Since I can't count on the reviews to help bring in the crowds, I am left with two options: flyers and word of mouth. Now, word of mouth requires having an initial audience to see your show and spreading the word around. When we arrived in Winnipeg, we tried to set up a volunteer appreciation show. I would have loved to have one early on in order to fill the venue, but unfortunately all they had left was this coming Friday (which, don't get me wrong, is fine because the volunteers need to be appreciated; I just wish it would have been earlier). So, that leaves us with the flyers.
The often undisputed "God" of the Fringe, TJ Dawe wrote a one man show entitled Totem Figures, which he toured on the circuit last year. I didn't get to see it when it was in Ottawa, but someone was kind enough to point me to a podcast of the piece. Part 2 has a really great bit about touring the Fringe for the first time and the gruelling task of promoting your show through flyers. A big thank you to the friend who forwarded this to me. I find hope in it.
Flyering is an art form in and of itself. Some veteran performers have mastered the art of the quick pitch. For example, jem rolls can be heard saying: "I'm British and say things that make you laugh." Wham, bam, thank you, mam. Others have reviews they can push. Gemma Wilcox got a double-whammy this year and can simply throw a "5 Stars from the CBC and the Winnipeg Free Press" out with her flyers.
For me, it's a little more difficult. First of all, no one knows me here, so I am not a familiar face. Second, my show can't really be summarized in ten words or less (Hell, I had trouble coming up with 60). Third, I don't have a star rating I particularly want to throw out there. And finally, I've never done this before.
So, I sought out professional help. And who's more professional that a former psych nurse? The affable Rob Gee had these tips for me:
- Don't flyer people coming out of a show. They are probably in a rush to go somewhere or still digesting what they just saw. You will not have time to speak to them and will basically waste a flyer.
- Do flyer people waiting in lines. They have nothing better to do than listen to you.
- Have at least three variations of your pitch so that the people at the back of the line hear something different from the people in front of them.
- Take a break every once in a while. Remember, your priority is to your show. Don't burn yourself out with flyers.
Other good pieces of advice that I picked up: know which page in the program your show is on, wear sensible shoes, plan which lineups you will attack ahead of time.
My pitch usually turns into a long conversation. At first I felt guilty about "wasting time." Then I realized that I actually enjoyed these talks and that people would probably be more likely to remember me by them. We all have our methods.
Over the weekend we drained our first batch of flyers and ordered more. Fortunately, the fine people at Industry Images had them ready for pick-up by 11am on Monday. I've pretty much been flyering non-stop from noon to showtime every single day. I'm starting to run into a lot of the same people now. I'm tired and it was recommended that I don't do any flyering today. Personally, I haven't seen it result in higher attendance numbers so far, so I didn't argue. That said, I've got 5 more shows and a whack of flyers to get through so I will probably jump back into it later tonight.
Un p'tit coup de coeur...