We’ve discussed some of the considerations of renting your theatre as an events space. We’ve talked about setting up your contracts and policies. We’ve also discussed how these rentals will affect staffing. You’ve put together a plan and now you’re ready to let the world know they can rent your space. What do you need to do next?
When you show prospective renters around your theatre, there will probably be a set on-stage. People outside of theatre aren’t good at imagining an empty theatrical space. They are even worse at imagining it being used for anything besides your plays. Help them out by taking professional photos from all directions. Make sure the space is completely empty – no piles of lumber or set pieces showing. Next, round up some volunteers and set up the space as if for an event – maybe a wedding reception or a retirement party. Take a lot of photos like this, too.
Once you have the photos, use them to create marketing and sales information. Add a rentals section to your website. Use them in a printed informational brochure. Design ads for your programs or other advertising media. You’re going to need these materials to share with people.
Next, you need to reach out to those communities that have the potential to become renters. This list might include service groups (Lions Club, Rotary, Soroptimists, etc.), youth organizations, and Office Managers in your area. Try to make a presentation to the clubs about this exciting new offering, and try to have the others come for a private tour of your facility. You can also contact Chambers of Commerce and business organizations to see if opportunities exist to hosting their after-work mixers. Maybe you can host a special evening and invite wedding and event planners only. Be sure to include the directors of dance and music schools who might need a recital space occasionally. These are all great ways to get people who might never come to a play into your space.
If you have the resources, hold an annual Open House in your theatre. Not only can you promote the space as a rental facility, but you can promote everything else that is going on in your organization. Your existing supporters can help spread the word to their social networks. And speaking of social networks, you’re going to want to make photos, general information, and contact information easy to find on your social media pages. Do you have the resources to create an exciting video promoting your space? If so, post it to YouTube and you’ll be able to refer out-of-towners to that before they come for a tour in-person.
Finally, anytime you are showing the space, be sure that all areas available are looking their best! It’s a lot like selling your house! Clear away all of the clutter. Put away your projects and tools. Make sure there are no piles of sawdust, errant candy wrappers, unclaimed costume pieces or forgotten trash cans in the space. If a space is messy, dirty or smelly when a party planner tours the space, you probably won’t get a second chance to show them how great your space can be. And if at all possible, don’t show the space while set construction or rehearsal is underway.
Always be watching for ways you can promote your space and your organization. Getting the word out is the final piece in deciding to rent your theatre as an events space. It’s an on-going effort requiring time, energy and money. It’s a lot of work, but if handled well the return will be worthwhile and your organization will be on a more stable financial footing.
Does your theatre company make their space available for events? What are your experiences? Leave me a comment. I’d love to hear about them.