5 Tips for Organising a Spoken Word Event

Ross McCleary Portrait
Category: Writing

Organising a spoken word event is a lot of work, but it’s also a lot of fun. Whether you’re looking to put on your own show or host a cabaret of other performers, there are a few things you can do to make your life a little easier.

Work With Others

Find someone you can trust and work with them

The first time I applied to do a fringe show, as part of the PBH Free Fringe, one of the first suggestions I was given by an organiser was: consider teaming up with someone. After a short consideration of my options, I decided to do it and I think it’s the single best piece of advice I’ve ever been given.

Find someone you can trust, someone you respect, and work with them. It will mean there is someone to share the workload and to bounce ideas off of. It will make your night better. Two of you also means you will have two sets of friends to invite to your event. You will have someone else to celebrate your triumphs and, when there are difficult times, you won’t be alone.

Attend other events

The best way to see how it’s done is to go attend local events. At all levels, there is due consideration given to the number of performers, the length of their sets, and the price of admission at the door. Attending other events will help you figure out the balance between what you want to do and what will work.

Attending other events is also an opportunity to meet people. It opens you up to a pool of potential performers and to a network of organisers who, if you ask nicely, can give you advice and assistance.

Be clear about what you can offer performers

Be clear about what you are doing and what you can offer

One of the most important parts of any spoken word night is booking the right acts. The right act might be you - you might be looking to put on your own show - but when you approach other people it is important to be clear about what you are doing and what you can offer. You need to tell them when the event it is, where it is, what you are looking for them to do, and how much (if anything) you can afford to pay them. These details might change over time and that’s fine, just be sure to update your performers if they do.

Regardless of the specifics, giving a possible performer as much information as you can will help inform their decision to work with you. You’ll surprised how far you’ll get by simply coming across in a friendly and professional manner.

Pick the right venue for your event

Inky Fingers is a free night and one with an audience of around 30-50, including around 12 open mic performers a month. We have no budget to hire a space, and we need our space to be a certain size to accommodate the performers and attendees. We’ve hosted it in pubs, cafés, art spaces, and we are now in Lighthouse Books. Other nights are hosted in theatres, night clubs, and libraries. Going to events which are similar to your own will give you an idea of what venues suit certain types of event.

Make a plan and stick to it

Inky Fingers runs to a set schedule every month. We do this because it works and because it makes it easier to run. Having a plan will make your life easier and it will look good. Even if it does not go exactly to plan, if you have a plan you will be better prepared to deal with unexpected events.

Also, you will only have your venue space for a set amount of time and you will need to programme accordingly. Hosting a successful event takes hard work, a lot of planning, but when it goes right it’s the best feeling in the world.

Ross McCleary

Ross McCleary is a poet and fiction writer who began co-hosting Inky Fingers with Freddie Alexander in 2014. His comic and poetic novella, Portrait of the Artist as a Viable Alternative to Death, is published by Maudlin House and he’s a frequent podcaster and live performer.