5 important things about talking to your audience....
Last week I went to the Arts Marketing Association conference enticed by the offer of exploring “meaningful engagement” and “connection” with audiences as both of these are values that are central to my work as an artist and theatre maker.
I’d like to tell you about the 5 things that I learnt about communicating with audiences from the conference (and I’m meaning audiences in the widest sense)
1. Is what you write too long?
I wasn’t surprised to find out that people only read a quarter of what’s written online or that people don’t browse online writing – I know when I go online I want to get to the thing I need. But I was surprised by this fascinating research presented by @coopdigital about how people read online. Research has tracked where peoples eyes gaze falls on a web page, using gaze plots (dots to indicate points where a person's eyes focus) and heatmaps (colour-coded visualisations of where many people look)
I have made assumptions about how people read and how much they will read. Have you?
2. Is your written communication too arduous to read?
Apparently people aren’t reading online – they’re foraging for information. They often miss out long words and read about every fifth word. They read for an average of 8 seconds.
A focus on plain language is very welcome (and the overriding feedback from the subsequent engagement when I tweeted the above picture out.) So based on these two new pieces of information I then went home and cut down my website. This is my ‘about me’ page before….
And this is after…. I haven’t quite managed the F shape but I think it’s easier to digest?
3. Can you tell compelling stories?
Telling your story helps those people understand your work, and telling it well, with their needs in mind, can heavily influence how receptive they are to our ideas.
“Story makes sense out of a confusing universe…it teaches us ho to live by discovering how our fellow humans being overcome challeneges in their lives… it helps us discover the universals that bind us”
Jack Hart - Storycraft
It was interesting to learn from Hannah Hethmon that the mistake too many people make about their stories is that they don’t focus on what fascinating about the story. An example of this might be:
“This is a story is about two peoples relationship, where one wants to play an the other doesn’t ”
But what might compel you to engage with the story is:
“What’s interesting about this is how the conflict reflects the adult child relationship and how playing wins out in the end because being immersed in play can bring pure joy and freedom”.
This is Hannah’s example about injured people coming back from Iraq…
Communicating a compelling story applies to all sorts of medium: podcasts, tweets, instagram posts, your web pages…. Story is king!
One of the overriding messages from the conference was the need for communication to reflect what you’re about. That it’s our vulnerabilities that make connections. Nadja Bellan-White challenged the conference to always remember:
Communicating with our audiences has to be a conversation - as if there person was in the room.
No one likes to be ‘shouted’ at, being fed ‘information’… “I’m doing this and I’m doing that”. The irony of the digital world is that although it does fundamentally draw us away from human interaction, it’s interaction people are seeking – not one way information sharing.
5. The big take away about inclusivity
We need to appreciate that we are not our audiences, and being considerate of their circumstances, we create services that are inclusive and respectful. That helps us create meaningful engagement. The word ‘inclusivity’ can cause some anxiety in people who worry “am I being as inclusive as I can be” (myself included). But take heart… the message from the conference when it comes to communicating inclusively with your audiences is that::
It’s not about knowing it all myself – it’s about working with those who do, and making sure I go to multiple reference points (multiple experts) to be humble enough to ask for help.
It’s not about being the same colour or the same faith – it’s about my intention to include
Liz Clark is Artistic Director of Turned On Its Head, a small scale dance company with big ambitions to shape the way early years dance is seen and participated in.