Getting the Word Out

Getting the Word Out

With things changing all the time, it’s even more important to keep your audiences updated

Trying to organize an event is complicated—to say the least—even in the best of times when there isn’t a pandemic affecting nearly every aspect of our lives and your planned event. My hat is off to all of those organizations and artists who persist and are fighting to get their works seen by an audience, in whatever form that takes, be it in limited numbers in person, or simply online to be enjoyed from the comfort and safety of one’s home.

One thing that doesn’t change in my world as far as maintaining an event calendar goes, is requiring up-to-date, accurate information. One minute your event could be days away, and then after a new rise in numbers and renewed gathering restrictions, your event could be shifted, reconfigured, or just plain cancelled.

Getting the word out about your event to begin with is daunting—sending out masses of emails, creating a Facebook event page, filling out submission forms (hello, YYC What’s On), and all of the admin that goes into getting people to tune into your event in some form or other takes a lot of time.

One thing that those of us in the events listings biz notice is that sometimes letting people know when your event has been changed seems to fall to the bottom of the priority list. This is understandable for sure—you’re thinking on your feet and trying to pivot (sorry) in whatever way you need to in order to accommodate these changes. Hunting down missing information on events comes with the territory with events calendars, so if something shifts and you’re unable to send out a mass notice to everyone, trust me, we get it. However, we still need to get updated information to the public and update our listings in order to avoid promoting an event that may not even be happening anymore.

So, in order to make lives easier on this side of the process without us (read: me) having to play Columbo, here are some suggestions.

If you are able to, send out a mass email (Mailchimp, etc.) to all of those who you had originally notified about the event, telling them of the changes. This is the quickest, most direct way to ensure most people know what’s going on. If you only notified a few people, it shouldn’t be hard to send out a quick note with the update.

Do you have a Facebook event page set up? Is this how you got word out about your event in the first place? If so, update this page as soon as you can, heck, create a new post about the change just for good measure! So many people are on Facebook daily, including us, and any sort of heads-up in our news feed helps immensely. You can also ensure that we are in the loop about your event by adding YYC What’s On as a co-host on your Facebook event page.

At the very least, update your website. Your event information should already be up there in some form (hint, hint), so if your event changes and all you do is update your website, it is somewhere that we Jessica Fletchers of the events world will invariably visit if we are unsure about whether your event is allowed to go ahead or not, just to see what the most up-to-date info is on your performance, exhibition, reading, screening, gig, etc. If your own website has zero information about an event that you’re putting on, it makes it really time consuming and difficult to scour the internet to cobble together enough information to not only complete an event listing, but to figure out where your event stands in the midst of changing performance restrictions and allowances.

I know I sound like a broken record, but I believe that over 25 years maintaining events calendars here in Calgary gives me the right to be repetitive: If you want people to know about your event and support you, make it easy for people by providing all of the information they need about the events, preferably on every platform you can think of. It breaks my heart to receive an event listing submission on the day that an event is happening, because I know that, even if we are able to post it ASAP, not as many people will be able to see it on such short notice and won’t be able to attend.

Another thing to keep in mind if you are the artist or arts organization putting on an event, is that the venue that you are holding the event may also be promoting your event on their platforms (and if they aren’t, then they should). Sending out consistent messaging about the event between all parties involved is key—as is, of course, amending information about the event if it changes or is cancelled. Like I say, we check everywhere we possibly can in order to find updated information on an event if our “Spidey senses” start tingling about the probability of the event actually happening, so ideally we should be able to find the information within a few clicks of the mouse, as should the general public.

Make it easy for people to support you and your work! The more information you provide about your event, the better your event listing will be, and, also, the bigger your potential audience. I feel like Jerry Maguire here—help me to help you! Full disclosure: I have never seen Jerry Maguire!

Kari Watson is the Database Coordinator for Calgary Arts Development. She spends her days emailing, visiting organizations and artists, and adding listings to Calgary Art Development’s ever-growing online presence—including being on the team that launched SpaceFinder Alberta in 2016.

In her previous life, Kari was the long-standing (and only) Events Listings Editor for Fast Forward Weekly (FFWD), and as such has been involved in the arts community for longer than she would like anyone to know. When not hunting for rentable arts spaces in town, she can be found taking in Calgary’s vibrant arts scene or watching European pro cycling.

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