping down our main problems and questions that follow all opera companies: How do we reach new audiences? How do we get people to come back after they see one opera? How do we provide great patron service, so that we differentiate ourselves from others?
Many other “How do we” questions came up, and our goal for this short session was not to find answers or solutions. It was to analyze the questions, remove the ambiguity and non-certainty of them, and then reformat the question and come to the core of it. It was an enlightening process that all of us really enjoyed and learned from, whether it was Canadian Opera Company that markets nine operas a year or one of the smaller companies that presents two. We all have the same goal and challenge: to attract new audiences while keeping the current audience engaged. There is no magic solution or answer, but we all strive to do that, and hope that we’ll be successful.
The amazing thing is that opera audiences are one of the most engaged and loyal audience, and that most of you who may be reading this not only love opera, but bring a friend or a family member to see at least one opera per season. You are passionate as much as we are, and with an audience like that, we can have a strong future in this ever-changing world. We need to learn, as a company and as an art form, how to keep our identity during the process. And we need your help. So please, tell us what we’re doing wrong, and we promise we will improve. Tell us if we’re doing something good, and we’ll try even harder. But we need the conversation to happen, otherwise we are doing this without you, and you’re the one that matters most.
Email or call us. Let’s talk.