Karyn E.

Chief Member Officer, Tessitura

Reopening, reconnecting, rebuilding


5 min

I can picture it now: 

There’s a light on backstage. 

There’s sound in the scene shop.

Ushers getting trained. Dancers stretching in unison. Musicians tuning together.

Individuals around the world are preparing their return to their beloved institutions.

As I picture this, I’m reminded of what Dr. Maya Angelou said:

“I have heard it said that winter, too, will pass, that spring is a sign that summer is due at last. See, all we have to do is hang on.”

Thank you for hanging on.

While many museums and attractions have been at least partially open for some time, performing arts organizations around the world are preparing for the transformative moment of reopening their venues. Reopening is about the art and the inspiring moments — and it’s also about reconnecting with your audiences and visitors. Tessitura members around the world are doing just that as they craft their reopening plans.

Based on what’s succeeding, I’d like to share these five strategies to prepare your patrons for their return.

1. Start with your audience at the center.

A lot has changed over the last year. Do you know who your most important audience members are now? Who has been watching your virtual events? Who has made donations to keep the organization going? Who has renewed their membership or subscription despite uncertainty? Think about how you can reward your most loyal audience members to ensure they feel a sense of belonging.

Reopening is about reconnecting with your audiences and visitors.

2. Build trust.

The in-person experience will be different for even the most longtime attendees. You can ease their anxiety by telling them what to expect, showing them what it’s going to look like, and philosophically (or even literally) holding the door open upon their arrival. Pre-event emails, short videos, blog posts, and signage all contribute to your audience’s experience.

You only have one chance to welcome them back for the first time. The more information you can present in advance to build their confidence, the better.

3. Plan the audience journey.

You’ve identified your core audience and prepared them for the experience. Now it’s time to intentionally craft their continued journey with you. What should follow after they’ve attended your first live event? Will you survey them about their experience? Will you solicit them for a donation? Will you invite them to subscribe? Should they be encouraged to share their experience on social? How will you invite them back?

You only have one chance to welcome them back for the first time. 

It’s important to plan the patron journey in collaboration with all stakeholders at your organization, so that you strike the right balance and messaging. Defining your CRM strategy can ensure you don’t inadvertently overwhelm or ignore them. Attending your in-person event was a big step for attendees; what is the next step you want them to take with you, and how can you make that easy for them? This is your opportunity to set the stage for your long-term relationship.

4. Consider a soft launch to your insiders.

We all know the value of a dress rehearsal. Consider a soft launch for your staff, board members, or other insiders. Their commitment to your success means that they will be more forgiving. Take the opportunity to solicit their feedback so that you can use it to make a better experience.

5. Lean in to what matters most to your mission.

Life as we knew it was put on pause. In that long intermission, people created new habits. Now that the world is opening up again, people are making new choices on how to invest their time and money. How can you get that ticket purchase or annual contribution to become part of their identity again? We are all redefining ourselves in this post-pandemic world, and this is your organization’s opportunity to redefine yourselves too.

We are all redefining ourselves in this post-pandemic world, and this is your opportunity to redefine yourselves, too.

These foundational tips might feel abstract, but they’re all things that you can take action on. Here are four tactics that can help you get started.

Be flexible.

People are much more willing to commit to buying a ticket if they can be assured that if they feel unwell, they can exchange or return their tickets with no penalty.  Make sure that all your written policies, especially those on your website, are updated to reflect pandemic era considerations.

Reevaluate the roles of your front-line team.

If you are planning to enforce things like temperature checking or mask wearing, make sure that those hired to do so are comfortable with that role. Many organizations have begun hiring trained security staff to support their house managers and guest services teams.

Make business continuity planning part of your new norm.

Organizations that have already begun reopening, such as those in Australia, New Zealand, and Scandinavia, can testify that it did not come without setbacks. Make sure to have an operational continuity plan to handle closures and cancellations so that your team doesn’t have to reinvent the process on the fly. This builds confidence and reduces burnout in your team, which also builds the confidence that your audience feels.

Finally, remember that you are not alone.

While planning for reopening can seem overwhelming, you are part of a global community of industry professionals that are going through the same thing you are. Take advantage of the resources available to you to build on the strength of our global arts and culture community.

The empathetic heartbeat of the Tessitura Network has never beat stronger. Our forums, community events, training opportunities and expert insights are all available to you. Don’t be shy. Get involved today.

We’re here to help

Here at Tessitura, we are dedicated to the success of our member organizations, and we are committed to being a partner in rebuilding a strong arts and culture industry. Whatever you’re looking to accomplish — whether it’s understanding your audience, visualizing your data, refining your segmentation, mapping out physically distanced seating, or going contactless — we’re here to help. Just let us know.

Get in touch ›


Top photo of the Straz Center by Tim Zagorc


Arts & Culture


Audience Development


Business Strategy

Karyn E.

Karyn Elliott

Chief Member Officer

Karyn Elliott, Chief Member Officer, has been with Tessitura since 2011.

Overseeing support, learning, and the overall member experience, Karyn is responsible for ensuring that all members of the community get the most out of Tessitura. Prior to this role, Karyn helped deliver Tessitura’s e-commerce platform (TN Express Web) to over 400 organizations worldwide and subsequently created the Member Services team.

She holds a bachelor’s degree in theater arts with an emphasis in arts administration, and a graduate certificate in nonprofit management from the Helen Bader Institute. Previously, Karyn was the General Manager at First Stage Children’s Theater in Milwaukee, WI.