If you've got a show at the Edinburgh Fringe – and particularly if you're working on your own publicity – then you ought to know about Meet the Media. This annual event takes place on the first Saturday afternoon of each year's Fringe, and sees representatives of a dozen or more media organisations line up in a university hall, ready to listen to two-minute pitches from whoever turns up and queues to meet them.
I'm Richard Stamp, joint editor of Fringe Guru, and I've been one of the media available to be "met" for the past five years. Over that time I've learned a lot about what does and doesn't work… so here are my personal ten tips for making the most of this unique opportunity.
Prepare for an endurance test. I'll be sitting listening to pitches for the better part of six hours. But you (I'm afraid) will be standing in queues for the better part of six hours – so bring water, comfortable shoes, sugary snacks or whatever else you'll need to stay enthusiastic for that length of time.
Decide who you want to talk to. You won't have time to get round everyone, and if you focus exclusively on big-name publications you're putting all your eggs in one basket. Try to research exactly who's going to be there, and plan to get to the ones which are most likely to have an interest in your particular show.
Pick the right person for the job. The member of your team who's most outgoing, most comfortable answering questions, and most enthused about your project ought to be the one who does the talking. The canniest shows use other people to stand in the queues, then call their star salesperson in once they get near the front.
Don't over-rehearse. You need to know what you want to get across, but this is an opportunity to have a real conversation about your show; don't waste it by parroting what I could have read in a press release. Have the key points in your mind, but be prepared to vary what you say depending on what I seem to be interested in.
Don't show me a video. I know it seems a great idea, but in the rushed environment of Meet The Media, it would have to be a Hollywood-style action trailer to make any impact at all. If you absolutely have to use a video to convey what your show is like, then make sure you're ready to talk about it and just use it as a backdrop.
Bring printed copies of your press release. This is absolutely essential. I'll speak to over 150 shows at Meet the Media, so I rely on having something written down to jog my memory about each one. It doesn't have to be an elegant press pack – a sheet of paper is fine.
Simple creative gimmicks do stand out. One year, one company with a show called "Newton's Cauldron" cut their press release into the shape of a cauldron. Another stapled on a hand-written postcard from New York. Gimmicks like that do work, as long as they're straightforward and tied into the theme of your show.
But don't bother with freebies. If you already have promotional items for your show, then of course you may as well hand them out – but other little gifts really aren't necessary. I'll accept them in the spirit they were intended, but there's no way I'm going to remember which particular show gave me that tube of Smarties.
Consider coming in costume. It's a good way to stand out from the crowd but, also, it's a convenient visual shorthand. You're dressed as a World War One soldier? Then I know at a glance what your play's about – so we can spend the time we have available discussing something more substantial.
Props can work too. The stellar example of this was the company which brought an exercise bike (and got my long-suffering co-editor Craig to ride it). And if you've got a puppet, bring the puppet. I love meeting puppets. Just but don't be offended if I have a long conversation with the puppet and ignore you completely.
Meet the Media is hard work, for me as well as for you, but it's worth it. We at Fringe Guru are deliberately kind to shows who take the trouble to pitch to us – and I know that many of our colleagues feel the same. So do come along… and I hope I'll see you on Saturday.
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