How to Sell a Show in 600 Characters

Contributor: Alicia Lewis

Alicia Lewis is a sword-fighting wordsmith based in Brighton. A graduate in medieval literature, she has written for audiences as diverse as medical professionals, martial artists, festival-goers and fortune tellers. She currently writes short stories about swords at balefireblades.com

“Not that the story need be long, but it will take a long while to make it short,” explained Henry David Thoreau in a letter. He refers to a paradox felt by all artists who are presented with a tight word limit – not least show-makers. You’ve already spent months piecing together the perfect script word by word. So why is summing it up in just a few sentences such a time-consuming challenge?

 

The suggested limit for an online show listing is 600 characters including spaces. That’s just over two tweets’ worth – too long for a witty tagline, but too short for a full-on synopsis. It’s never easy to reduce something you feel passionate about to just the bare bones – so don’t try to. Instead, draw readers in with a catchy hook and a winning review – just enough to keep them wanting more.

 

Cut the Fluff

 

Save space by sticking to the style guidelines, which state that there’s no need to include times, dates, ticket prices or information about the venue in your copy. The when, where and how will be included separately in the listing, allowing you to focus solely on WHY your show is not to be missed.

 

Nor is this the place for a blow-by-blow synopsis of your event. Instead of aiming to answer all your readers’ questions in the text, try evoking even more – and get your audience excited to discover the answers at the show.

 

Paint a Picture

 

While keeping your audience guessing is part of the fun, it’s only fair to give them some idea of what to expect. Even if the content of your event is a little off-the-wall, confusing copy may prove off-putting rather than intriguing. A clear and concise description can far surpass clever gimmicks when it comes to selling tickets.

 

Think of your copy as a very short story in itself, including evocative imagery that will transport readers to the show’s setting or help them instantly empathise with a character – but don’t be afraid to leave the story on an immediate cliffhanger.

 

While the content of your show is crucial, it may well be the medium that sets it apart. Will there be puppetry? Dance? Audience interaction? Show-goers want to see talent in action, so don’t hold back when it comes to describing the specific skills involved in translating your vision to the stage.

 

Curate the Content

 

Your event copy is not just there to attract an audience – it’s there to attract the RIGHT audience. The ones who are most likely to stay until the end, then rave about it to their friends.

 

Picture your ideal attendee, then add some keywords specific to their interests. Are you appealing to music lovers? Name drop the artists and genres that inspired the event. Is your show full of nineties nostalgia? Reference some of the trends readers grew up loving.

 

An SEO analytics tool will help you work out what your audience is searching for when seeking out shows. It may also pay to sneak a peek at the kind of keywords your competitors are using in their listings.

 

Remember to keep keywords relevant to the context of the show rather than going too far out on a limb. A reader who’s bought tickets to a “Bowie-style extravaganza” will be disappointed if their idol isn’t even referenced in the show.

 

Show those Stars

 

An excerpt from a review can speak volumes when it comes to reassuring readers that they’re in safe hands. If you already have local, national or online reviews, throw a glowing quote in there along with the name of the website or publication. If not, consider inviting reviewers to a dress rehearsal for that all-important quip. Don’t be tempted to include a quote without a source, or to make up your own review.

 

If you’re pressed for space, even a single word excerpt such as “brilliant” or “inspired” can do the trick – though more unusual descriptors such as “outrageous” or “heart-stopping” may glean more interest in a sea of short reviews. Don’t forget to keep five characters aside for an eye-catching ★★★★★!

 

Keep it Catchy

 

The key to any attention-grabbing copy is quality over quantity. A short character count can be daunting, but you can make every character pull its weight by including targeted keywords, enthusiastic reviews, and enough intrigue that your ideal audience will stop scrolling, keep reading, and still be hungry for more.

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