Ok - so Expo time. The afternoon before we were able to go check out our booth location. I was actually really pleased that the booths were draped with red and black fabric - since almost all our logos use those colors - so the banners complemented nicely. We hitched up the banners - realizing we needed to get some finishing line; and figured out that there wasn't room for the posters of the Supper Club shows and the Herald Press Article. We thought they'd hitch up at the sides of the banner - but it was a smaller space than anticipated. So, we had to go shopping for a couple of easels, which the pack leader sprayed black. Another challenge was the table. It was at a lower height than we thought it would be, so the table banner kinda drooped on the floor. So Rich came home and managed to build 2x4 stilt things for the table to lift it up about six inches so that the banner fell correctly.
While all that renovation stuff was a'happenin', the Pack Leader also was frantically trying to get the website together for the Supper Club - since a) we wanted to launch the box office so that people could buy tickets, and b) we were going to have a humongous banner with the website emblazoned upon it AT the expo. He worked way too hard through the day doing lots of bits and pieces, so he didn't really get to the computer until the evening. Both of us had a pile of stuff to do still for the morning so we came just shy of pulling an all nighter. The website came out great though - (you can click on it right above using that nifty flashing banner he installed on the blog). Of course I drove Rich nutty trying to make sure that the website was user friendly. See he'll call me into his office when he's still working on something and he'll say:
"Do you like that comma?" And I'll say... "I'm not sure about the red line, and there should be an ostrich. And maybe it needs to be in Italian. Ooo what if the ostrich had a top hat and was singing 'Swanee'. Yeah, that's a good idea." (with large axe) "What about the COMMA???" "Oh, I didn't notice a comma".
That morning we were still getting stuff ready and I was starting to run around like a chicken with my head cut off. If Rich had his way I think the head cutting-off would have been in order. See, I like to READY for things. Set up. Battle stations. Preshow flight check. All that jazz. I just don't like not KNOWING that everything will be done. And we still had to set the booth up and we didn't leave the house till like quarter till. Of course, Team Najuch was cool as a cucumber and were not in the least bit perturbed. Which, may I say, is mind boggling and infuriating :)
So even though a couple of the nearby vendors teased us for not being completely set up until 10:01 (which, of course, cuts me to the quick), we were good. And the booth looked really nice. The banners, which thankfully arrived the day before (we had cut things very close because there were some issues with the original files we'd uploaded to the printer), looked really cool. The one for the Supper Club is actually a double-duty thing which is going to be installed on the marquee in the next day or two. Rich's table stilts worked perfectly, and we managed to get the laptop hooked up running a slide-show of about 100 pictures of the renovation, and the dvd player we were giving away as a raffle was playing the youtube video (sound OFF cuz there are limits to how often one can listen to the jingle, honest). We also had the flyers for the Supper Club, the Prom dinner, our graphic design/website services and the easels with the posters. It looked purty darn perfessional.
The biggest debate over the whole shebang was about where we should be positioned. The Pack Leader, who having worked at Columbia University for so many years, has been involved in these kind of dog and pony show before, felt that we should stand IN FRONT of the tables. Because it was more inviting and welcoming to potential visitors. You can more easily lure them that way as well. My problem was that the booth was narrow enough that if we stood in front of the table, we blocked anything and everything we had displayed - AND covered the banners that said who we were.
Jo Jo: 1 / Pack Leader: 2,500,032.
I wish I had a picture of us in our outfits - cuz all three of us were wearing our embroidered polos, and we looked quite fetching. Or like a like a low rent cable-access star-trek spin-off crew... either way.
So the Expo basically was from 10-5 on Saturday and 12-5 on Sunday. And we were busy almost the entire time.
We still saw a TON of people. There were actually a number of interesting revelations during the event:
1) Jo Jo is allowed to speak to the public. Rich was kind of impressed that I dealt so well with people. I'm not really a people person - I don't deal with small-talk very well at all. And in high pressure situations I'm very task-driven...I want to attend to things and that's evident. I'm not as cool as a cucumber. I'm more like a cucumber with a heat seeking missile strapped to it's butt. But I've actually been really looking forward to the face-time with patrons thing. I've spent a lot of years working for people who did the 'Artistic Director dealing with public' thing - and I really admire the people who do it well. There is a guy named Jim Morgan in NY who I SWEAR has kept his financially strapped theatre alive simply through his incredibly artful and hilarious curtain speeches every night. Also, I'm used to doing pitches. When I worked in NY for that concert series I had to do street-side pitches all the time giving out promotional material - so I'm used to it. You don't attack a person walking by... you wait until they make eye contact with you - THEN you smile. THEN you start talking to them. And then they don't feel attacked. Also you just get into a rhythm. Anyway - I've still got a whole lot to learn about it - but I didn't do to bad... and Rich and Janice were frankly surprised I think that they didn't have to gag me, tie me up and stash me under the table. So, for the moment, I'm allowed to speak :)
2) What's in a name. See, where we're from the term "Supper Club" is pretty darn straightforward. Indiana: not so much. The up-scale cabaret venue offering fine dinning followed by vocal performance...not so much in the public conscience. So after about the first hour of people walking past and staring at the "Supper Club" banner, looking perplexed, and then moving along...we realized we had a slight communication issue. Also - we didn't have anything that said THEATRE anywhere...because we thought it was kind of clear. But maybe not. So... After a little while I developed a pretty fool-proof method of engagement.
Wait for eye contact. Smile. Then say: "Hi there, we're the crazy people who bought the theatre."
I'm not kidding. I did this for twelve hours over two days. But it worked. People here may not have heard of a Supper Club - but thanks to the newspaper and the TV box, they HAVE heard about the looney ding-dong crazy as a shit-house rat confirmed bachelors who bought the theater. So - that seemed to work. And once people realized we WERE those ding-dongs they were quite interested in talking to us. The Supper Club thing is still proving a challenge to explain. See, we realized that everyone in Huntington pretty much has a visual image of what the lobby LOOKED like. Past tense. So they can't imagine a) how or why you would serve dinner there. b) how or why you could do a show there either. Many people, I think, still imagine we're serving food in one place and then the audience will be herded into the theatre itself. So we're working on that.
2B) What's in another name. Even though the Pack Leader broke me of using 'foyer' as a term, he's not immune to cultural exchange conundrum. In the body of text for the Prom Dinner flier, where the meal was described, Rich had described the vegetable platter as crudite. Ok, he actually used ANOTHER spelling - which is also acceptable in the native French - but apparently not to the seventy people who corrected our spelling. However. At least those seventy people knew WTF Rich was referring too. (My friend Dorothy actually assumed the spelling was a terribly witty in-joke to which she was not privy. Please, note, from now on anything you read that I've misspelled - please assume it's a terribly witty joke to which you are not privy :) ). Anyway - crudite. We figured that this particular choice of description might be off target for our audience when the next day someone asked us:
"What's crude titty?"
3) The obvious is not always obvious. And I quote: "We loved your youtube video. Are you two boys brothers?".
Janice nearly coughed up a lung. Of course, not that many years ago a lot of people thought Liberace was just waiting to meet the right girl. So.
4) People like free stuff. See, it is quite clear that a lot of people just come to this thing for the free stuff. And, we had planned on this...which is why Janice found the portable dvd player for us to raffle (you entered the raffle when you signed up for our mailing list). But some people literally came up to our booth and said "Don't you have any free pens?". This amused us.
5) Visual aids are not always an asset. We happened to be right across from the 'Huntington Right to Life Booth". They had a basket of plastic-squishy gel embryos to demonstrate the development of the fetus at various stages. Fine. However, piled in a small basket they looked remarkably liked glazed donuts...and at a venue where people are giving away free stuff. Well, it easily could have taken an unfortunate turn.
It was AMAZING how many people had seen the YouTube video. Despite the fact that we haven't spent a dime on advertising (the fliers for the supper club are the first real advertising expense), it's incredible the number of people who do have some sense of what we're doing. It's also quite encouraging that the number of people who think we're going to show movies has dropped a great deal. The dvd player thing proved a great idea (snaps for Janice) and we managed to collect well over 300 new people on the mailing list. Now, admittedly, the particular demographic of Expo-goer who is simply there rabidly scavenging for complimentary pens may well not be a big subscriber base. But for the most part I don't think those people left us their email address - so it's kind of self-sorting. It's also amazing to me how many people don't have email addresses - I knew we'd have to reach our more mature audience through snail mail - but a lot of younger people there simply didn't have email. Maybe that's why they need all the pens?
One of the more delightful features of our particular booth location was the 'no mans land' which existed between our row of booths and the next set. Rather than have them butted right up against each other, there was this little gap between - where one could take a brief respite. It came in particularly handy when we didn't want to be gobbling a sandwich in front of Expo-teers.
The Expo also featured the occasionally scheduled live entertainment act - which is a little odd for an event where people are supposed to be gathering with the aim of sharing information about there business. Cuz invariably you end up with conversations like this:
Me: So let me tell you about our theatre...(FEELINGS, NOTHING MORE THAN FEELINGS)... it's about... Person: Did you say you wanted to tell me about your femur? Me: No, not femur... we bought the... (PEOPLE, PEOPLE WHO NEED PEOPLE)... Person: (shouting) Forget it...Do you have any pens?
The entertainment was not only singing, however. Youthful unitarded dancers were herded in and out of the area leaving a blizzard of sequins in their wake. And also providing my favorite photographs of the month:
So. Anyway. Although it is true that I had to say "we're the crazy people who bought the theatre" about a zillion times...I think it was very profitable. I wish that there had been as many people there as we'd planned for (we have plenty of Supper Club fliers left, so if you want some on your business counter, let me know) - but the good thing is that all the promotional stuff we put together, like the banners (which I LOVE) were designed to be re-deployed in the future. So, no loss there at all. In fact the most exciting thing about the entire weekend was that the AWESOME girls in the booth across from us with Remax Realty wanted to support the theatre and booked our first corporate night. Which means we'll open on the 2nd of July with a specials show just for them. We were so excited we wanted to put up balloons. Except they already had:
See we can book a special private night for any group over 25 (at a 10% group discount)... and the more of those bookings we can get the better. It means a lot of people will be exposed to the shows and then potentially decide to add on a whole season to their purchase. We really want the group bookings because it helps us pay the actors more, and they deserve it. They get a bonus for each additional corporate event - and we really want to look after them as best we can, since all our capital up-front costs mean we're paying them a very modest salary for the summer. So - feed an actor, herd some of your colleagues together, and book your own special night. We'll take great care of you.
Oh another great thing about the Expo: Texas Sheet Cake. Breakfast of champions.
By the time we left for NY, tickets were already starting to sell, which was great. The amazing thing is that most people are purchasing season passes (which is a credit to the Pack Leader for offering such a great early-bird discount). So I think we're gonna be ok. We drew a winner for the dvd player - but they weren't able to pick it up until we left town. So hopefully they'll come by this week. When I called, the lady of the house said "Oh, I'll send my husband, he wants to talk to you".
Hopefully he's not from the Malibu Blend Growers Association of America.