So, the three major regional conferences—Arts Midwest, Western Arts, and Performing Arts Exchange—are history for 2018. And many of the more local, state, and other smaller regional conferences and block booking meetings are over or just winding down. I was able to spend a few days on Columbus, Ohio, at Arts Midwest, and was, as always, thrilled to meet up with so many colleagues and discuss cooperative projects related to my new venture–this business–Raising Arts.
What did we learn? I am sure there were lots of things for lots of different reasons gained. But the overriding lesson tends to be one that rises to the top of every post-conference survey ever administered: networking is the most important reason and reward that we receive. And going to a conference is about the only way to accomplish truly meaningful networking.
That’s fantastic, and it’s been proven time and time again how far that can go in our work and our professional and personal lives. However, there are so many of you that do not benefit from this for various, understandable reasons: you can’t find the money in their budgets; you are too busy and unable to make time available; your board or artists don’t understand the value so don’t support the trip; or you have not attended enough or at all to realize the overwhelming benefits to them and their programs. My first response to all of that is that you overcome challenges in your work all the time. So, overcome these. You have the power to find the money, find the time, and get your butt in gear.
I could give you all types of advice on how to find this dollar and that and how to organize your schedule to make it work. But you do that everyday with your events or booking your artists or rehearsing your company or your act. If you can do that, this should be a breeze. But I would be happy to help you overcome your objections and sell you on how to make it happen. Give me a call or shoot me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org)—no charge. This is critically important to your work and our industry.
All of us who have attended conferences more regularly know the overwhelming benefit of in-person, one-on-one, personal interaction that starts at one lunch banquet or meeting colleagues at a local restaurant, extends on the exhibit floor, grows at a showcase, and blossoms over time from one year to the next.
We can have all the technology in the world with Skype, Tweet, post, webcast, webinar, and conference calls. We use them because they are necessary at times and save money. But meeting in person gives birth to phenomenal projects, closes the delicate deal, caps the relationship, solidifies the purpose, or simply builds a stronger bridge. I have developed many projects, consortium grants, and block bookings over many years, none of which would have gone nearly as far as they did without advancing them at a conference. And I have saved money by blocking, developing grants, working out better fees, understanding a performance making it an easier sell to my audiences, sharing money-saving marketing and management ideas, and more.
So, if it is difficult with time and money, start or re-start small. Go to something like your state’s presenter meeting or retreat such as the PA Presenters Spring Networking Conference. Or go one step further and attend a small regional booking conference such as Mid-Atlantic Performing Arts Exchange (November 2018) or North Carolina Arts Market (November 2019). And most states or groups of states have block booking meetings or other opportunities to have some quality in-person time together. Find them, and go. You owe it to yourself as a professional and to your audiences that count on your booking your artists into venues or curating a season that is the finest you can find.
Why go? It is a requirement to became a fully-rounded performing arts professional as presenter, agent, manager, or artist.