Follow Up Sooner

I hope you and yours are well. I’m so glad you’re here.

I learned something recently that I want to pass on to you. You might already do this when you reach out to book your show as a Zoom performance, but just in case you don’t—

Wait a second. Let me take a moment to talk about online performances.

They’re happening! They’re the bridge between theatre and no theatre during this pandemic. I realize you probably knew this but my mind remains a little blown by it.

My brilliant friend Jennifer Blaine performed her show Having a Good Time via Zoom back when the pandemic first shut things down in the USA. I was so happy to have the opportunity to watch her perform “live” even though I’m in L.A. and she’s in Philadelphia. Kristina Wong, my kickass sister queen from the inaugural Solo Queens Festival, has been booking her show Kristina Wong for Public Office all over the place as an online performance. I also recommend Diana Wyenn’s Blood/Sugar, which has the most sophisticated online tech production values one could imagine, on top of being a powerful show.

If your show is performable in your home, and we know it is because that’s where you’ve rehearsed it between gigs, then you can book it as an online event.

It’s not easy, but neither is booking an in-person event, so here we are.

If you’ve been trying to book your show as an online performance, or are thinking about trying, here’s something I wish I had told you years ago:

Follow up within a week or two.

I know I’ve told you to follow up in the past, but I should have been more specific. When I reach out to someone individually for the first time, I’ll follow up within a week or two. But when I e-blast everyone on my list, I just hit them up once per month. I’ve done this for years.

Apparently, that was a mistake.

Last month I experimented: I scheduled two successive e-blasts one week apart. The first message was a variation on my usual pitch (I never send the exact same message month to month). The second message contained the first message, plus a short paragraph above it saying “Hello, I’m just checking to make sure you saw my message from last week etc. etc.”

Imagine my pleasant surprise and chagrin when several people responded, asking for my rates. I was chagrined because it hadn’t dawned on me to treat e-blasts the way I treat individual messages, with swift follow-ups.

I had thought monthly e-blasts WERE follow-ups, but in fact, they’re more like standalone messages that are similar. An actual follow-up happens sooner and includes the original message.

Duh.

This did not ultimately lead to bookings, but I got closer than usual just by sending a second, very-easy-to-create message that went out a week later. I’m going to do this every month from now on.

Let me add: monthly e-blasts are still a good idea.

I no longer perform my first show, but I’ve been promoting the film of it on DVD to university and international school libraries. DVD sales dried up when the pandemic hit.

Then out of the blue, a few weeks ago, an international school bought the DVD! (I took that as a sign of hope for the US presidential election, and am glad I was right.) I’ve e-blasted that school every month during the school year for ages, and they finally bit! So once per month can work eventually…even during a plague.

I’ve also been plugging the film to instructors as something that can be screen-shared followed by an online talk-back with me. I offer to lead my solo show & memoir workshop as another option. These are alternatives to my former in-person bookings.

So far I haven’t been able to replace my canceled in-person bookings with online bookings at the same venues, but an online booking happened anyway…thanks to following up!

Last year I proposed a screening and talk-back to conferences around the world. Months later, by sheer coincidence, I learned that Alien Citizen was scheduled to be the closing event at one of those conferences…but no one had contacted me about it!

I emailed the organizers and swiftly received a deeply apologetic phone call. The lack of communication was obviously an innocent error due to the organizers’ being overextended. (Coordinating a conference is hard work.) The film wasn’t screened that year…but it was screen-shared at this year’s conference, which took place online!

Why? I followed up.

For a time, anyway. I kept in touch every month or two…and then, truth be told, I gave up after June. I was disheartened by all the cancellations I had experienced and could no longer believe any conference would want to screen-share the film via Zoom.

Imagine my incredibly pleasant surprise when the organizer contacted me last month about making Alien Citizen the closing Special Presentation of the conference!

Of course I said yes, and it went incredibly well! Hundreds of people signed up for the screening, hundreds showed up, and the vaaaaast majority stayed to the end. Their comments were utterly validating and uplifting, and their questions were stimulating.

It was a balm to my spirit after the year we’ve all had, and as a freelancer who keeps chugging away when it often seems pointless, especially during a global pandemic.

The icing on the cake: as soon as the conference ended, several attendees purchased the DVD of my film! It felt miraculous.

The most affirming part: it was a paid gig. Even now, during the financially roughest year many of us have ever seen, paid gigs can happen.

So remember when you pitch your show: follow up soon, follow up regularly, and even if you give up on a venue or event, your earlier efforts might result in a lovely reward.

Let me know if this helps. You deserve an audience, even now–especially now. I would love to be in that audience when you perform online.

Have a safe, happy Thanksgiving or Turkey Day tomorrow if you celebrate either one!


Announcement: the Holiday Sale for the Alien Citizen DVD begins on Black Friday this week. It’s 20% off! If you’re curious about the show I’ve been blogging about, here’s your chance to buy it at a discount.

For monthly updates on the goings-on of my solo shows, film, workshops, acting gigs, and more, subscribe to my newsletter. (It’s different from this blog, which is exclusively about creating and touring a solo show.)

Thank you for reading my thirty-eighth post! I love your comments! Please feel free to leave one below.

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