I just found out that I will be stationed at the information booth for a few hours during APAP (Association for Performing Arts Professionals) at the conference in January. I am excited, and it will be a great way to see a bunch of colleagues. It is also a perfect opportunity to prove wrong those who have thought I was a “know it all.” Even though I have retired, I still feel I have much to learn about this phenomenal industry, but there’s a bunch of knowledge this head of mine somewhere. I estimate that I have attended probably at least 20 or more APAP conferences, attending my firstin 1985 while at the University of Northern Iowa 1985 when the conference was called ACUCCA. I should have picked up something in all that time.
So, for presenters, I offer some thoughts and advice on how to make it a successful conference.
First, know that you will not be able to attend everything that’s available, probably not everything you would like to see, and probably not everything you planned to see. Don’t let that discourage you. With an estimated 1,500 showcases. That’s about 15 for every waking hour of an ambitious albeit overtaxing 18 hour work day. Then there are the professional development sessions, consortia meetings, social events, and personal time to rest or enjoy the city.
So how do you pick and choose? First, let your work mission statement lead the way. Second, you are a professional, so let your instincts help guide you. Third, don’t schedule too tightly because things will change. Fourth, don’t despair if you see a showcase that is nothing like what you were hoping it would be. Confirming what you shouldn’t present something is as important as finding the ones you must present. And finally, don’t forget to have fun. You may have a love-hate relationship with this type of conference, or may develop one over time. But think of it – you are in one of the greatest cities in the world, seeing some of the most amazing acts from around the world, meeting inspirational colleagues right and left, sharing ideas with some of the most entrepreneurial geniuses the world of presenting can provide. That seems to overwhelmingly outshine the negative, don’t you think?
Here are some quick tips for the new colleague or those needing to resurrect the excitement:
- Visit as many booths as you can. You can make some meetings in advance, but try to reserve time to just go around and meet agents, artists, and managers. Networking is where it’s at. They are cool if you don’t have room for one of their artists this year, but a match could happen in the future. Regardless, you have made a friend.
- You can’t miss those big lanyard, billboards of a name tag. When you see one, nod your head, say “Hi,” or better yet, start a conversation. You will at least learn their name but may find out something astonishing. Exchange business cards. Make a new friend.
- Cardinal rule most commonly violated: At conference meals, sit with people you have never met before. If we were all successful at that, think of how many new ideas we’d all have to take back to our offices, not to mention knowing a new colleague.
- Don’t OD on showcases, but keep you mind open. If you are going off site for a showcase, time and cost can be a challenge. Not everyone can get themselves to the church on time!
- Be aware of those showcases that require an RSVP, which could be due to limited seating, transportation arrangements, available hospitality, or other reasons. So, RSVP if you plan to go. However, agents, managers, and artists understand how some may be late or not able to attend. Things like traffic, other showcases running late, weather, directions, and so on can happen. One year my knee went out and could barely make it from one end of my room to the other. Another year, I because extremely ill, and one year I remember a showcase down in the Bowery that ran 45 minutes late making it impossible to get to another in Midtown. Things happen. But be professional and courteous. If you can get a message to them before the showcase starts, do it ASAP. If it is truly unavoidable at the last minute, contact the group as quickly as possible, preferably in person, and express your sincere regrets. Agents, managers, and artists have invested a tremendous amount of money, time, and energy into each showcase and deserve your consideration.
This conference can be overwhelming, even for the veteran attendee; and this is really just scratching the surface. I will think of a few more vital ideas. But what about you? Do you have advice or questions? Post them here or ask the staff at APAP. The goal of every conference is to make it as good as and better than the last, so let’s get at it. Let’s earn ourselves and the conference a big A+!