Things we learned by hosting Popcorn Comedy

We hosted our first live event last month in the shape of video and stand-up night Popcorn Comedy at the Victoria. We’d done one before at the Electric Cinema last October, but that time we’d had the helping hand of Popcorn’s founder Jon Petrie.

This time it was just us. It was a really great night and we learned a lot about running a night. Here’s some of the things we learned (or already knew) and will be putting into practise for the next Popcorn Comedy on April 22nd.

(By the way, we’re not claiming to be experts. These are based purely on our experience)

1. The Venue

  • The capacity a venue says it has is not necessarily accurate. Check for yourself.
  • Get solid agreements on things like hardware, chairs and staff.
  • Double-check your tech specs. Need a certain cable? Make sure you have your own.
  • Set up the room as early as possible.
  • Think about lighting, music, intermissions and anything else to improve the atmosphere before, during and after the show.
  • Make a customised playlist for background music.
  • Make sure bar staff know when the doors open.
  • Most venues can offer free venue hire if you can assure them they’ll make money on drinks/food through hosting your event.

2. The Tech

  • Make sure you know what each act needs tech-wise, (ie cables, hardware, disc formats).
  • Make sure cables are long enough to be accessible to a technician and/or the acts.
  • Test everything early, and then check it again. You may need to run to Maplin.
  • Remember to turn things like glitter balls and stage lights off before the show, especially if showing films. Easily forgotten.
  • Test playing any DVDs all the way through beforehand (sound + picture). If pausing a DVD player for any length of time, check that it won’t time out/play a screensaver/switch off.
  • Always have a backup DVD.

3. The Crew

  • You’ll need at least three people. One to be a technician, one to greet/take money, one to look after the acts/fetch things/make sure the audience is ok.
  • Define people’s roles so everyone knows what they’re doing.

4. The Acts

  • Book them well in advance.
  • Get an idea of what they’ll be doing in advance. Tech specs, arrival times, payment, etc.
  • Give them a detailed idea of where they need to be, when they need to be there, when they’re going on, how long they have, and when and how they’ll be paid.
  • Offer a complimentary drink or two as a courtesy.
  • Always pay comedians after they’ve performed, some are superstitious about being paid up front. Good knowledge.
  • Get them to sign a form to say they’ve been paid.

5. The Audience

  • Let them know the format, the timings and what they can and can’t do.
  • Ask for applause, especially for film showings. Otherwise there won’t be any.
  • If there’s a bar, direct people to it before the show, at the intermission, or afterwards.

6. Marketing

  • Get listed on as many online listings sites as you can with the same blurb/info.
  • Simple flyers with date, time, venue, price and acts are good. Get them in lots of venues.
  • Make sure you have a good poster/flyer presence in the event venue.
  • Posters elsewhere aren’t really worth it. They’ll be taken down.
  • Facebook event page/fan page is a must. Keep messages to an effective minimum.
  • Twitter also a good way to let people know. But keep it light and conversational.
  • Sell tickets online through something like eventbrite to get an idea of numbers and pre-sell.
  • Invite someone to review/take photos. They’ll be useful for promoting your next event.
  • Pass around and collect mailing lists around in the interval.

7. Other bits

  • Get a money box and make sure you have a sufficient float if taking cash.
  • Eat well before the event, you won’t have a chance later.
  • Don’t drink too much.
  • Don’t disobey the last two points in conjunction.

So there you go. If you’ve got anything to add, put it in the comments.

Hopefully we’ll see you at the Victoria on the 22nd!