What is an Xchange Agent and what is their role?

As volunteers, Xchange Agents collaborate with the Arts Learning Xchange Documentarian in order to share their pre-event expectations for the upcoming Metro-wide Forum and provide post-event feedback.

Check out last event’s Xchange Agents.


Pre-event thoughts:
With limited finances and staff, arts leaders must be strategic in reaching audiences. Without a clear sense of who their audience is, groups are potentially compromising their limited capacity. We are hopeful that the Arts Learning Xchange forum will help small arts groups understand arts audience trends, resulting in a comprehensive use of marketing strategies and tools to reach the audiences they are passionate about serving.

Post-event comments:
It’s exciting to have access to comprehensive and highly detailed data that gives us a sense of how our world is changing and how people are making connections to the arts nationally and locally. This data, along with the tools presented, will inform our strategies for creating access to the arts. The ‘Who’s My Audience’ presentations challenged us to ask questions and make deeper connections to our audiences. We may now not only look at how we define and reach audiences, but also how we make and deliver art.

Gwen Cannon Gwen Cannon
Program Director
Metropolitan Regional Arts Council

Photo by Heather Everhart

Pre-event thoughts:
I was inspired by a previous Arts Learning Xchange event I attended featuring speaker Ben Cameron. While Lakeshore Players Theater is currently able to identify some audience demographics through ticket sales, I’m eager to learn about ways to broaden and diversify our reach. I look forward to this event and hearing about the tools we can use to develop a clearer understanding of our audience.

Post-event comments:
This forum was particularly relevant for our organization as we are planning to survey our audience starting with our first production in September. All three ‘Xperts’ gave excellent presentations. I particularly appreciated receiving the NEA 2008 Survey of Public Participation in the Arts book. Many of the facts and data presented will find their way into future grant proposals and public meetings. Thank you for providing these excellent forums to strengthen the arts.

Joan Elwell Joan Elwell
Managing Director
Lakeshore Players Theater

Photo by Heather Everhart

Pre-event thoughts:
I’ve never attended an Arts Learning Xchange event before and am really looking forward to meeting others and learning about their arts organizations. The audience my organization currently serves is fairly small and a niche market, so I’m curious about the Twin Cities’ larger arts audience in general. I hope to find some helpful tips and tools to connect my organization beyond its current local network.

Post-event comments:
The Arts Learning Xchange session on audiences really got me thinking about how my organization conducts surveys and collects data regarding our members, core supporters and program attendees. The Twin Cities’ profile data and audience trends inspired me to think how to ‘tweak this’ and ‘do that’ to better plan and position my organization for the future. Or should I say, ‘how can I ‘tweet’ more?’ I’m curious about the participation levels of all generations, but especially the Baby Boomer generation. The big question for me is: ‘How to capture and engage the next generation, too?’

Deborah’s data collecting piece was interesting and fun. The information on psychographics was the most relevant for me, especially because a new volunteer with marketing research background is coming on board to assist my organization with strategies that look at audience behavior. The session reassured me that I’m on the right track with understanding who my organization’s audience is and in-line with how I currently generate survey data. I can’t wait to carve out a chunk of time to combine our current data with the online census numbers and lifestyle research data. Very helpful tools, indeed!

Linda Hansen Linda Hansen
Education Director
Weavers Guild of Minnesota

Photo by Heather Everhart

Pre-event thoughts:
I’ve been very impressed with the programs of Arts Midwest and look forward to the upcoming forum: Are You My Audience? Market segmentation is crucial to successfully deploying the limited resources available to fulfilling our mission. Better understanding our current and potential audiences would allow us to focus our efforts more effectively. I’m excited to learn new insights to understand not only who our concertgoers are, but also our supporters and newly segmented groups like the young professionals of our Crescendo Project.

Post-event comments:
I appreciated how the speakers’ remarks were organized such that they gave a national, and then regional look at arts audiences, followed by actionable steps that we can undertake to better understand the constituents we serve. A particular ‘a-ha!’ moment was when Deborah Johnson-Hall described the difference in why audiences come to experience orchestra music. For some it’s arts-and-culture, while for others it’s arts-and-entertainment. Understanding this distinction will help us focus our messaging.

Scott Mays Scott Mays
Advancement Officer
Minnesota Orchestra

Photo by Heather Everhart

Pre-event thoughts:
As the publicist at Coffee House Press, I need to constantly reevaluate our audience: with every book we publish, every author tour we plan, every ad we place. Like any other small nonprofit arts organization, we’re required to focus our efforts wisely to ensure our means are stretched and our impact is broadened. We’ve conducted online surveys that haven’t resulted in reliable statistics, and I’m curious to learn how other arts organizations tackle this kind of research. What other strategies are out there, and how trustworthy are their results? Our standard one-on-one interaction with our sales reps, our reviewers, and our colleagues cannot be replaced, but how might we deepen our understanding of Coffee House Press readers?

Post-event comments:
I learned far more than expected at the Arts Learning Xchange event. I hadn’t anticipated such useful advice directly related to the research problems we’ve been facing. After having an epiphany this morning, I’m looking forward to brainstorming with the rest of the Coffee House Press staff. Deborah Johnson-Hall emphasized the importance of obtaining psychographic data in addition to the basic demographic data most organizations gather first—to put flesh on the skeletal data they’ve already collected. We made the mistake of focusing mostly on psychographics without first building the strong base of demographic information. When we tried to flesh out our survey results, there was no skeleton there to support the image we were forming. We had the touchy-feely stuff, but not the solid data that really informs who we are. It’s time for another survey! And then another. And another.

Esther Porter Esther Porter
Publicist
Coffee House Press

Photo by Heather Everhart