I organised my first spoken word event last Tuesday, which took the form of a Meet The Authors evening at The Big Comfy Bookshop.
The event was a great opportunity for myself and the other authors to promote our novels. I read two short stories to the audience, spoke with lots of avid readers, provided the student journalists with free review copies, met a representative of another writing group and even sold a few copies of my books. Not bad for an evening's work.
Try organising an event yourself. Here are some tips to get you started.
1. A Small Independent Venue - independent venues are very encouraging of community events and they are unlikely to charge. Look for a venue which is fairly small because spoken word events rarely attract large numbers but also aim for a venue which serves refreshments. For this reason, coffee shops are ideal. You could also look for a venue that encourages reading, such as a bookshop or local library, because their everyday customer base are more likely to attend your event.
2. A Strong Line-Up - you need some good authors to perform because you owe your audience a good time. Remember, a good author for a spoken word event has to be more then simply a strong writer. They also have to be confident and competent when reading to a large audience, as well as happy to speak with the audience members informally at the end of the evening which is when most of the 'business' takes place. Charisma is essential.
I would recommend choosing authors from different genres because your audience members will each have different reading tastes and you want to ensure there is something for everyone. Variation will also lead to a more exciting evening.
3. Personal Invites - there are plenty of tired ways to promote an event: a Facebook invite, a mass email to your colleagues, putting up a poster in the staff room, and so on. These are rarely successful. You have to ask yourself: why would my friends give up their evening for this? Do my friends even like reading?
A better approach is to send personal invitations to people who have an active interest in story-telling. Email local writing groups and reading groups, both of which can be found with a quick online search. Make the most of local universities too: invite the culture editors from the student newspaper and message any student societies with a focus on creative writing. Contact details for these will be on the Students' Union website. At my event last week, I managed to attract journalists from two student newspapers - The Boar (Warwick) and The Source (Coventry) - which could lead to reviews on both campuses.
4. Hosting - choose a good host to hold the night together. As organiser, you may wish to do this yourself. A good host should be confident, welcoming and look like they are enjoying themselves. Organisation is also key. They should plan short introductions for each author which reference their writing achievements. This is a nice courtesy for the authors and will build anticipation for the audience. A few jokes will also help warm up the evening.
5. Set Targets - spoken word events are enjoyable but you should make sure you achieve something for your efforts. It is therefore worth writing a few goals before the event to help you stay focussed. Your goals could include any of the following: a) sell some books. b) swap books with a fellow writer on the agreement of a review exchange. c) provide journalists with review copies. d) hand out business cards to drive people to your website. e) gain email addresses to add to your newsletter mailing list.
I hope these tips help when you are planning your next event. If you happen to be organising an event in the Midlands (UK) then I would happily be part of your line-up. You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.