Commentary: How to hold a successful Tweet Seats event

Ron E. Evans,, 8/26/11

Whether you are a firm believer, casually interested, or crazy-never-in-my-theater against, "Tweet Seats" are being experimented with at venues across the world. For the purposes of this article, you're looking for some best practices to make it work (and not tick off the other people in the audience much). I'm also going to assume that you have a good familiarity with Twitter, and have a #hashtag for your event, show, or organization.

Invite a group of savvy Twitter stage people. [Stack] the deck with a few trusted folks who are friendly to you and know what they are doing (and can pitch in as Twitter ambassadors if the need presents itself).

Secure the theater back row. This one is probably obvious. If your theater is general admission, you'll need to secure these seats in advance. If done right, the rest of the audience will have no clue that there are active phones in the audience.

Silence the phones, dim the screens. Remind your cadre that they need to dim their screens to the lowest setting, silence their ringtones, and shut off their vibration alerts. Either tell folks to do it when they come in, tell them in the curtain speech, or of course tweet it with your #hashtag so that everyone can see it.

Have a tweet-seat moderator/facilitator. This may be the most important point. This person should be tweeting the whole time along with everybody else, but should be focusing on facilitating interesting discussion, asking questions. The person doesn't have to be sitting in the audience. But if you don't have this, the conversation degenerates into class clowning, show-off tweets that cheapen the whole experience. 

Tell the crowd. Point out that [tweeters] are back there as an experiment, take some credit and mention what a cutting-edge theatre company you are, and remind folks that they are back there so everybody else won't be bothered. Point out that only folks in the back can use their smartphones, but that if people want to join in on the tweet seats experiment next time, to sign up outside at the concessions table or wherever, etc.


Ohio Opera: Tweet Seats draw people who probably wouldn't have attended

Laura Englehart, Dayton Business Journal, 10/24/11

The Dayton Opera intends to shed its old-timey reputation among young adults by not only allowing smartphone use during performances, but encouraging it. The arts organization has set up discounted "Friday Nite Tweet Seats" where tech-savvy patrons -- young or old -- can sit and tweet, post updates to Facebook, send text messages or e-mails or blog about the night's performance as it's happening. "It's an attempt to get the young professionals to give us a try," said Chuck Duritsch, marketing and communications director. Tickets in the designated balcony section, typically valued at up to $66, sell for $15 on Friday nights. The  Opera, with help from sponsor Dayton Power & Light, debuted the discount this past Friday for its performance of La Boheme. It also hosted a pre-show networking event at Sidebar Café and, immediately following the performance, a cast party at the Dayton Racquet Club, both with free food. About 125  Tweet Seats were sold this past Friday, which Duritsch considers a success: "To me, that's 125 people who probably would have not come to the opera." Andrew Reitz sat in Tweet Seats for La Boheme. He said the section was aglow with cell phone lights, which did not bother him. Though Reitz did not tweet during the performance, he sent text messages to friends. "I think it's great that (the Dayton Opera) is doing the Tweet Seats," he said. "I witnessed a lot of folks who were tweeting." Reitz said the Tweet Seats likely puts those tied to their electronic devises more at ease during performances.


Carolina Ballet: "I get to see the performance and help market it at the same time"

Lisa A. Sullivan, Quinetessential Feline blog, 10/24/11

Organizations that specialize in performance art (or any art for that matter) need to take note of what the Carolina Ballet is doing. In today's economy every little bit of promotion for your product helps. The old methods of telemarketing campaigns, traditional advertising, email blasting, and the like are all viable methods still, BUT they should not be the end all for reaching out to your audience. You need to connect with them where they are and in today's society many of them can be reached through social media platforms. What the Ballet is doing by utilizing Twitter as a real engagement tool in this way is unprecedented for our market. Orgs take note. Being a part of Tweet Seats is an experience that we get to share with thousands of Tweeters across our area, region, country, and even the world. What other marketing method allows you to do that? Not many. We sip wine, chat amongst each other and the crowd before the performance. Then once it starts, we Tweeters have our own exclusive section of the balcony to Tweet to our hearts content without disturbing the audience below. The performance is always mesmerizing (the athleticism of the performers takes your breath away) and it's fun to read the perceptions amongst our Tweeting crew through the hashtag of the Tweet stream that evening. I feel so privileged to be invited to participate each time. I get to see the performance and help to market it at the same time. It's a win-win! Besides, right now my budget doesn't allow for me to donate to the Ballet so for me this is my way of giving back too.

> VIDEO: A sampling of tweets about Carolina Ballet from those who sat in Tweet Seats


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Commentary: The tweet that landed me Benjamin Millepied's house seats

Ryan Wenzel, Bodies Never Lie blog, 10/21/11

People often ask me why I tweet. What's the value, they ask, of broadcasting one's thoughts and whereabouts in a public forum, for total strangers to read? That, however, is precisely why I do love Twitter: It connects users with similar interests who wouldn't otherwise have the chance to meet. Often, for a balletomane like me, that can often mean not feeling so alone at the theater; I can do a quick search on Twitter for "New York City Ballet" and converse with others in the audience without leaving my seat. And sometimes incredible things can happen. Without Twitter, for instance, Benjamin Millepied - the choreographer, dancer, and fiancé of Natalie Portman - would never have offered me four house seats to the premiere of his ballet Why am I not where you are. It's not uncommon for me to go to the ballet alone, and Saturday, May 22, 2010, was one such day. I'd purchased a student ticket online for the 2 p.m. matinee and fired off a quick tweet:


Imagine my surprise when, a few minutes later, I received a to-the-point reply on Twitter from user @Benjaminluc77, saying, "Find 4 tickets under my name at matinee." Huh? I assumed a friend was pulling a prank on me. But who would go to such lengths? None of my friends at the time - this was well before Black Swan - even knew who Millepied was. Naturally, I expressed my incredulity:


Within a minute, I had a direct message from @Benjaminluc77 -- he said he had found my Tweet by Googling his name -- with a phone number. Though skeptical, I called it. I was floored when someone with an obvious French accent answered. "Just go to the theater, ask for the house manager, and tell her you're a friend of Benjamin," he said. I still wasn't entirely convinced this wasn't a joke, but I followed his instructions and, soon after arriving at the theater, had four seats, located fifth row center. Now seated, I finally appreciated how remarkable this chain of events was. I sent Millepied a text just before the lights began to dim: "Thank you so much. This is incredible." "You're welcome. Enjoy," he responded.  So, there you have it: Benjamin Millepied (who has since deleted that Twitter account) is a pretty nice guy, and the dance world, New York City, and the Internet are often much smaller than they seem. Don't let anyone tell you Twitter is a waste of time.

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