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Focus Group Research

Research Objectives: Qualitative research with Greater New Orleans area residents with the primary goal of exploring the issues concerning opera perceptions, attendance and messaging.

Janet Wilson

on 10 May 2010

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Transcript of Focus Group Research

New Orleans Opera Association:
Market Research 2010 Background Objectives Methodology Insights and Actions Detailed Findings Projected sales for Tosca fell short Reached out to MDRG, Market Dynamics Research Group Perception
Entertainment patterns
Reason for attending and not attending
Overcoming attendance barriers
Messaging strategies that appeal to new and current audience

Three Focus Groups Should Be Attendees
Single Ticket Purchasers
13 Build awareness of NOOA in more casual and nontraditional settings

Emphasize that the NOOA's performances offer a unique experience - more dramatic, interactive, personal and comprehensive than other types of performing arts

Highlight the benefits of NOOA to the local community and economy

Highlight that NOOA appeals to a diverse audience

Communicate that opera performances are relatable to modern, everyday life

Consider offering additional educational and social programs that are directly tied to upcoming performances

Utilize online video previews and testimonials to familiarize people with the opera and specific performances

Promote the benefits of season ticket subscriptions and consider offering more flexibility within Subscriber plans

Encourage cooperative relationships with other New Orleans arts organizations

Consider offering discounted tickets and packages to help overcome cost-related barriers

Address the foreign language barriers by building awareness of the supertitles used during the performances

Provide detailed information about NOOA's operating expenses and production costs that are not covered by ticket sales

Encourage a personal relationship between performers and opera attendees

Perceptions of the Opera Many Single Ticket Purchasers and Subscribers describe going to a NOOA performance as a special event, unlike any other type of arts activity or event 1 2 3 "You leave different, you leave a play and say 'that was good and it was fun.' But when you leave an opera, you leave awed - it is a whole different level of experience." Subscriber "It is an escape from reality."
Subscriber "It is more of an emotional experience
than other types of performing arts."
Subscriber NOOA is perceived to offer: STRENGTHS High quality, talented performers who sing throughout the country and world. "Going to the opera gives me a reason to get out and do something special. On Sunday afternoons I will go out to eat with someone and then go to the opera. It really becomes an entire day."
Subscriber The ability to listen to the full Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra as a part of the opera performance - an "all in one" arts experience. "I think it takes you on a roller coaster ride,
and that is part of the allure for me."
Single Ticket Buyer "I believe the audience has to really pay attention and stay on their toes.
They really want to be there if they have purchased a ticket to the opera."
Single Ticket Buyer "It is the most engrossing musical experience you can have.
You are watching acting, and you are listening to the music.
It is much more involving to me than other types of theater."
Subscriber Weaknesses Although NOOA is highly regarded, some participants feel that there is room for improvement. They perceive that NOOA is less integrated into the New Orleans community compared to some other arts organizations. They feel that NOOA is less progressive in some areas such as: Lack of familiarity with performers

Performances are primarily limited to formal, large productions - there aren't enough spontaneous, casual and inexpensive options.

Lack of diversity among attendees - a number of "Should Be" Attendees are concerned they don't have anything in common with the typical opera attendee.

Lack of communication - participants would like to be informed of upcoming events and performances and not have to exert much effort in seeking out information.

Lack of obscure performances - a few participants admitted they don't have any sense of urgency to attend an opera because they are certain they will have an opportunty to see it again in the future. Many participants are unfamiliar with NOOA's "Opera on Tap" program. Most seemed intrigued by the idea of a more casual opera performance once they learned more about it. Some participants were turned off by the fact that the events are held in bars. They wish they could attend similar events in places they perceive as more family-friendly, well-known and convenient. Participants interested in attending an Opera on Tap performance hope they would hear a preview of upcoming opera productions and have an opportunity to learn more about the story line and history of various operas. A few participants who had attended an Opera on Tap event seemed disappointed that they didn't receive enough information about upcoming opera performances. Primary Barriers to Attendance Image Participants feel that the opera differs from other arts entertainment in that it seems more formal, elitist and "high brow." "Should Be" Attendees, in particular, seem concerned that they may not fit in with the other attendees. "To me it has always been portrayed as something for the elite."
"Should Be" Attendee A few participants assume that there are "rules" for attending the opera. They seem worried that they will not know the correct protocol which could ultimately inhibit their enjoyment of the experience. "Opera is not talked about in the average middle-class family and in the public schools. I went to public school in the New Orleans area and we never discussed the opera. Because it isn't discussed in your basic run-of-the-mill-blue-collar or basic white-collar family, it seems like something for the elite. I think most people feel like they won't fit in or they won't know how to act."
"Should Be" Attendee "I recently attended Verdi Requiem because someone gave me box tickets. I had never been to the opera before. My daughter and I walked into the theater five minutes early and they threw us out. We walked in to find our seats even though the door was closed. They told us we couldn't be there so we just waited in the hall. It is those subtle things. Most people would feel embarrassed and wouldn't recover. They would just avoid the situation in the future."
"Should Be" Attendee Cost/Value Cost was often mentioned as a significant factor
when contemplating a visit to the opera. "If you go to the movies you know what you are going to get. I need some idea of what I would be getting in return for purchasing a ticket to the opera."
"Should Be" Attendee Lack of Familiarity with the Art Form Few participants hear their family or friends talk about going to the opera.
This contributes to their perception that it may not appeal to them Foreign Language "There is a practical concern that it may be a high powered adventure to appreciate opera because a lot of the works are not in English, and even if they were in English, it is very hard for people to discern what the singers are actually singing. Where do I get that connection from if I can't understand it?"
"Should Be" Attendee Inconvenience Safety Concerns A number of participants pointed out safety concerns surrounding the Mahalia Jackson Theater. This concern is particularly prevalent among women who attend the opera alone. A few participants prefer to attend the Sunday matinee performance because they don't feel comfortable going to the Mahalia Jackson Theater at night. A number of participants wish that NOOA could add at least one
additional performanceto the schedule so that they would have more
opportunities to fit the opera into their busy schedule. Currently, they
feel their options are constrained to four weeks out of the year. Several participants are reluctant to go to an opera performance
at the Mahalia Jackson Theater because they perceive it to be too
far away from where they live or work. Communication and Engagement Messaging Advertising NOOA to the Community Institutional Marketing Promoting Subscribers' Benefits Engagement Through
Nontraditional Means Development Support Groups Participants' comments suggest that going to a NOOA performance could be positioned to "Should Be" Attendees as a special event to share between parents and their children.

There appears to be a difference in how participants make decisions about going to the opera and other arts-related activities. It seems that details of the performance and evidence that they will enjoy the experience typically play a much stronger role when contemplating an opera performance. In contrast, when participants are considering other forms of arts entertainment, less "proof that I will enjoy it" seems to be required.

Word-of-mouth recommendations from family or friends also appears to be an important factor when deciding in which arts activities to participate. Given that few participants know of other people who go to opera performances, potential attendees will likely need more extensive education and information from NOOA to convince them to attend.

While some participants prefer dressing up to go to the opera, many suggest that NOOA communicate that many people do not dress up for performances.

Some participants recommended that NOOA address the misconception that going to the opera is a rigid, serious event in that people sit down for an extended period of time in silence. When asked how NOOA could communicate performances and other special events, participants suggested the following:

Arts and Entertainment organizations emial lists (e.g., Arts Council of New Orleans Fun Savers, Gambit Weekly,

Pat Jolly Community

NOOA email updates (limited to twice a month)

Public radio announcements (NPR)

Radio advertisements

Previews played at local movie theaters

Local TV news programs

Gambit Weekly

Fliers and brochures sent via mail and email

Inserts in other arts-related programs

Information booths and subscription sweepstakes offers held at local sporting events and festivals Although participants feel that it is important that they be informed of upcoming opera performances, some "Should Be" Attendees pointed out that being reminded periodically about NOOA, in general, would be helpful in keeping the events "top of mind."

"They [NOOA] don't have to sell me with every message for radio or television. I just want to know that it exists. Seeing it written on the side of a streetcar would remind me of that. Then I could go to their website when I am interested in learning more about a performance. They just need to remind people that they are there."
"Should Be" Attendee

"The problem is nobody hears about NOOA. They may hear about the opera, but they don't hear 'I am going to the opera'."
"Should Be" Attendee

Impressions were fairly consistent that NOOA and its performers don't seem local. Participants perceive the performers as temporary visitors who travel the world to perform.

"People in New Orleans like to support local performers. We have no connection with the opera singers. We connect with people because either they are a celebrity or they are local. Right now, they are neither."
"Should Be" Attendee

Overall, there was a lack of awareness of Subscribers' benefits among Single Ticket Purchasers.

Most Single Ticket Purchasers did not perceive any major advantage to becoming a Subscriber; and, in fact, expressed several disadvantages.
1. They are concerned about paying the entire cost at one time.
2. They are not certain they would want to go to all performaces in a year.
3. They typically do not experience difficulty purchasing single tickets for performances they want to attend. Performances in everyday locations

Online resources

Educational resources

Audience interaction

Relate the opera performance to everyday life

Some participants suggested that donations be tied to specific expenses such as postage, costumes, or the orchestra (i.e., adopt a violinist).

Others suggested that donations be tied to educational outreach programs including school performances and programs.

A few participants say they would be more likely to donate to the opera if they knew they would see a tangible difference. This could be demonstrated through improvements in stage design, costumes, performers and number of performances.

Emphasizing how the opera contributes to the local economy may also resonate with some potential donors. For some, it is important that their money staays in the community by creating jobs, supporting small business, etc.

Very few Signle Ticket Purchasers were familiar with the Opera Club or the Women's Guild and the ways they contribute to NOOA. They wished that they received more information about these organizations and how they might become involved.

"It seems like it is a closed society. It is not open to anyone." Single Ticket Buyer

"I don't think they have ever advertised that they want people to join. I have always felt that they wanted to do their own thing." Single Ticket Buyer

They don't send out open invitations to be a part of the Opera Guild."

Subscribers were asked whether they were aware of the Mastersigner program. Approximately half of the participants had heard of the donor level and benefits.
What now?
Full transcript