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It helps to have a mellifluous voice which has so owned the pain that it takes over again in positivity, sculpting the evening with the voice, asserting in honey tones nuanced by intellect a set of condensed literary wisdoms placed in apparently offhand manner appropriately throughout the evening with masterful resonance in physical handling of the microphone, lighting and sound system.
It helps to have world-class guests who have gone through all the stages and are at the top of their game — they don’t fight stupid battles that way and are gently respectful without seeming to pander. An experienced technical staff helps, as does a venue which is able to leverage its shopworn prestige to garner ample public aplomb and publicity — people are taken by the form of things they have in their minds, so if you manage to communicate in this meta-way that something is important, then it probably is, and they’re satisfied to have participated in such a narrative.
You need to frame and document the event well, to give it a shape and a memory — the event is for an hour or two, yet the telling of the event is forever.
I suppose food and drink help, and actually proper lighting.
It helps if your performers are convinced you are doing them a service. Justify your requests to them in shaping the event so that they don’t grandstand — if more than one performer, try to create group harmony toward a larger narrative of building community.
Speak in dripping, positive tones about everything. Thank everyone. Ask for money if you need to in a way which appeals to the richest or most influential person in the room.
Do your homework about the performers, read their books, research their prizes, and drop a well-timed poetic insight into what makes them great before or immediately after they perform.
Develop your brand and your niche.
Try to balance the program among the elements of cloying or abrupt sensuality, intelligence just out of reach of understanding, musicality, simple human pathos, and a cathartic approach to a current world event or situation.
Master social media. Don’t let the program go on too long. Use a lavender and sage natural body deodorizer.
If none of these work it is always theoretically possible to spike the water pitchers or whatever with something that makes everyone in the audience passive and forgetful but that should only be considered in extreme cases.
These are just some initial thoughts.
Andrew Singer is the director of Trafika Europe.