Ashley Smith-Hammond

To celebrate the end of an insightful week of workshops, networks and rich discussions Matt Lehrman gave a rousing talk on The Imperative of Innovation to wrap up The Learning Week.

To celebrate the end of an insightful week of workshops, networks and rich discussions Matt Lehrman gave a rousing talk on The Imperative of Innovation to wrap up The Learning Week.

Here are the key points and questions, raised by a diverse array of arts and cultural organisations.

Why do audiences matter?

“Because they are us”     


“Without them, there is no us”


“We need their applause”


“That they are appreciating the experience”

We consider the art is the most important thing but just as much, it should be about the engagement. Without a focus on people, on the combined artistic and audience agenda, we are the proverbial one hand clapping.

What do you worry about growing and sustaining audience relationships?

“Finding money” 


“Finding ways to make it personal when you are dealing with a mass of people”


“Lack of diversity. That we talk to the same people all the time”

  • We worry about our budget, our social media knowledge and spreading our message.
  • We worry about inconvenience, traffic, other distractions/event conflicts, accessibility in travel, public conveniences and safety of area.

These are all valid concerns. But why are we not worried about innovation.  Your organisation needs to take responsibility for innovation.

What do your audiences worry about? 

Is the perception “quality” and “value”? Your audience doesn’t just worry about it – they demand it. Quality and value are ubiquitous.


What is relevance? 

It is the narrative you need to make your organisation’s work meaningful and purposeful. Programmes like the Olympics or the X Factor don’t just show you the event. They show you the back-story, the personal journey.  And, three minutes later you are emotionally invested.

When it comes to emotional investment, we all do great work in the moment itself. But you had to be there. What does it take for us to get the audience there in the first place? A postcard or an email with a URL isn’t enough. This won’t build emotional investment.

What’s the next event you are going to try and sell your audience?

The Paradox of Choice, by Barry Schwartz talks about how if you give people too many choices they buy less and are less happy with what they buy. So, don’t send your customers everything. Help them with their discovery to make the link.

Audience development cannot just be delegated to the marketing department. Innovation requires all to work together. Read Matt’s blog to learn more his four audience types.


Our Imperative of Innovation

Too often enough we think of our audience having to come to us. For successful participation we must make ourselves relevant in their lives, where they are. Are we ensuring this social and emotional connection, expressing the narrative and keeping them entertained?

How will the world be different five years from today?

How will your organisation adapt or adjust to change? What is an option as a response?

From asking this question, options and opportunities that we hadn’t considered before will follow. We can’t think only about the work. Instead we must embrace new ideas of  how we will engage differently in the arts. People don’t know what they want until YOU understand them so incredibly well that you can show it to them.


Want to hear the whole thing? This talk is also available as a podcast.

Join the Culture Republic family and benefit from a wealth of upcoming events, workshops and networking opportunities. Drop an email to our partnerships manager Ela. We’d love to discuss how we can help your organisation develop and grow, from practical skills building, funding applications to audience research data.